7 Things You Need To Know Before Bidding At Priceline or Hotwire

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This weekend on a whim we decided to take our two older kids on a trip to visit the University of Michigan, Ikea, 🙂 and a Detroit Tigers gameWe hadn’t yet been there since moving up to Ohio, and with a free weekend decided we’d better take advantage of a few days off with our kids!

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On Friday night while at dinner we decided to try Hotwire for our hotel room (thinking that since it was such late notice, we might score a great deal.) We typically stick to Hampton or Fairfield Inn (we love that they’re pretty consistently clean, and have free breakfast for our kids!) For whatever reason though, we thought Hotwire might get us a more upscale room at a decent rate.

 

We spent $130 for a “four star” hotel, supposedly similar to a Hyatt or Hilton. Thank heavens that hotel was only available for one night, because guys, it was bad. There’s no way on earth that hotel would be similar to a Hyatt, and after waiting on the phone for 30 minutes to speak with someone from Hotwire, I was told there was nothing I could do other than complain to the hotel management.

 

Here are a few things we learned from the experience . . . 

 

1) Before heading out, determine what area of town you want to stay in and know what regular hotel prices in those cities normally go for.
2) Check a forum like Bidding for Travel or Better Bidding and read all the details in the forum for the area you want to stay in.

I did a little research on these today, and there is a ton of great information in these forums if you’re willing to do a little reading! I started my search by finding the state I was looking for, then I read through various threads. What I love is that you can see what other folks are paying, so you’ll go in with an educated guess!

Note that not every single hotel offered by Priceline or Hotwire is listed on their hotel by state lists. (For example, the hotel that we ended up getting through Hotwire was not included on the list of possible hotels in the area we stayed on Bidding for Travel or Better Bidding.) However you’ll at least get a general idea of what hotels are competing for your bid.

 

From what I can tell, by carefully reading the regular price and amenities on the hotels you’re interested in you may be able to figure out which hotel you’re bidding on. Definitely do your research – I hadn’t heard of these before but am excited to try out Hotwire or Priceline again now that I can make a more educated decision!

3) Visit Hotel Deals Revealed’s Winning Bids page to see which hotels people have won on Priceline and Hotwire before deciding your hotel.
4) Always check the details.

We walked into the room, and sure enough it had one queen bed.  Clearly that wasn’t going to work for our group of four (my 15 year old is way taller than my husband and my 12 year old daughter was with us too ~ there was no way to make us all fit!) However, in Hotwire’s defense, I didn’t clearly check to make sure the room had two queen beds, so that was my mistake.

 

Getting an extra roll away bed cost us $10, so now our budget hotel room jumped up to $140. And, it wasn’t even especially cleanEek!

 

4) Read the fine print.

While my husband was at the front desk, two girls ahead of him in line who’d also booked through Hotwire apparently failed to read the fine print that stated they needed to be 21 to stay in the room. Even though they’d already paid for the room directly through Hotwire, the hotel refused to let them stay, meaning they had nowhere to go (and were out the cost of the hotel!)

 

Now, they may not be able to rent a hotel room at many places at that age (I’m not sure of the rules on that?), however their money would normally be refunded had they booked through the hotel directly.  Not the case with a discount service like Hotwire ~ so be aware!

 

5) Check for extra fees.

On this trip parking was included in the rate of the hotel, however we’ve used Priceline before and had a fee of up to $15 tacked on to our nightly rate.  Be sure to check for any extra fees before booking to make sure your “deal” really is a deal. 

 

Also, if you’re going to need your computer while you’re traveling, be sure to make sure they include free internet access. If they don’t, you could add as much as $15 – $20 per night, which really adds up!

6) If you’re staying for more than a night or two, you may want to check out VRBO.

For longer stays and higher end condos, we love VRBO. You can get a pretty good idea of what the condo is like by comparing other units in the same building, and sometimes get additional discounts just by asking for them directly from the owner.

6) There’s a lot to be said for a Hampton or Fairfield Inn’s free breakfast. 🙂

Saturday morning after leaving the hotel we spent $25 on breakfast for our family. While that wasn’t the end of the world (we love going to breakfast restaurants!), it definitely added a few pennies to the cost of our trip. Saturday night we stayed at a Fairfield and had a super clean room, cozy beds, and a decent breakfast included, all for $105. Certainly not anything fancy, but it worked for us!

 

We’ve used Priceline in the past and been lucky enough to get decent rooms, however I feel like both Hotwire and Priceline’s rating systems are a little off. (Their idea of what matches a 4 star hotel just isn’t what my idea would be!) I’m excited though to find some better ways to research deals that I just didn’t know before going in, and am willing to try out bidding one more time now that I know there are better ways to get an educated guess.

 

Have you used Priceline or Hotwire before for hotel stays? I’d love to hear if it’s worked out for you ~ leave a comment to share your experience (I love hearing from you!)
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Comments

  1. Jennifer B. says:

    Stories like this are the main reason I am reluctant to try Hotwire or Priceline or other bidding sites! And those poor girls who lost the prepaid cost of the room!! We’ve learned it is much easier to deal with problems (or even making changes) when the reservation is booked directly with the property (and not a travel site like Travelocity, Orbitz, or Expedia, etc.) although we do look at those sites for pricing information and especially for reviews.

    I recommend trying both online pricing AND calling the property directly to compare rates, though (especially now when it doesn’t normally cost extra to call long distance the way it once did).

    Another thing is the benefits of sticking with one or two (since most chains are not in EVERY location) hotel chains. Free rooms or just nice little upgrades are possible for even occasional travelers. We really like Choice Hotels because of the wide range of pricing available depending on the brand. And, yes, those included breakfasts can really cut costs.

    • I agree so much with you Jennifer – in fact when my husband mentioned using Hotwire I was really hesitant, because I know what I’m getting with a Hampton Inn (we need to look closer at the Choice Hotels options next time too!) I don’t usually try calling the hotel directly so need to check on that before we stay somewhere again.

      We’ve stayed at Hampton for years and have earned a free night or two, but not all that many (I think better rewards add up when you use a hotel credit card regularly, but our one credit card is Southwest so we can get free flights.) I’m not completely going to give up trying Priceline and Hotwire (yet?) but do like knowing what I’m getting into before driving up to a hotel (and felt just awful for those poor girls!)

      • Jennifer B. says:

        Even when my husband traveled a great deal for work, we have never used hotel credit cards to earn their rewards. You do have to sign up for their loyalty programs and be sure to use that number on all reservations to “get credit,” Choice Hotels offer great email promotions quite often where, for example, if you stay a minimum of two times (not two nights at one location), you can earn a free night. These are “specials” you have to sign up for, in addition to being part of their loyalty program, though, so you do have to monitor their emails in order to know about them.

  2. Hi Laurie!
    I’m new to your site. I haven’t been able to look through the entire site but I’m looking forward to it. 2 questions: 1) what printer do you recommend? 2) what are the online coupon websites you recommend?

    Thanks so much!

    • Jennifer B. says:

      I’m obviously not Laurie, but in case it takes a while for her to respond to you, I wanted to point out the “Printable Coupon Sites” section of this website near the lower right corner of each page. Additionally, if you use the Coupon Database, it will take you directly to the link for particular coupons, even if they aren’t on one of the sites listed at the bottom right.

      • Thank you so much for replying Jennifer – this summer since my kids are home I haven’t had time to keep up with comments like I should (so I appreciate you saying something so much!!!) Thank you!!! 🙂

    • Hi Nina! So sorry to be so late responding.

      Here’s where I would start –

      http://passionatepennypincher.com/2015/06/7-simple-steps-to-strategic-coupon-shopping/

      I use a Brother Laser Printer and it works great – here’s the one I use – http://amzn.to/1fgycn6 – and I love it because it prints wirelessly and prints a LOT of coupons per toner cartridge. Hope that helps to get you started!

  3. Michelle Pointer says:

    My husband and I travel extensively for both work and pleasure. I book 40 to 60 rooms a year over the last five years and over 80% of them through Priceline and Hotwire. I am also an extremely picky traveler. A few of things that I ALWAYS do:

    1) I never stay in less than a three star rated property.
    2) I do the express deals or secret hotels only.
    3) I ALWAYS check customer ratings. I always look for a 8 out of 10 rating on Priceline or 85%+ rating on Hotwire. I firmly believe your fellow travelers will not lead you wrong. If there is no customer rating, I will not book. That is why I refuse to use Expedia or Travelocity for these kinds of rooms.
    4) Always, always, check those fine print rules. Downtown hotels almost always have extra parking fees. I also try to look for free wi-fi and free breakfast whenever possible. Also in resort areas, watch those added resort fees (Beach areas and Vegas).

    I have been disappointed probably three or four times over all the years we’ve traveled this way. Not checking customer ratings was the reason why and I started making sure I do that every time! Two of those times, I have had success being nice to get them to cancel the reservation. They go back to the property to do that and most properties do not want the bad reviews to follow them, so if you give a good reason, they will let you cancel. It won’t happen every time, but much more due diligence, is required to make these work!

  4. We use Priceline extensively and up until recently have been very pleased. However, we have had a few issues with not having 2 beds for the 3 of us and they were unable to fix that. We’ve also had two incidences in which we were charged by both Priceline and the hotel. Be sure to watch your statements. The last time they fixed it by charging us again and eventually getting it fixed, but it involved quite a hassle. On the flip side, we have also found some great deals at very nice places.

  5. Whenever we go out of town I always use Pricelines name your own price. Even with the fees I have never paid more than $65 for a night and always stay somewhere like Wyndham, Doubletree, or Hyatt. But I also always wait until the day before and book the room

  6. If you were staying in A2, I’ve never had great luck with their Priceline and Hotwire offerings.

    We’ve had great luck, though, in large cities with lots of competition and more info on betterbidding.com. Priceline’s policy that they can only guarantee a room for 2 guests has scared me off of using them since we had a family.

  7. Something else to consider checking is a map. I always type the motel or hotel into Google maps and check the customer reviews there, because people seem way more critical and give more thorough reviews for some reason. The map also gives you an accurate idea of what the neighborhood the room will be located in and can possibly prepare you for noise issues like traffic and construction. Street view can even let you see what the place looks like on the outside compared to the glossy perfect pictures they put on their sale website.

  8. Rita Poehlein says:

    We’ve had good and bad experiences with Hotwire. We usually end up in the “hotwire room” even if the hotel is not very full. For a family of 8 we look for a free breakfast, pool and price, and we do our research before hand. So far the best bang for our buck is staying at a Baymont Inn. They have a nice pool, the rooms are clean and the breakfast is great: biscuits and gravy, sausage, bacon, scrambled eggs, waffles and the normal stuff.

  9. When using Hotwire or Priceline, always look at Roomrevealer.com. It works great!!!!!

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