Mystery Hotel-How to Cheat and Bargain

We spent some time looking at the "mystery hotel" range at and the new mystery offer at In some cases, LastMinute's description of a mysterious hotel makes it easy to find the actual hotel. Wotif's mystery hotels are hard to understand, but there are clues, for example, they might sell "Comfort" and "Grand Comfort" rooms in a mystery hotel, so you can simply browse through the list of other Wotif hotels in the same city. See which hotel room uses the description. American company Priceline is the originator of this mysterious hotel deal, and we have always had serious doubts about its use.

The main objection is that Priceline does not see discounted prices for specific hotels [for LastMinute and Wotif, the usual agency price will be 20% lower than the normal agency price], while Priceline does not give you any clues about the actual hotel , You must bid that you are ready to pay. Priceline does offer some help-it divides the city into multiple regions and displays the normal retail prices of different star hotels and suggests that you should use possible discounts when bidding. Still, there is a huge danger that you may end up paying more than you need. Priceline may have set a secret minimum bid of $ 80 per night, but if someone bids $ 95, the company will be happy to accept the bid. In addition, in recent years, the business of the hotel industry has developed very well. We suspect that Priceline sells rooms in certain hotels, otherwise it will be difficult to attract guests. In other words, you may end up paying the odds for a poor hotel.

However, something has changed in the game now. A few hotels have empty rooms and are willing to sell them at low prices via Priceline on condition of anonymity to avoid undermining their normal evaluation. And we found a very handy guide that can help you avoid some of the pitfalls of Priceline.

A community forum for Priceline [and HotWire, an Expedia subsidiary, designed for U.S. customers] is The homepage is a bit confusing, but all you need to do is scroll down to find a forum specifically for the area you want to visit. Select Boston and the first post will be a list of hotels that forum members have purchased through Priceline. There is no guarantee that this list is completely accurate-hotels will come and go based on season and occupancy-but at least you know a little bit about the type of hotel in each star category. You then browse through recent posts where members list the transactions they actually got from Priceline. You might see someone bidding $ 80 for a house in Omni Parker two days ago, and buying a house at Hyatt for $ 85 a week ago. You need to pay careful attention to the time of booking [working days or weekends] and how early to make the reservation, because this will definitely affect the price.

This site is best suited for Priceline US hotels. Few internationally booked positions. If you want to stay in Venice in May, knowing that someone can bid for $ 90 at the Hilton Molino in February is useless.

All prices on Priceline come before the dreaded "taxes", which can add a significant amount to the total and obviously include a huge service fee. We can't see how they made a £ 28 charge for a basic hotel fee of £ 92. At least you saw this number before you submitted your bid.

When you are ready to proceed, you must submit payment details. If the bid is accepted, your money will be charged immediately and there is no possibility of cancellation or change. If the bid is not accepted, no money is charged and you can only bid if you have changed certain terms of the original bid. Better bidding suggests a workaround. Let's say you want to stay at a five-star hotel in an area of ​​Paris. Your initial bid was rejected, so you changed your bid to include another area of ​​Paris, but there is no Priceline five-star hotel in the area you can see from Betterbidding. Assuming Priceline doesn't add a new hotel suddenly [this is a very realistic possibility], your increased bid for the hotel you want should be accepted.

Better bidding also gives HotWire the same range of information. This is part of the same group that owns Expedia and, but it is designed primarily for US customers and the payment method is in US dollars-effectively increasing costs for UK customers.

HotWire's system is similar to Priceline, but it eliminates the bidding aspect. You will know the star rating, the city area involved, and the total cost [plus taxes]. A quick tour of Betterbidding should give you an idea of ​​which hotels are sold in different categories and cities. The site is not as good as Priceline for hotels outside North America.

Through these two websites, we recommend that you try to check prices with direct hotels or similar hotels. Neither nor Expedia / [the company behind these mysterious sites] are not known for selling hotels cheaply. In some cases, a 20% discount on its price is only equal to a 10% discount elsewhere. If you think you can book a room at Luxor in Las Vegas for $ 65, you may find it better to eliminate guesswork and book directly at the hotel for $ 72.

We certainly cannot recommend Priceline and Betterbidding sites to everyone. This can be very time consuming and dangerous. The chances of mistakes are high: you can easily pay a lot of money for unwanted hotels. Another big danger is that you may lose the entire game and focus too much on trying to "win" instead of finding a hotel that suits you! However, there are some real bargains around, especially in the United States, where Priceline is stronger and has a lot of information about Betterbidding. If you are staying at a hotel in New York for a few nights and you have the time and patience, you may get a lot.

If I book a mysterious deal at a special price, will I get the worst room in the hotel?

Several hotels may use these mysterious deals to sell less desirable rooms that they would not normally sell unless the hotel is full. Most hotels provide you with a standard room, but as is common with rooms booked at a special rate by an agent, it may be the lowest category room available. Better rooms may be located on higher floors, with more modern furniture or better views, and these may be allocated to customers who book directly at the hotel.


If you book a standard room [whether Priceline or not] through an agent, there is no reason you can't upgrade your room on arrival. Many hotels are more than happy to upgrade their agency customers to Executive Floor rooms [perhaps an extra £ 30 per night] or to provide them with larger rooms or better views. Hotels are looking for extra income for every opportunity, and if someone gives them money and they have better rooms, they are less likely to reject them. Interestingly, this method can often lead to free upgrades! Receptionists may find the task of paying extra on the computer system too daunting, and simply allocate a better room for free. Offering paid upgrades may be a better way to get free upgrades than just asking.

Loading data ...
View chart compare
View table compare