When you do a ton of traveling, you are invariably faced with finding accommodation wherever you end up. While it’s possible to find private apartment rentals for a week at a time, most people that aren’t traveling as part of a vacation package generally opt for a hotel for shorter trips.

I’m no stranger to booking hotels online. In fact, I started using Hotwire for most of my bookings not long after the service first came out. While I sometimes wait until I get to a destination prior to booking a hotel, for the most part I book online beforehand to minimize stress when I arrive.

Through the years I’ve sampled most of the major hotel booking services and wanted to share my experiences with a few of the major ones here: here is my comparison of Hotwire vs Priceline vs Hotels.com.

Hotwire

Hotwire.com pioneered the low-cost online hotel booking space. Hotel rooms that typically cost $300 a night were often sold at around $100 on Hotwire, which made it possible for budget travellers to obtain rooms that would typically be outside of their budget. I’ve used Hotwire to book rooms in New York City, Buenos Aires, and even London.

One of the major downsides to Hotwire though is that you are not informed of the actual hotel you are booking until after the process is complete. While I’ve never had a “bad” room with Hotwire, not knowing the exact location of hotel is a bit scary, and you can often end up further away to an area that you had hoped for.

Since you don’t know any hotel details, you also don’t know the amenities that come with the hotel room as well. Nowadays internet access is pretty important for most people, and a room that doesn’t include free internet access can end up costing up to $15 more a day once that’s factored in.

Another issue with Hotwire is that you can’t change any part of a booking after the fact. If your plans suddenly change and you no longer need the room, you’ll be charged the full price for the booking with no hope of a refund.

And while most of the rooms I’ve obtained with Hotwire have been adequate for my purposes, often the rooms were located near the elevator or at the far end of the hotel complex – in other words, the less desirable rooms in the hotel.

But in a pinch, Hotwire.com still works well and provides low cost rooms with a bit of excitement during the booking process.

Priceline

Priceline is a bit different than Hotwire in that you can actually see a list of all the hotels and book them directly, albeit at higher prices. Where it is similar to Hotwire though is in their Make an Offer option. The concept behind this feature is that a person can pick a location to book a hotel, some dates, as well as a minimum level of quality (i.e. a four star hotel), and then make an offer to all hotels in the area. In theory if any of the hotels have rooms available and don’t think they’ll sell them through their normal channels, you might end up getting a great deal.

The main issue for me with Priceline though is that I’ve never been able to get a great deal. Whenever I set a price, it has always been rejected. When that happens you are given the option to make another offer with an increased price or with a lower the level of quality. If that fails, you are often forced to wait 24 hours to try again.

That entire process takes time and energy, and truthfully I rarely feel like devoting either of those towards booking a hotel, especially if it doesn’t save me much more than a service like Hotwire. So I rarely use Priceline these days.

Hotels.com

My favourite service these days is Hotels.com. You get to see an entire list of hotels prior to booking. That means you get to see the location of the hotel, the user reviews (which are important for booking), all the included amenities, and a fixed price. That means there are no surprises when you book, which as I get older is far more preferably to the surprises you sometimes get with Hotwire or Priceline.

I still believe you can probably get a better deal on a hotel by using Hotwire, but not knowing your hotel beforehand with Hotwire is a pretty big disadvantage, as is not being able to change any part of your reservation after the fact. I suspect Hotwire is feeling the competition lately, as they now open up a Hotels.com window as part of their booking process – I imagine they receive a commission if someone books that way. Priceline has similar disadvantages to Hotwire, and also requires quite a bit more work to get a great deal.

To Sum It Up

For me personally, since I usually travel with my girlfriend, my hotel booking service of choice these days is Hotels.com. You may end up paying a bit more with them, but you’ll know ahead of time what the hotel is like and you can alter your reservation after the fact.

But if I am just looking for a nice hotel room, and don’t really care if there are one or two beds in the room or exactly where it is, then I’ll definitely use Hotwire.com.