By Robert Cole

Believe it or not, Summer is around the corner. I suspect some folks are looking to book their vacation travel and getting the best hotel rate is a great way to kick off summer vacation. But, it is hard to know where to buy. The best rates are online, but which website is the best? The questions just keep coming.

The answer is, “It depends on how you play it.” I am here to help guide through the mayhem. Let’s start with one of the websites that appears quite risky but really isn’t if you know how to hedge your bet.

Hotwire ( is a personal favorite when it comes to booking hotel rooms from online travel sites. Their widely advertised claim is Four-star hotels at two-star prices. That’s a pretty good deal, but not good enough for me.

I love a good deal, but I am always in search of a better deal – the BEST deal.  Not the cheapest price mind you, but the best value: the highest quality at the lowest possible price. To capture the best deal, I don’t cheat, but I will take every advantage every tool available at my disposal to “bend” the rules in my favor.

Hotwire is the online travel equivalent of the generic store brand at the supermarket – lose the brand name and save a buck.  On Hotwire, one only knows the general neighborhood and hotel category, not the exact hotel name, before making a purchase.

However, enlightened consumers willing to do some easy research can frequently figure out which hotel is being offered at the discounted price.  I personally love reducing my risk while maximizing my reward (No, I have NOT perfected this approach for the stock market, so don’t bother asking…)

The secret is that Hotwire is owned by Expedia and is a sister site to TripAdvisor. In the interest of corporate consistency, hints on the Hotwire site can be cross-referenced on TripAdvisor.

Here are the simple steps, I will use my most recent weekend trip to Chicago as the example:

  1. I selected a four-star hotel in the centrally located Magnificent Mile area of Chicago. The rate was $79/night.
  2. Note the list of amenities. Look for unique features. In this case, Hotwire indicates the hotel’s guest rooms are smoke-free and has a swimming pool.
  3. Click on the CONTINUE button below the price. More detailed information is provided. It shows a TripAdvisor customer rating of 3.5 stars
  4. Now go to the TripAdvisor website and filter your selections accordingly. You should be able to get a short list of 4-star hotels with swimming pools in the Magnificent Mile zone (there were 5). Upon further inspection, only two, the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers and the W Chicago Lakeshore had 3.5 customer ratings. We are getting close.
  5. There is no reason to even open the Expedia site, clicking on the Amenities link for each hotel listed on TripAdvisor opens the associated page on Expedia – what could be easier?  It is then simple to note that only the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers is a smoke-free hotel. Bingo.
  6. Finally, TripAdvisor will also search multiple websites (Sheraton, Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline, Travelocity, etc.) to find the lowest rate. All the sites listed $109 as the lowest price.

This is not a perplexing decision. Take the risk of pre-paying $79 on Hotwire for two nights when the exact name of the hotel is not known or paying $30 more per night to be sure it was the Sheraton?

I booked,  it was the Sheraton.

Low risk, relatively high reward ($60 for under 10 minutes of effort) with no cheating involved. It may not always work out this easily, but I will tell you that for three out of my last four hotel bookings on Hotwire, I knew the property before I confirmed the booking. The only exception was in Berlin where I narrowed the choice to 5 properties, but since I was saving over $150/night, I really didn’t care to research any further.

Travel Well,




About Robert Cole

The Founder of Rock Cheetah LLC, Robert’s role in the travel industry is to help companies bridge the chasms separating marketing, technology and operations to create best practices and process improvements that benefit the consumer and drive profit. Robert has worked at the VP of Destination Experience for Mark Travel; VP of Hotel & Car for Cendant Corporation; VP of Business Development and Marketing Services for Anasazi Inc.; Director of Electronic Distribution for Budget Group; and Director of Hotel Distribution for Sabre Holdings. Robert is also active in many Travel Industry groups including the Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association, the Hospitality Technology & Financial Professionals, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International and the Open Travel Alliance. Follow Robert on Twitter at @RobertKCole and for total travel industry geeks he also author the Views from a Corner Suite blog where he talks shop for industry insiders. Click here to read.