Hotel booking tip: Hotwire + upgrade = deal

There are many strategies for successfully booking hotel rooms on “opaque” booking sites. “Opaque” booking sites, for those unfamiliar with the term if not the thing itself, sell brand-name hotel rooms, among other goods, for discounted prices. The catch is that these hotels are never named in advance. The “opaque” booking sites help hotels fill their rooms at rates often far below hotel rack rates.

Some frequent travelers have developed a science out of gaming opaque booking sites. Better Bidding is one essential tool in this endeavor. It offers bidding tips and other information designed to allow users to figure out which description matches up with which anonymous hotel, thereby allowing customers to pick and choose a favored hotel.

Here’s a less crafty tip, one that can nonetheless be very helpful for finding a mid-range hotel bargain.

Twice in the past two months I’ve booked hotels in London and San Francisco on Hotwire. In both instances the hotel reservation was relatively speaking quite inexpensive: $99 for the London room and $110 for the San Francisco room.

Unfortunately, both bookings resulted in hotel rooms that were far from ideal.

In London, the Hilton London Docklands Riverside room booked through Hotwire ($99) was very cramped and not particularly well maintained. The bed was tiny and the view was of the traffic circle in front of the hotel. A £20 ($32) upgrade option gave us a recently renovated and much larger Deluxe room with a view of the foggy Thames. Our Hotwire-plus-upgrade rate ($131) turned out to be much less expensive than the lowest rack rate I found during research ($217).

In San Francisco, the room we booked through Hotwire at the Intercontinental San Francisco ($110) had two separate beds. We didn’t even take a look at it, instead inquiring about an upgrade. $30 per night later and we had a 17th floor corner king with sweeping views north and west. By our calculations, we saved almost $40 off the least expensive rack rate in the process.

(Image: Flickr / hotelkursaal&ausonia)