Travel Hack: Determining Hotwire.com Anonymous Hotels

If you’ve done any travelling in your life, you’ve likely heard of Hotwire.com. The website sells hotel rooms at an extremely cheap rate, with one condition. The condition is, you won’t know what hotel you’re reserving until after you’ve paid for it.

This is done purposefully, because it allows hotels to dump some of their hotel rooms that otherwise might not fill, without pissing off anyone who purchased a hotel at full price from their personal website and not a third party booking site.

So, purchasing a hotel room when you don’t know what the hotel is, sounds risky right? Well, if you like to live dangerously then it probably sounds like an added piece to the adventure. If you’re like me, and you like a deal but also want to make sure you don’t end up in a shitty hotel, you’re likely going to think ‘there’s got to be away around this’. And you would be right.

Here’s how to figure out what hotel the Hotwire Hotel Deal is for. Please note that this “hack” is only for people who have time to figure this out. If you’re in a hurry, this hack really isn’t for you.

(For the purpose of this post, I’m using some details I recently used for booking accommodations in Denver Colorado for a work event

Go to HOTWIRE.COM and select the location and dates that you’re looking to stay.

Hotwire will display a map of the city to display areas with hotels they have deals for. Select the area of the city you want to be in.

In my case, the work event is downtown Denver. So, I’m going to select that vicinity of the city in hopes that I don’t have to Uber everywhere, and hopefully can just walk.

By selecting the area of the city which I wish to stay in, the list changes to show only hotels in that area.

That $145 per night deal (showing second on the list in the above photo) looks like a good deal. It’s down from $219 per night. Let’s look at that one.

When you open up the $145 deal, there are three things you want to pay attention to: The ‘sample photo’ provided, the general review of the hotel, and the individual categories of which the hotel is reviewed for. It’s worth noting that all reviews on Hotwire.com are from Expedia. As Hotwire sells anonymously, they cannot accept reviews on their own site, or that would give away the anonymity. ALL REVIEWS come from Expedia. Pay attention to what I’ve highlighted with green boxes.

Overall hotel rating of 4.3/5 – Rating from Expedia as noted in Green Box.
Individual categorized ratings for Condition, quality, comfort and cleanliness. Also noted to be coming from Expedia.ca.

Now that you’ve seen these reviews on Hotwire, it’s time to go to Expedia! Select the same dates and locations to ensure you’ll get the same results.

Expedia will give you a long list of hotels in the vicinity with their nightly rates (not the Hotwire rate) and every hotel shows the overall hotel score. In the case of the example I showed, it was ranked 4.3/5. So, I know I’m looking for a hotel with the same general ranking. I highlighted the 4.3/5 in green in the following photo.

Now, if I pull up the Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown Denver, I see this:

The rooms have the same headboard as seen in the ‘sample photo’ from Hotwire.com. It also says, on Expedia, that rooms are sold out for the dates I’m looking for, which would make logical sense as to how it wound up on Hotwire, because hotels are known to dump their remaining rooms on Hotwire to try and fill their rooms at cheaper rates, rather than having empty rooms.

Hotwire says this hotel is 1 mile from Coors friend in Denver. Expedia says the Hampton Inn and Suites in Downtown Denver is 1 mile from Coors field.

Here’s the individual guest ratings from Hotwire

Here’s the individual guest ratings from Expedia

Condition of Hotel: Both say 4:4/5
Quality of Service: Both say 4.4/5
Room Cleanliness: Expedia says 4.6/5, Hotwire says 4.5/5

At this point, I’m pretty certain that I’m looking at Hampton Inn & Suites Downtown Denver.

I ask my Colleagues if they’re good with this hotel for the work trip. They do a quick search on google and they said sure!

I purchased this hotel, and sure enough, it is!

I cannot show you my hotel reservation because it’s containing corporate information, as well as the dates of when my coworkers will be there. I don’t want creepy people to catch the attention.

Anyways, that’s how I booked $210+ dollar hotel rooms for my colleagues for $145.

Which, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t seem like a huge difference as a one off. But, my coworkers are staying for seven days and there’s four of them going. So, saving $260 per night (four coworkers) for seven nights, I just saved $1,820 for the hotel bookings.

This margin of prices widens when you start looking at luxury hotels. As I was writing this post, I looked up some luxury hotels in downtown Vancouver and there are some hotel rooms marked down from $550 to just $220.

If you have time, and you can do the research, it does pay to use Expedia to figure out what hotel is the deal on Hotwire.

Thinkin’ about Vancouver

It’s been a long while since I’ve been home. (For context, I consider Vancouver to be home)

I’m thinking about going.

I’m double-vaxxed. And, since we don’t really know what’s going to happen with Delta Variant, or Lambda Variant, I feel like right now when cases are lowest they’ve been in over a year in western Canada, right now is the window. I feel like right now is the time that I should be taking advantage of.

There’s a long weekend coming up. I’m considering going. My friends are there are double vaxxed.

I should go, right? Take the long weekend and do a girls trip? Obviously it wouldn’t be a trip for them. They live in Vancouver. But, it would be a trip for me, and the three amigas could be reunited for the first time since summer of 2019.

I’m thinkin’ about Vancouver.

I am also thinking about Vegas, but that’ll have to be something farther into the future.

Dreaming of Travel

I would love to get on a plane right now.

I would love to go somewhere. Anywhere. A new place. A familiar place. I just need a change of pace for a few days. Wouldn’t that be nice? I think that would be nice.

Sometimes I think I should just get in my car and go. Then I realize there’s not really anywhere to go. There are so many reasons why I can’t go, not the least of which being massive anxiety about being around strangers right now. So I just sit here, looking out my window at the planes landing and I dream. I dream of a day that I can go somewhere. I dream of a day that I can be the girl on that plane, headed somewhere for fun, or for business, or just to go.

As much as I love winter, it’s so long. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned that in posts the past two years… probably in February back then as well. COVID has somehow made this winter seem so much longer. While I would normally escape somehow, some way, as I have the past two winters for a weekend or two, that’s not really an option right now. It’s just me and my thoughts here for the foreseeable future.

If COVID weren’t holding me back, here’s where I’d go:

  • Vancouver
  • Montreal
  • Niagara Falls
  • Denmark
  • Las Vegas
  • Bahamas

If COVID and money weren’t holding me back, here’s where I’d go;

  • The Maldives
  • The Seychelles
  • Australia
  • Patagonia
  • Kenya
  • South Africa
  • Egypt
  • Morocco
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Japan
  • France
  • Monaco
  • Indonesia

Well, if I am being totally honest, I just want to see the whole world. If it were safe and I had the money to do so, I would get on a plane tomorrow and go anywhere. I’d go everywhere. I’d love to be the writer behind one of those ‘Around the world’ blogs, sharing people and culture and stories I’ve discovered along the way. What a cool career that would be.

YouTube channels worth watching

This post is to share some YouTube content creators that I really appreciate. With so many people creating content on YouTube, it can be hard to find someone who does something that actually differentiates from the crowds, so when I do, I tend to stick with their videos.

Here are a few people (in no particular order) who I really think bring something unique to the world of YouTube. I’ve included a small blurb about them, as well as a link to one of their videos that I think is worth watching/listening to.

NICKI POSITANO – THE POSITANO DIARIES

Nicki is an English Makeup Artist who moved to Positano, Italy in 1999. She makes videos showcasing what life is like on the Amalfi Coast. Her and her partner live in a home that is 500 steps down from the nearest road (talk about the ultimate cardio) and they grow a lot of their own food.

I’ve always had a fascination with Italy. With the food, with the culture, with the beauty… with everything that she shares on her channel. Also, watching them making things like pasta from scratch is quite cool. Bonus points to her for the fact that she’s very sarcastic. I like sarcastic people.

CECILIA BLOMDAHL

Cecilia lives in Longyearbyen, the worlds northernmost town on the island of Svalbard. The Island has a small population, less than 2,500 people and is home to a lot of polar bears. Cecilia shares a lot of what life is like in the arctic, including: polar bears, northern lights, what it’s like living in a cabin with no running water. She’s a videographer/cinematographer on the island so she’s actually quite talented with the video she makes.

Her channel has grown a lot since I found her videos, which I think is both from a fascination of the life she’s sharing from the arctic, but also a testament to the quality of the content she shares. I highly recommend checking it out.

PRO HOME COOKS

This channel is run by a guy named Mike. From New York City, Mike is on a mission to teach people how to cook, how to cook from scratch, how to use what they purchase, the nutritional benefits that come from various foods and what kitchen appliances are actually worth your money.

I’ve learned a lot about cooking from this channel. He’s definitely got a ‘no bull-shit’ vibe to him, which I quite like. I think a lot of people gravitated to his channel because of the fact that it’s not ‘aesthetic’, it’s real. He makes messes. He burns things. He has to do things over once in a while and he leaves that footage in.

DANIEL SCHIFFER

Daniel is a talented videographer who shares what happens behind the scenes as he works freelance. He films commercials for clients, commercials for fun, and instructional videos about how to get the best footage for whatever you’re trying to shoot.

I actually found him when I originally started watching his girlfriend’s YouTube videos. Since discovering his channel, though, I’ve learned a lot about videography. Which… who doesn’t love learning a new skill? If you’ve got a fancy camera, or even just a cell phone (like I use) and want to learn more about video, he’s worth watching.

EMILY D. BAKER

Emily is a licensed attorney and former prosecutor for the LA District Attorney’s office. She provides breakdowns of legal speak, processes and potential outcomes of both big and small cases from around the USA. Her channel has grown by more than 50,000 people in the past two months because she’s started breaking down the legal speak of some rather large YouTube law-suits (trending topics will always garner more watchful eyes), but she till has frequent discussions about some of the more obscure legal topics. Basically, she just talks about whatever fascinates her and breaks down the law to layman’s terms for people like me.

Warning… recently she’s really gotten into long-form content. Videos range anywhere from an hour to almost three hours. If you get hooked, you’ll be listening to her for a while. She also likes to swear a lot and is quite sarcastic, so if there are people around, wear headphones.

A Very Canadian Christmas

Since I was alone for Christmas this year I decided to sneak away to Lake Louise. Lake Louise is my definition of heaven on earth. It really doesn’t matter what season you visit, it’s nothing short of majestic. There perks to visiting in winter include an ability to walk/skate on the frozen lake, and, this beautiful ice castle that they build as the entrance to the lake each year.

The fact that I was there on Christmas meant that there were a lot less people there than on any other normal day. There were (at most) 50 people there. Normally you’d see 500-1,000 people, if not more. Regardless, we’re Canadian, so even with only 50 people around, there was a hockey game taking place on the lake. Thankfully everyone was wearing masks. They were pretty strict about it, actually. If they saw anyone without a mask, they’d give them a mask and stand and wait for them to put it on their face.

Every February at Lake Louise they host something called the ‘Ice Magic Festival’ where they have sculptures come in from around the world and they carve the most beautifully intricate sculptures all around, and on, the lake. They also construct an ice bar to serve drinks and do horse-drawn carriage rides around the lake. It usually draws quite a crowd though (hundreds of thousands of people over the two week period) so I’m not sure if they’ll do it with COVID being as bad as it is in Alberta right now. I guess we’ll see.

Even alone it was still pretty swell. Lake Louise is always magical. I say that a lot about the place, but it really does earn the title.

To anyone who reads this blog, or might read this post, have you ever been to Lake Louise? Have you ever heard of it? Is it on your list of places to see? I highly recommend, in any season. Also, if you read this, how was your Christmas? Magical and safe, I hope.

Solo Road-Tripping the ‘Highway Thru Hell’

Photo: Bridge Wisdom

In Canada, we have a relatively popular docu-series TV show called ‘Highway Thru Hell’. The show, chronicling treacherous heavy rescue on wintery British Columbia highways is definitely one that’s struck a cord with people of my dad’s generation. It’s been on the air since 2012, and frequently showcases roads that I travel and have spent my life travelling.

The past few days I’ve driven about 1,500 miles up and down the ‘Highway Thru Hell’ chasing scenery, the feeling of calm and every tourist attraction I could possibly find. (Sounds familiar, right? Once you get a taste of the road trip buzz, you just need more of it)

Most major highways in British Columbia are mountain passes. With the Rocky Mountains, the Coast Mountains and the Cascade Mountains all in one province, it’s safe to say if you’re driving anywhere, it’s going to be through, or over the mountains. In spring, summer and fall, these highways are much easier to travel than what’s showcased on the television show. These roads can showcase some of the most breathtaking scenery you ever did see. Even on a cloudy/rainy day. The ‘Highway Thru Hell’ is S-T-U-N-N-I-N-G.

One of the best things about driving a mountain pass is that cell phone reception is sparse. It’s a matter of going for long periods of time, hours on end, without having being able to see any notifications on your phone or have anyone call you. It really is just you, the road and the stunning scenery around you. And I love that feeling.

Nature is amazing. The way the mountains poke up out of the earth like gifts from the heavens. The way that trees grow right out the side of mountains and thrive, on the edge of a cliff, sturdy and comfortable as though nothing can harm it. The way that rivers carve out landscapes from the sky to the sea, flowing with such power it can destroy rock face and anything in its wake. British Columbia is incredible.

Along the way I got a little fed-up with road construction. Have you ever heard the phrase ‘In Canada we have nine months of winter and three months of road repair’? Oh boy, British Columbia for July-September is RIDICULOUS. Tired of sitting in a lineup of traffic due road construction, I stopped on the side of the highway and went for a bit of a hike.

I wound up finding an old, abandoned bridge. The sign on the bridge said it was built in 1927. Which, I thought was pretty cool. Imagine all the history this bridge has scene over the past (nearly) 100 years.

There were locks with initials along the bridge (reminiscent of the love-lock bridge in Paris) and initials and names carved all the way across it. I can’t help but wonder if Abby and Brad ever worked out. If they ever came back to that bridge after carving their names into it. If there was a happy ending… These are just the types of thoughts that can run through my mind when I have no cell service to distract me.

One of my favourite messages carved into the bridge (photo at top of post) was ‘Love is Stronger’. Because I agree. Love is stronger.

The actual highway can be seen in this photo below, it’s that orange bridge up in the distance. There was some construction happening on the bridge and traffic was pretty heavily backed up leading to the bridge, which was why I decided to stop in the first place. And I’m pretty glad that I did.

The abandoned bridge had a lot of ghosts and a lot of history to it. The feeling of walking across it, I couldn’t help but wonder about those who travelled it and how incredible of infrastructure they must’ve found it to be in 1927 when it was first built.

All in all, it was a pretty incredible trip. I love British Columbia. I’m grew up here and I’m still finding new places each and every day that I’ve never seen before. There’s so much to see, so many places to go and so many things to do. Honestly, I think you could spend your lifetime exploring this province and never see it all.

I love solo-road trips because you get to do as you please. It’s peaceful. It’s solitude. It’s anything that you want it to be and you don’t have to deal with, or please, anyone else in the process.

And it doesn’t hurt that British Columbia is absolutely breathtakingly beautiful… even on the cloudiest/rainiest of days.

Solo Road-Tripping up the Gold Rush Trail

In 1858 word got out of the discovery of gold in the upper Fraser and people began flocking to British Columbia in droves with hopes of striking it rich. After the gold count began declining, prospectors made their way further north into British Columbia’s interior in search of the rich-gold bearing creeks of the Cariboo.

Though I can’t even begin to imagine how vastly the route has expanded in the past 170 years, The Gold Rush trail remains to this day. Now, it’s a highway through the heart of British Columbia’s broad landscapes (that my pictures can’t even remotely do justice) and heartland. It’s a route to remind people just how vast and breathtaking this part of the world truly is.

I’ve been on the road the past few days. I’ve driven more than 1,500 miles up and down British Columbia’s ‘Gold Rush Trail’ chasing the scenery, the feeling of calm and every tourist attraction that I could possibly find.

Why? Because when you’re road-tripping alone, YOU and only you get to decide what you want to do and where you want to go. It’s a powerful feeling, not needing to check with someone before you stop somewhere or do something. I loved it.

I spent some time with my best friend and her family. Time with them always grounds me. She inspires me and her children cant help but make me feel happier. They’re adorable, they say silly things and everything is exciting to them at this point in life. What’s not to love about that?

I spent a lot of time on the road. Truthfully, I love driving alone. I love taking a stop to appreciate the view. I love feeling the sun beat down on my face as I hear the river rushing beneath me. I love finding new ‘tourist traps’ to wander into. I, most importantly, love driving the highways with no cell service. When your phone just doesn’t work – it’s the universe’s way of telling you to let go and be one with the world. And that, that I have done.

The Fraser Canyon, home to the famous ‘Jackass Mountain’, is a several hundred kilometer long highway that was literally built by blasting out the sides of mountains to make enough room for roadway. The road can often get crowded with herds of Big Horn Sheep that make for the most darling of Canadian ‘traffic jams. Also on the highway you can find a string of seven tunnels, and some original bridges from the 1800’s Gold Rush that have been turned into Provincial Parks for people to hike/picnic.

I love nature. I love being out in the world, seeing how the mountains have peaked up over thousands of years, how the river has curved it’s way through the landscapes, how the trees have grown in some places and not in other. And I love finding homes in the middle of nowhere. I find myself imagining what these people do for work, how they can live so far away from towns… how long their morning commute must be, without traffic. A morning commute without traffic, how’s that for irony that’s not really irony?

The Fraser River, one of the largest (if not the largest) in the province, winds along the side of the highway, providing scenic sights throughout the drive for you to be able to stop, take a breath of the freshest, cleanest, thin mountain air, feel the sun beating down on your skin and realize how truly incredible nature is.

I found a farm, and a mini-orchard along the way. This might have been my favourite stop of today. Not for the overpriced baked goods and delectable goodies that I am not able to eat. But more because of the fact that it’s a tiny little farm outside a tiny little town (population 200) and so many people know about this tiny little farm outside of the tiny little town that when I drove up the place was packed.

I came, I saw, I picked some apples, posed for some photos and was transplanted to a simpler time and place in which life’s little things (such an apple orchard) can really be the biggest and most important piece of so very many people’s day. And I mean, can you get fresher apples than from straight off the tree?

Today was a reminder to not take life so seriously all the time. Sometimes, the best thing I can do for myself is stop at a little roadside pullout, have solo-picnic and dip my toes in the lake. It’s the little things that can bring brightness to your day. And when you’re driving 1,500 kms on your own, you need to get out and stretch your legs.

In one highway you can go from the Pacific Ocean to densely pack coniferous forests, into the Coast Mountains, along the Fraser River/Canyon, into the BC desert (complete with rattlesnakes and all) and then back into the densely packed temperate forests that are Northern British Columbia.

This province is S-T-U-N-N-I-N-G. Every piece of it is breathtaking. And it’s so hard to explain in just a few words and a few photos.

Solo road-tripping is peaceful, calming and everything that I needed to reset and recharge to face the world again.

If you’ve ever been thinking about going on a road trip on your own, do it. You don’t have to travel across the world in order to travel. Sometimes you can get in your car to travel in ‘your own back yard’ and find places, sights, tourist stops you’ve never seen or heard of before.

And if you’ve ever been thinking about doing a Canadian road trip, do it. I highly, highly, highly recommend British Columbia. Any highway that you drive in this province you’re going to be hit with incredible scenery, vast landscapes, beautiful wildlife and a reminder of what a small space you take in this universe. Which, in my mind, are all incredibly valuable experiences.

*Point of Note – The ‘Gold Rush Trail’ is also the road that you need to take to get to Alaska if you’re interested in road-tripping that far north.

Flights are booked.

I know, I know, I know. Save your money. Be responsible. Do the right thing. Don’t be frivolous. I hear it, I hear you and I understand. I don’t care though.

I’m going.

I haven’t told anyone. I don’t think that I will until a day or two before the trip. Honestly, it’s my business and not theirs.

I’m a firm believer that if human beings were meant to stay in one place, we’d have roots instead of feet.

The largest Ancient Inland Rainforest on Earth

Nestled in the heart of the British Columbia interior is the largest ancient inland temperate rainforest on earth. The watershed of the upper Fraser River has given rise to a unique inland wet-temperate rainforest; a forest ecosystem that combines attributes of both the coastal wet-temperate rainforests of British Columbia and adjacent boreal forests of Alberta and the far north.

Though forests are plentiful in British Columbia (close to 25% of the earth’s temperate rainforests are in BC), this particular region of the province is something special. Showcasing trees that span five meters in diameter at their base, reaching hundreds of feet towards the sky, densely packed to canopy vegetation and plant life found nowhere else on earth, it’s estimated the trees in this forest range between 1,000 – 2,000 years old.

Though this land has been protected as provincial park for several decades, in 2016 a portion of the park was turned into a hiking/walking trail to teach people the importance of rainforests in our ecosystem. What a perfect place for Auntie Vee to take the little chickens for an adventure! Their dad works 5-5 on Friday’s and mom had to be in court, so I had my niece and nephew and we went for a day hike.

Without further adieu, here are some unfiltered photos from the largest ancient inland temperate rainforest on earth.

It was quite a rainy day for an adveture. But hey, there’s something poetic about finding rain in the rainforest. The kids loved it, and me, I’m always happy to experience just how vast this planet truly is and remind myself what a beautiful corner of this world I come from.