|by Sean O'Neill||Real Deals, Helpful Websites, Hotels, Online Travel Agencies||96|
While blind-booking site Hotwire doesn't reveal a hotel's name until you book it, detailed information provided on the site about the property gives you a fair picture. You can use these details about a hotel's star rating, amenities, and location to reveal the hotel's name, with the help of independent websites like Bid Goggles, Hotwire Revealed, Bidding for Travel, and Better Bidding.
My fave tool is Bid Goggles (bidgoggles.com), a pet project by some travelers and computer programmers. After you've targeted a promising deal on Hotwire, copy the mystery hotel's amenities, star rating, and neighborhood into the Bid Goggles tool (open in a separate browser tab or window). The site matches the Hotwire description with the description of similar hotels that other travelers have visited.
For example, I recently helped a family member book a room in Pittsburgh for a wedding. I fired up Hotwire and quickly locked in on a "four-star, downtown Pittsburgh area hotel" with a $131 a nightly rate. Hotwire listed this hotel's amenities as including a fitness center, a business center, high-speed Internet access, and spa services. I went to Bid Goggles and punched in these details about the property. The site predicted that the hotel would be either the Renaissance Hotel or the Omni William Penn Hotel. I went ahead with the booking and lo and behold it was the Omni William Penn.
Hotwire Revealed is another site that works similarly and successfully.
Both sites are far, far from perfect, though. Nobody has a magic decoder ring that can reveal every one of Hotwire's listings perfectly every time. But the sites provide close-enough guesses. In the above example, Bid Goggles had predicted the Omni William Penn and the Renaissance Hotel. I looked at the websites of those hotels and was pleased with how they looked and their general location that I felt confident that even if I didn't get either of those hotels I would get a hotel that was fairly similar. The process boosted my confidence that I was doing right by my relatives when planning their trip.
The information about successful Hotwire bookings is more comprehensive and more frequently updated at the Bidding For Travel forums and, to a lesser extent, at Better Bidding. But there's a trade-off: Those forums require more patience to use than the other sites.
Have you had some big hotel wins on Hotwire? How do you know when the price is right? Share your tips in the comments. We can't all travel as much as we'd like to, especially during these uncertain times. But if we pool our knowledge together, we can help each other save big bucks and travel better.