How to Hack Hotwire for a Cheap Last-Minute Getaway
by Jin Moon
Have you ever wanted to just get away from everything and escape? You’re scrolling through Instagram and double-tapping everyone’s vacation photos. But TBH, you want to be the one on a trip snapping selfies and hashtagging #OOO. Don’t worry, I learned a quick and easy travel hack to turn a last-minute vacay idea into reality with travel site Hotwire.com. At an event hosted by the site, a Hotwire rep walked me through some simple ways to capitalize on the Hot Rate hotel deals. While a lot of the deals hide what hotel the offer is for until you actually book, these hacks will help you deduce which hotel you will most likely get before you buy.
I live in New York, the city that never sleeps, and I often crave tiny adventures away from the hustle and bustle. Like many people, I work long hours and, more often than not, I don’t have much brain power left to plan a trip ahead of time.
With our complex schedules, my partner and I don’t have two consecutive days off either, so it’s hard to plan a full weekend or a couple days out of town unless one of us takes time off. The ideal find for me is a one-day getaway hotel with a spa. Securing an amazing deal on a hotel is key to making a short journey like this more financially feasible.
This is when I turn to travel sites for last-minute hotel deals and ideas. Case in point: Last week was a mind-numbing marathon of work, and by Friday night I was determined to do something fun on Saturday. So I logged on to Hotwire.
Hotwire has two kinds of hotel deals featured on its site: Hot Rate and Standard Rate hotels. The Standard Rate options are the normal hotel deals you can find on any travel site. You may even find the same prices on the actual hotel’s site. The Hot Rate hotels are the most discounted hotel rates. Hotwire claims it gives you four-star hotels at two-star prices with this deal. The catch? The actual hotel is not revealed until you complete your purchase. Hiding the hotel name is the key reason the site can afford to give you the best deal — by allowing its hotel partners to remain anonymous during the booking process, Hotwire can offer discounted rates that are better than the published prices already out there. The anonymity protects each hotel’s public rates and, in exchange, the hotel has an opportunity to book unsold inventory.
Hotwire is currently running a 10 percent off discount on Hot Rate hotels from February 11 to February 12 with the promo code LOVE10. Take advantage for a last minute getaway for Valentine’s Day.
There are two different ways Hotwire showcases its Hot Rate hotel options. The first kind of Hot Rate hotel won’t show you a real photo of the hotel room; the second kind will indeed show you a real photo of the hotel.
It’s best to download the Hotwire app as a research companion piece to your last-minute getaway planning. Hotwire will often release app-only promo codes and discounts, like this limited-time deal notification I received during the Super Bowl. This may inspire your spontaneity for a quick trip.
Another important tip to keep in mind is that Hot Rate deals don’t last very long and could expire if you wait too long to book them.
Below, we show you how to hack the Hotwire Hot Rate system to figure out the mystery hotel before you book it. See the step-by-step guide, and then choose your own adventure!
1. Select Your Location and Arrival/Departure Dates
After you’ve figured out where you want to venture to, plug the location and date into the Hotwire search. I chose Poconos Mountains in Pennsylvania, but you do you. Search results can be filtered by three category tabs: All Hotels, Hot Rate and Standard Rate Hotels. I recommend starting with All Hotels to see the full scope of what’s available. Then check out the Hot Rate tab to compare all the hidden deals. You can also search and sort by various filters, like price range, hotel class, amenities and more.
I kept most of the options open except for hotel class, where I requested only three- and four-star hotels show up in the search results.
2. Find the Hotwire Hot Rate Hotel Hint
I clicked through on a Hotwire Hot Rate hotel that looked promising in my search results. You’ll see that the featured photo on that listing disclosed it’s a “sample photo only” in order “to avoid upsetting guests who booked at full price.” At this point, you’ll also see that Hotwire has a note at the beginning of its “Overview” tab that says: “Book soon! The last person got the Mount Airy Casino Resort.” Most likely, this hint is pointing to the hidden hotel.
3. Decoding the “What Hotel Will I Get?” Hint
In your search results page, you will also see a link for “What hotel will I get?” in the lower right corner of each listing. If you click and expand this link, sometimes Hotwire will show you three possible hotels and guarantee that the mystery listing will be one of those featured. Other times, the site will give you the usual spiel of how it can’t reveal the hotel name until after you’ve booked and only list examples of other hotel chains with the same hotel class rating. This is obviously the less helpful hint. See below examples of each scenario.
This hint will also be on the individual Hot Rate hotel listing page. Check out the following screenshots to see how the messages appear on those pages. The first two are when Hotwire gives you three hotel possibilities, and the third image is when Hotwire just gives you examples of other similar class hotels.
4. Compare Expedia Guest Rating, Reviews and Distance
Because Hotwire is part of the Expedia Group, the hotel guest ratings are powered by Expedia. Put on your detective hat to cross-check the rating as well as the total number of reviews to both the Hot Rate hotel and the open hotel listing on Hotwire to see if they match. If they do, that’s further confirmation of the mystery hotel’s identity. Below, you will see that both the Hot Rate hotel and Mount Airy Casino Resort have 4.3 out of five stars and 2,010 Expedia reviews. They both also have the exact same distance in miles from your search location, which is another dead giveaway.
5. Compare Hotel’s Featured Photo
You can tell if you get a Hot Rate listing that shows you the actual hotel photo because it will say “Tap to reveal actual hotel photo” on the listing page. A window will pop up with the photo which you can compare to the regular open listing photos on Hotwire. They should match.
I ended up opting for a Hot Rate hotel where this was the case. The Hot Rate hotel also happened to be right below a listing for Pocono Palace Resort, where everything in Step #4 matched, so I had a good hunch that I had solved the identity of the mystery listing.
6. Now book the Hot Rate hotel.
You will see confetti flying once you have successfully booked your room and your hotel is officially revealed! You can also book discount car rentals, flights and vacation packages through Hotwire if you need to add on to your getaway. As Helen Keller wisely said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” Don’t let it be nothing!
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