Does booking through Hotwire or Priceline affect the quality of your accomodations?

The Good: Palmer House Chicago Loop

Over time I have been an avid user of Hotwire and on occasion Priceline Name Your Own Price. Obviously, I chose them to save money against their fellow online travel booking engines the likes of Orbitz and Travelocity or booking with the hotel chain directly (e.g. Hilton, Marriott, etc). As you know if you have ever used either Hotwire or Priceline, the name of the hotel you book is not revealed until the sale is final. If you are unhappy with the selection,  no changes can be made to such bookings short of a decree from God (just kidding, well kind of). In my case, not knowing the hotel ahead of time has worked out well at times (Chicago), but at other times (Ft. Lauderdale) as they say in German nicht so gut. Using Hotwire or Priceline can be a rather hit or miss endeavor, even when one uses the additional features provided by the sites such as star ratings, customer satisfaction percentage, and customer reviews.

The Bad: Ocean Sky Resort Ft. Lauderdale

But I digress to the main point of my post. Does one compromise their chances of a quality room when booking with Hotwire or Priceline Name Your Own Price? Through a synthesis of personal and other people’s experience (both acquaintances and 3rd parties unknown to me via travel forums such as fodors and tripadvisor) the reviews are mixed. More times than not it appears to be a matter of capacity. If the hotel is rather full, one should expect to receive lesser accomodations than his/her fellow guest who has paid more via an online hotel booking site such as Expedia or the hotel directly. Another factor could be the duration of your stay as one night surely will not carry as much bargaining weight as say a 3 or 4 night stay. Ultimately it becomes a matter of cost benefit analysis. Does having a small room dramatically decrease your enjoyment of the hotel or is sacrificing square footage worth it in terms of the hotel’s value regarding price, amenities, and location as was the case for me in Chicago?

The Ugly: Ocean Sky Resort Ft. Lauderdale

There are a couple of things you can do to prepare yourself for a Hotwire booking stay. Of course use their features of map, star rating, customer satisfaction rating, and customer reviews to make the best possible choice prior to booking. After booking and the name of the hotel is revealed, look for them on twitter, begin following them, and send them a message informing them of your upcoming stay. When checking in ask them what the capacity level of the hotel is so that if the room you are assigned is substandard and the capacity is less than full, you have a bargaining chip. Finally, tweet both positive and negative impressions of the room directly to the hotel using a hashtag before its name so it is public in the twitterverse. These are some of the steps I have taken to improve the quality of my stays via Hotwire and Priceline Name Your Own Price bookings. I would love to hear from you about other effective means to ensure the best accommodations when booking with the aforementioned companies.

Happy Hotel Hunting!

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Cheyenne Mountain Resort-Colorado Springs

So my wife and I stretched out our Labor Day holiday over two weekends in order to find good value. We spent a night during the second weekend in Colorado Springs at the Cheyenne Mountain Resort. Honestly, I had booked the hotel rather quickly the night before and utilized Hotwire in order to do so. This of course meant that I didn’t choose this hotel specifically, but rather through a series of criteria such as star listing (4 stars), location, overall customer satisfaction (90%), and specific guest reviews. The price was excellent at around $90 I believe, and the guest reviews left me feeling confident it would be a good choice. After booking, when the name of the hotel was revealed to me, I immediately recognized it from researching possible stays for the previous New Years Eve festivities. That being the case, I definitely felt intrigued to know what this hotel resort was all about. 

We checked in around four or so, a little late for my taste, but which coincidentally coincided with the actual check-in time of the hotel. I don’t like how mountain hotels, or in this case foothill hotels, present such a late check-in time. I think it is a rip-off that we get considerably less than a full 24 hour stay. After checking in we had to get into our car again and drive to another part of the resort. The rooms are essentially positioned into mini-compounds providing a de facto barrier between the main hall/pool area and that of the Colorado Country Club immediately to the south. 

I found our room to have a nice layout and decor. It had a balcony with a cute patio table and chairs to enjoy the fresh air. However the view from there was less than stellar as our angle only provided a driveway underneath and a barren field across the way. The room itself displayed a floral motif with earthly tones that I found pleasing. Particularly nice were the curtains and bed headboards. Notice how I said “headboards”, that’s right you guessed it, the hotel expecting the Mrs. and I to share the room like a couple of college dorm mates. One of the casualties of booking through Hotwire I presume. What’s worse was the condition of the beds, suffering from what I call “weakitis.” The beds looked and felt wavier than the sea during high-tide. The night of sleep confirmed our fears, leaving my wife with a sore back in excess of a week. The rest of the accommodation was descent with a wet bar and mini-fridge next to the bathroom. The bathroom had separate areas for the sink and vanity, toilet, and shower, which is always a popular set-up for me.

The highlight of the amenities as far as I’m concerned was Sunday brunch. They provided so many wonderful options such as sea bass, prime rib, Oysters Rockefeller and so on. The desserts were absolutely delightful and all you can drink mimosas added a nice touch. Be prepared to shell out a little coin for the buffet, with each person costing $30 to partake. We didn’t have to eat for the rest of the day so consider that as well. The pool area was quaint but heavily invaded by kids. Actually all the common areas were invaded as such causing the wife and I irritation when we were enjoying drinks and dinner in the bar and adjoining patio all the while witnessing kids running and screaming around us. I just don’t understand how the hotel lets that happen, let alone parents!

All in all  I would concede 4 stars for the Cheyenne Mountain Resort had it not been for weak beds, children allowed in the bar area in the evening, and a general vibe of unhappiness portrayed by many of the clientele. If the hotel can improve in those areas I have no qualms about rating it 4 stars, however being in its current state I would more likely rate it at 3 stars. The guests of the resort did have access to the adjacent country club for golf, tennis, and aquatic sports, which I must admit I only took advantage of its fitness center. So had I used more of those facilities my view perhaps would have changed, bumping it up to 3 1/2 stars. Regardless one non-negotiable remains, a 4 star establishment must furnish comfortably firm bedding!