One of my most-used travel booking sites, Hotwire.com, has released a new monthly list showing that it’s still quite easy to nab a four-star hotel room for under $100.Among the cities with the biggest discounts: Tampa, where rates have fallen 16% from last year; Austin and San Diego, where the average price of a 3.5 star hotel room is $74 and $85 per night, respectively; and Phoenix, where four star rates have dropped 9 percent.
(Yes, these are all warm weather cities. For the snow bunnies among you, Salt Lake City is also on the list, with rates dropping 7% over last year). See the full list here.
I use Hotwire frequently for my travels, most recently when I went to Tampa for New Year’s (Intercontinental for $99 per night, not including tax) and Jersey City, New Jersey at the end of January (Westin Jersey City, $129). I like Hotwire better than Priceline because you don’t have to guess on what price to set. Even though the site is “opaque” – meaning that you commit to buying your room without knowing exactly what hotel it is – I find it easier to decipher what I’m getting with Hotwire. Plus you don’t have to go through the machinations of Priceline’s bidding process, which can take a while if your original offer is rejected.
If you are unfamiliar with Hotwire and want to use it for your next trip, here are a few tips:
1. Figure out what hotel you are getting before you buy. Unlike Priceline, Hotwire offers clues so you can figure out what hotel you are likely to get. Here’s how to do it: Check out the hotel’s amenity list – a group of icons that appear under the hotel’s location. Then open up another window in your browser to BetterBidding.com, a website forum where frequent Priceline and Hotwire users post their recent buys and lists of what the different hotels offer.
For example, for my Tampa trip, I saw that the hotel I was considering had an airport shuttle icon on Hotwire. Of the four -star Tampa hotels listed on BetterBidding, only the Intercontinental offered shuttle service. So I was 99% sure that I was going to end up there.
It may take a few extra minutes to do this, but if you are like me and you want to know where you are staying, it’s worth it.
2. Don’t forget tax. Both Priceline and Hotwire show prices without tax, which can easily add another $20-$30 to your per night rate. Factor this in to your budgeting.
3. It’s great for car rentals too. I’ve found car rentals on Hotwire for as low as $15 a day. What I like about Hotwire’s car rental policy is that it’s more flexible than their hotel purchases and they don’t charge you until you pick up the car (hotel purchases are non-refundable and must be paid immediately).
4. Be realistic about the kind of hotel you are getting. Hotwire (and Priceline) specialize in getting rid of unused inventory – the rooms that hotels haven’t sold. And generally, these hotels are going to be the larger chains such as Marriott, Hyatt and Hilton that often appeal to business travelers (which is why weekend rates can be so low). So you aren’t going to find many boutique or independent hotels through the service. If your goal is to stay at the hippest hotel in town, you will be unhappy with Hotwire. Five star properties such as the Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental are usually not listed either.
But if you are simply looking for a good deal on a city hotel that has basic four-star amenities, give Hotwire a try. My favorite Hotwire deal came last year when I was able to book my sister a room at the Wynn Las Vegas for $89. She was thrilled with both the hotel and the price.
Do you have a Hotwire success story or a tip to share? Tell me below!