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 game. We 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!
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 clean. Eek!
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.