Ifs you were to visit the websites of many upscale hotels you would see that their rooms are almost always listed for well over $200 per night and you have to ask yourself: how do they do it? How can they sell hundreds of these rooms every night of the year for such an insanely high price? The answer is, THEY CAN’T! That’s right, other than during the busiest times of the year or when major events are taking place near the hotel in question, a large number of their rooms would sit vacant if they were to try and sell every single one of them at those high prices.
Thankfully years ago I learned this little secret about the hotel industry: they are desperate to sell their rooms! Why? Because it makes very little business sense as a hotel manager to let a large portion of your rooms sit vacant every night. Some money is better than no money, right? On the other hand, hotels don’t want to damage their brand and the upscale image of their hotel by dropping their rates to bargain basement prices just so they can sell their remaining rooms either. The hotels especially don’t want their high paying customers to know that the room they just purchased for $300, they would actually be willing to sell for $50 if it meant that it wouldn’t remain vacant for the night!
So how do these hotels ensure that their rooms are occupied while at the same time protecting their reputation so that everyone doesn’t know that they are selling their rooms so cheaply? The answer is they sell off their surplus inventory of rooms through 3rd party discount travel providers like Priceline.com and Hotwire.com at massive discounts.
How Does Booking On Priceline And Hotwire Work?
Booking hotels through Priceline and Hotwire works slightly differently, but the basic concept is that they only provide a very rough description of the hotel and the general area where it is located without actually naming the hotel. The true identity of the hotel is only revealed after the person booking the hotel has already paid for their stay in full. They will also not be given the option to change or cancel their reservation meaning that the revenue from that sale becomes guaranteed for the hotel the instant that the room is booked. By doing things this way, the hotel’s brand is protected because their hotel is never publicly listed alongside the rock bottom price on their own website nor on any third party travel provider’s website either.
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I know, those are some pretty serious restrictions, but what if I told you that you could save up to 70% off the regular nightly rates for 3 and 4 star hotels in most major cities? Would it be worth it then? To me it definitely is and you’ll soon see why!
Here Are Some Actual Hotel Deals I’ve Scored
Based on my own personal experience, I have to tell you that staying in a hotel right in the heart of the city you are visiting with direct access to everything the city has to offer is much more enjoyable than paying more money to stay at a run down motel that is miles away. Here are a few of the cheap hotel deals I’ve managed to score by using Priceline and Hotwire over the past several years.
- Sheraton Center, Toronto - $67/night vs. $250/night (73% off)
- This is one of the tallest buildings in Toronto with a fantastic view of both the CN Tower and Toronto City Hall.
- By combining this Priceline booking with 1000 starpoints earned through my credit card we were able to upgrade to a room on the top floor of the hotel with lounge access.
- The top floor lounge was the best I’ve seen in any hotel with mountains of free and expensive food served all day.
- We were able to eat both supper and breakfast in the lounge for free while overlooking the entire city. It was amazing!
- Marriott Bloor, Toronto - $56/night vs. $250/night (78% off)
- Another nice Toronto hotel we stayed at for a different part of our same trip to Toronto and Niagara Falls.
- Received a complimentary breakfast and late checkout by using the Marriott Gold status I obtained for free using an online promotion.
- Marriott Harbourfront, Halifax - $45/night vs. $220/night (80% off)
- We like to take a trip to Halifax every year or two and we’ve stayed at this hotel on the water that is right next to the casino several times.
- We paid $45/night two of those times and closer to $70/night one other time.
- I was able to get free breakfast and late checkout here as well using my gold status.
- One time I even booked this hotel through Priceline when it was showing up as completely sold out on Marriott’s own website!
- Wyndham Airport Hotel, Portland - $52/night vs. $160/night (68% off)
- Took a trip to Maine with our friends and we were all able to share one room at this incredibly low price.
- Residence Inn, Portland - $44/night vs. $150/night (71% off)
- My friend was so impressed with the price we paid the first time; he had me book another hotel for him and his wife.
- It turned out even cheaper the second time around!
- Sterling Inn & Spa, Niagara Falls - $119/night
- The only hotel of the bunch I booked through Hotwire instead of Priceline.
- Hotels in Niagara Falls in the middle of summer are extremely expensive, hence the high price.
- This is actually the top ranked hotel on TripAdvisor in Niagara Falls.
- I figured out that the hotel was the Sterling Inn & Spa before booking it, which is why I decided to book it through Hotwire.
- Radisson Hotel Edmonton South, Edmonton - $65/night
- This wasn't the best deal of the bunch but still a significant savings off the regular price.
- Radisson Hotel at LAX, Los Angeles - $54/night
- This hotel is sometimes seen in movies and TV shows when they show planes landing at the airport, it’s that close!
Does It Sound Too Risky?
Now this might sound a little bit risky to the average person because you could end up staying in a hotel you don’t like at a slightly inconvenient location. I have to be honest here; there are risks involved with booking hotels in this way, but not as many as you would initially think. Once you learn how the system works for the site you are booking with, you can usually figure out either exactly which hotel you are reserving at or you can at least narrow it down to a select few. From there you can decide if all of these few hotels meet your needs and continue on with the booking process, or decide to book your hotel through more traditional means.
Ultimately you have to decide if taking a small risk is worth the potential rewards of booking the best possible hotel deal you’re likely to get.
Which Is The Better Deal: Priceline Or Hotwire?
Booking hotels through Priceline and Hotwire is something I am very familiar with and also something I have spent a significant amount of time researching. That said, Priceline is definitely my preferred hotel booking medium over Hotwire because the prices are typically 20% cheaper at Priceline for the very same hotel. However, the bidding system through Priceline is also more cumbersome and you get a lot less information about the hotel where you will ultimately be staying. Every hotel you look at on Hotwire has a detailed page describing the hotel, its approximate location, and the services it provides. This is extremely useful information both for people who are wary about booking a hotel without knowing its identity and also for making an educated guess about which hotel it is before you book it.
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Once you master Priceline bidding, you will almost never go back to booking hotels through Hotwire because you know you can get a much better deal at Priceline. Just make sure you use the Name Your Own Price feature of Priceline.com because they also sell hotels the traditional way at much higher prices. People often go to Priceline.com and are quickly confused when the prices don’t seem any cheaper and the names of the hotels are plainly listed for everyone to see. Don’t give up without a fight because naming your own price is where the true savings come in!
Give It A Try!
At this point you have enough information to get your feet wet in the world of hotel bidding and cheap hotel deals. You might make a mistake your first few times so I wouldn’t take a chance for your honeymoon or anything like that! However, if you look at it as a money saving adventure you’re bound to have a ton of fun and chances are you will score the best hotel deal you’ve ever had!
Why don’t you tell me about the best hotel deals you’ve gotten in the comments?
Rewritten: October 02, 2012
First posted: September 22, 2010