Why I Keep Recommending Hotwire and Priceline

hotel deals

I do a lot of media interviews over the course of a year as I’ve gotten a reputation as a travel bargains expert, someone who knows how to travel well for less. Most of the time the reporters who contact me are looking for the elusive hot scoop, that new travel app or unknown website that will open up a world of fantastic deals for their readers.

The thing is, the reason I made the book Make Your Travel Dollars Worth a Fortune┬áso “evergreen” is that getting travel deals is seldom about new technology. Sure, getting access to deals helps and the right app can certainly save you lots of time when away from a computer. Often though, it’s the tried and true websites that have scale and history on their side that keep delivering. I still use SkyAuction sometimes and keep recommending Bookit.com and CheapCarribbean.com to friends looking for a warm weather vacation bargain. There’s nothing shiny or new about these 90s oldies. They just deliver great deals.

Which brings us to Hotwire and Priceline. For a trip home for the holidays, I was flying into Washington D.C. and needed a null for 10 days, during prime vacation time. I checked and rechecked all the possible booking sites and made a reservation just in case for a mid-sized car that period. It was $398, about the best deal I could find from the airport. But then two days before landing I went on Hotwire. I got a full sized car from Dollar for $195—total. That’s what I paid when I brought the car back 9 days later. Half price. For a larger car.

For most people, chain hotels and rental cars are commodities. It doesn’t make much difference which one you’re in as long as the location is where you want to be. Plus you’re not going into this blind anyway if you do a little digging: there are message boards that will tell you which hotel you’re likely to get when you bid on Priceline or Hotwire and now Priceline is even showing winning bids in each city. See this null for where to go.

My one caveat is that all this works much better in the U.S. and Western Europe than it does for the rest of the world. For foreign markets, especially outside of European capitals, pickings are sometimes slim.

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  1. Johnny B.

    I’ve booked my last six hotel stays with Priceline. And about 30 before that. I’m amazed how many people pay double what I do and don’t think twice about it. Sure, if your job is payin, why not? but if it’s your money, there are other things you can do with the savings.

  2. Ned

    The only rub with both Hotwire and Priceline is that the prices do not include the cost of hotel parking — which in many/most of the city locations can change the “deal” to a rotten deal where competitive hotels provide courtesy parking. I’ve never understood why Hotwire/Priceline include the cost of parking.

  3. Ned

    I left out an important word in the last sentence of my prior comment: “I’ve never understood why Hotwire/Priceline DON’T include the cost of parking.”

    • tim

      Ned, in my experience, if the hotel charges for parking, you’ll pay for parking. If it doesn’t, you won’t. It doesn’t matter where you booked the room. Generally any city center hotel is going to charge for parking unless they’re offering some kind of weekend promotional deal. Or if you’ve hit a high level in their loyalty program, in which case you would be booking direct anyway.

  4. Paul Karl Lukacs

    I have two problems with the white label services:

    (1) The discounted hotels are often located away from public transit, so you end up paying for taxis if you want to avoid walking (and walking five blocks to the Bangkok SkyTrain in August is no fun).

    (2) Some of the hotels offer discounted room rates but then charge so much for in-room internet (or breakfast or whatever add-on you consume) that the savings is illusory.

    The white label services are fine if you’re on vacation and feeling flexible and adventurous. But they’re not ideal if you’re on business or are in town for a specific purpose.

    • tim

      Paul, if you search the message boards I linked to, you’ll usually see which hotel you’re probably going to get. Then you can look up where it is located exactly and whether internet is included. I can’t remember ever being in the dark about this. At most it’s been down to three hotels it could possibly be. And as a rule of thumb, if you go 3-star or below in the U.S. (and almost any star level in Mexico), it’s very rare you’re going to be charged for Wi-Fi.

      I’ve used these services for business trips far more often than I’ve booked a specific hotel and have never been thrown for a loop. Meanwhile, I’ve generally paid 50% of what was listed on Expedia, etc.

  5. Jay Kane

    Those deals are good, but I use HereStay, a vacation rental site, to earn free reward air miles. So, not only do I get many of the same, if not better amenities as a hotel, but I can also get them more affordably and earn air miles.

  6. Trele

    I have booked some of my flights with Priceline as well and mus admit, I am always happy with the results! It saves me money :)

  7. Kevin

    I agree. I was paying so much for the flight + stay at some of the University district Seattle hotels. Then I started using some of these options like those above and saved almost half on my bill. They really are worth a look.

  8. FA

    I have not been an aggressive bidder. So the two times I used PL I only saved 40% and 42% of Expedia rates. But from now on I’m going 50% right out of the box! Carpe diem.

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