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.

Tips for booking your next hotel stay.

A heavily photoshopped photo of the Tower Hotel, Niagara Falls from the hotel’s posting on Kayak.

Having spent a few hundred nights in hotels over the past few years, I’ve got a lot of opinions about them. In the past 3 weeks alone I’ve been in four different hotels, only one of which I deemed to be worth the value I had to pay for my stay.

When you’re booking a hotel stay, there’s a lot to keep in mind to ensure you don’t wind up having a terrible night in a shitty hotel. After all, if you’re spending your money to stay in a hotel, you want to make sure you’re not wasting your money. Right?

*Note – I mention Expedia a lot in this post because I use Expedia a lot. There are plenty of different good options to use for hotel research beyond Expedia. Just google it and you’ll see what I mean!

Tips for booking your next hotel stay:

  1. Determine what’s most important to you. Are you looking for the cheapest room? Are you looking for the best location? Start with a list ahead of looking at any hotels. That way, you can narrow down your search right away and weed-out the hotels you don’t need/want.
  2. Think outside of the box. If you don’t need to be right downtown in a city, there are plenty of available hotels for a lot cheaper that are just a five – ten minute drive from downtown.
  3. Read Reviews. Read all of the reviews! Trivago, Expedia, Hotels.com, all of these websites allow people to post real reviews about said hotels that you’re looking at. Whereas a hotel’s own website might be able to hide the negative reviews, any negative reviews that exist will definitely be on a place like Trivago or Expedia. Personally, I’m partial to Expedia.
  4. Don’t necessarily trust the pictures. Honestly, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. This is another suggestion that ties directly to the tip I have to read reviews. Websites like Expedia allow users to post pictures of their hotel rooms they’re staying in. So, whereas the photos the hotel posts might be heavily photoshopped, professional photographer taken photos – in the reviews you can see real photos from people who’ve stayed there, showcasing the state of the rooms as they are.
  5. Check if there are extra amenities. Some hotels have gyms for guests to use. Some hotels have free laundry services. Some hotels have pools. Some hotels have kitchenettes in them, for the same prices as a room that doesn’t have a kitchenette. Some hotels have no amenities. Knowing the amenities can help you to know if you’re getting more value for your dollar when you’re booking!
  6. PRICE CHECK. Price check on several different websites if you have the time. One hotel can have a different price listed on it’s company website, on Expedia, on Trivago, etc… Checking the prices before you book can help you to ensure that you’re booking your hotel room for the best available price.
  7. Check Groupon. This one came at the suggestion of a friend of mine, quite recently. If you’re headed to a tourist destination, there might be some options on Groupon that allow you to purchase heavily discounted packages that included your hotel stay, restaurant vouchers and activities to take part in all in one purchase. If you’re headed to somewhere that’s touristy in nature, there might be a Groupon package available!
  8. Collect Rewards. Most (I cannot speak to all as I have not researched all) hotels that have rewards programs are rewards programs that are completely free. Yes, it is an extra card for your collection, but if you know that you need to stay at a hotel then you might as well earn points for it.
  9. Book ahead of time, where you can. When you walk up to the front desk of a hotel and ask them if they have a room available for you to book for the night, they are going to charge you the highest possible price EVERY TIME. There’s no competition, there’s no need to advertise, you’re standing right in front of them asking them for a room. You, as a customer, as a guest, lose your purchasing power in booking your stay and they can charge you as much as they want for your stay. Even if it’s so simple as you viewing the price from the parking lot five minutes before you walk to the front desk, book ahead of time. I have, in the past, experienced a hotel quote me that rooms were $159 per night. I then told them I was thinking it over, walked out to the parking lot and booked a room at that hotel on Expedia for $101. When I returned to the front desk they had to honour that booking, knowing that I wasn’t going to be paying the $159 they had just quoted me five minutes earlier. ALWAYS BOOK AHEAD. Even if it’s just five minutes ahead!
  10. Pay ahead of time, where you can. Websites like Expedia allow you to pay for your stay when booking. To me, this is a convenience factor. Paying ahead of time means I need not give the hotel my credit card when I get there. It also means that I earn reward points for booking on Expedia.

If you have the time to research and plan ahead for booking hotel rooms, it can provide so much added value to the trip you’re taking. But, even if you don’t have time to plan ahead, I still strongly encourage everyone to book ahead of walking up to the front desk of a hotel.

PERSONAL STORY TIME:

Last week while in Calgary, I stayed at a hotel called ‘Park Inn by Radisson, Calgary Airport’ that was just a ten minute drive from downtown. This hotel, brand new on the inside, had full kitchenettes in each room, a gym, a laundry room for guests, a computer station for people to do business, a pantry stocked with food guests had access too and it cost me $83 per night. This hotel I chose based on believing it would provide me the best value for my money.

Two weeks ago, I stayed in a hotel called ‘Super 8 by Wyndham, Hamilton Airport’ that was old, run down, had paper thin walls allowing me to hear the conversations of those in the room next door, a bath tub that didn’t drain, cracked foundation in the walls and zero amenities. This hotel was $159 for the night. This hotel I chose solely because it was closest to the Airport that I needed to fly out of.

Both hotels had beautiful photos listed on their websites and promised comforting stays in memorable rooms that would make me feel at home while I was travelling. One succeeded with their promises, one did not. One hotel blocked my Expedia account from being able to book rooms via Expedia for their hotel, after they read my review. But, the important thing is that my review of their hotel is still there. Always read the reviews!