One great way to get hotels, car rentals and flights at discounted rates is Hotwire.com. Rooms, flights and car rentals that go unsold are given to Hotwire for cheap and they sell it to you as a mystery hotel. You can see some very basic information upfront, like how many stars the hotel is rated and the price. But with a little detective work, you can figure out which hotel is listed.
Taking an example from my recent trip to Puerto Rico here is a hotel in the “Rio Grande” area of Puerto Rico. I selected “4 stars and above” and here was the lowest price.
If you click on it you’ll be give more info that we can cross reference with Expedia, which will show all the 4 star hotels in the area, and the Trip Advisor rating they give you. Although Kayak shows both the star rating and the trip advisor rating at the same time. a few times I’ve seen Kayak and Expedia have different star ratings. No idea why, but I trust Expedia a little more and use Kayak for it’s ease more.
Clue 1: The star rating – which clearly says 4 star.
Clue 2: The Trip Advisor rating – which says 3.5.
Kayak gave me three possible matches:
Now we’ve narrowed it down to three hotels. Except when I was there, the Rio Mar was completely sold out, so I narrowed it down to the Gran Melia and the Waldorf in that example.
Clue 3: The crossed out price
The Rio Mar and the Gran Melia often go for $159 (which is the number crossed out in the Hotwire listing) and the Waldorf never gets that low. Although this isn’t a completely accurate way of guessing the hotel as Hotwire isn’t dumb enough to show the current rate for the hotel as the price being discounted, it’s still a clue. It says “*Savings based on median published rate we’ve found on leading retail travel sites in the last 24-48 hours for the same neighborhood, star rating, and stay dates.” So we can in some ways rule out the Waldorf on this example.
At this point I’d safely narrow it down to the Rio Mar and Gran Melia.
Clue 4: Additional Information
Unfortuantely this example doesn’t tell us much at all but it used to give the resort fee here. I cross referenced with the sites of all the possibilities and according to the check out process on the hotels sites, the Waldorf had a 16% resort fee and the Rio Mar had a similar 15% resort fee.
Now the FTC requires hotels to disclose any resort fees at the time of booking.
Truth be told, the Gran Melia does have a resort fee they just don’t disclose it… which is illegal. It’s unbelievable that they just ignore this and that no where in their booking process does it even mention a resort fee that was extremely high. This actually really annoys me as it feels dishonest.
Anyways, now they seem to include the tiny resort fee disclosure in the amenities section and therefore we didn’t learn anything from number 4 in this example.
Clue 5: “See All Amenities”
Well right away I noticed that it says, “Casino – Property offers a full-service casino accessible from the lobby.” The only hotel out of the 3 that has a Casino in the hotel is the Rio Mar. Simply go to their homepage and you can see this. But you can use other parts of the amenities to check and cross reference with the amenities section on the hotels homepage. Tenis courts, golf and all that jazz will be listed on both.
In a very short amount of time we learned that the mystery hotel listed on this day is the Wyndham Rio Mar. $83 (before taxes and fees) for a hotel that is going for $159+ on most days is quite a good deal. However, I might still try to take this over to Priceline and try a bid even lower. I’m going to explain how I used the info on Hotwire to guess which hotel I would be getting on Priceline as part of a complete guide to big savings with Priceline.