Avoiding Priceline and Hotwire Problems

Avoiding Priceline and Hotwire Problems

Bidding for travel on sites like Priceline and Hotwire can save you a lot of money. It is somewhat of a gamble yet there are opportunities to do very well. This is a big and fast growing travel marketplace in which hotels with excess inventory meet up with potential guests.

We’ve written frequently about the benefits of using these “opaque” booking sites. Before bidding I always check user reported bid results on Better Bidding, Bidding for Travel, and Hotwire Revealed.

Caution when bidding: surprise fees and more.

You won’t know for sure what hotel you will be staying at until your bid is accepted. Payment is processed immediately and there are no refunds.

I recently bid on a 2 ½ star hotel, because I liked the hotel choices indicated in Bidding for Travel. Instead, Priceline upgraded me to a 3 star hotel. At first I thought I scored a better deal until I saw their “surprise fees.”

This is perhaps one of the sneakiest and most difficult to manage aspects of the opaque booking sites. It’s a way that hotels recoup some of the lost income that results from their using these websites to shed vacancies.

Some fees and issues to be concerned about.

  • Parking. My 2.5 star hotels had free parking. The 3 star hotel I received instead had a $16 day parking fee. Gotcha.
  • Resort fees. These sneaky fees can amount to quite a lot of money, especially here in Hawaii.
  • Worst room in the house. In my recent stay, I got a room in the furthest wing of the hotel. You can expect that when a hotel is getting the low rate you pay, less the 30 percent it pays to Priceline or Hotwire.
  • Wrong bedding. You cannot at this time indicate whether you need one bed or two beds, or the size thereof. While you can make a request directly to the property, don’t expect it to be honored.

More about each site.


The bid amount per day does not include taxes and fees. Priceline does offer a price match guarantee. Hotel amenities aren’t shown until after you pay. If your bid is not accepted, you’ll need to change your bid parameters (dates, number of stars, location), wait 24 hours, or sign in with a different name and login ID.


Hotwire lists hotels based on location and number of stars, including what area they are in and the property’s amenities. That, in conjunction with Hotwire Revealed, Better Bidding, or doing your own research, can indicate which hotel you are likely to receive.

As with Priceline, taxes and fees are not included in the price first indicated.


Another, albeit small player in the Hawaii auction market, SkyAuction names the hotel you are bidding on before you pay. You compete against others in a live auction. There is a $20 processing fee. There are many other “hidden” fees that are listed, including upgrades, and surcharges for various dates.

When a new bid is submitted in the last five minutes of the auction, another five minutes is added, up to a maximum of an hour.

I’ve tried using SkyAuction, but have never won an auction.  If you have, please let us know what you thought.


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  1. Honey (4 years ago)


    In answer to your query, I have won a SkyAuction listing, for a room at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix.

    We won a standard room with one massage per day for $99 per night, an excellent deal. The rack rate at the time was about $250. We booked 3 nights.

    When we arrived, I let them know it was Sandy’s and my anniversary, in addition to being Valentines weekend, and asked if they could give me an even nicer room. I never hesitate to use the “anniversary card” while travelling or dining out.

    Without hesitation they upgraded us to a villa (2 bedrooms, 2 baths, kitchen, large living room, large lanai), near one of the many pools.

    We added a massage each day on our nickel, so we each could partake, and revelled in the delightful experience.

    On checking out, I asked what the villas normally go for, and was told $1,500 per night, so our $99 win was a real steal.


    • Jeff (4 years ago)

      Thanks Honey.

      Glad to hear SkyAuction worked for you. I’ll try it again — it has been a while.

      Aloha, Jeff

  2. Jeff (4 years ago)

    I have looked at LuxuryLink and did again just now. I couldn’t really find one deal to get excited about. Am I missing something?

    Aloha, Jeff

  3. angeloroma (4 years ago)

    I also use Luxury LInk and it includes all hotel taxes and you know exactly what type of room you are getting and you don’t have to specify dates until you are ready to travel – I wait until I get a good airfare. I always want a lanai and ocean view or ocean front and non-smoking room so have never been brave enough to try Priceline or Hotwire.
    Another website – Vacationist.com has good deals on 4 star hotels as does Perfect Escapes.com.

  4. Jan (4 years ago)

    Hotwire gets the rooms that are: smoking rooms, under repair, and by a busy elevatoe. These are the types of rroms I have stayed in. They said a hotel in was 3 star and it was really a 2. We had a room that had two double beds.

  5. Rene (4 years ago)

    Also check out luxurylink.com, they do have some good deals for the more expensive hotels in Hawaii. You know what the property is and there are no hidden fees. I have purchased 3 trips over the years and been very happy. I also check the property website to compare value, and get an overview on tripadvisor. Sometimes the price also includes taxes.

  6. melika (4 years ago)

    I research Hawaii deals as a hobby….go figure, and I do travel over there at least 2x a year. Here are by far the best deals you’ll see: Orbitz promo code 200entertain gets you $200 off a 7 night (or more)vacation package!! I have used this every time I visit. Hawaiian airlines website has the best rental car deals under specials minimum $50-$100 off, plus no pre pay like hotwire. Trip advisor shows coupons for various properties- example: Napili Surf- $89- a night, Napili bay $89- a night, just plug in your island and dates. If you are a Mariott rewards member, you get $50- off your Hawaiian air ticket. Enjoy everyone! ALOHA!

  7. Kris (4 years ago)

    I have been researching Hotwire for packages from my son and family next June, I have been curious about the resort fees that may not be mentioned on line. When should I be booking for next June, is it too early now?

    • Rob (4 years ago)

      Hi Kris,

      Sorry, I forgot to mention the sweet spot. For hotels, 90 days out is generally the time the hotel decides whether it needs to use extraordinary measures to put heads in beds. Therefore, while not always true, that’s probably a good guideline for how far out to expect to find the best deals on the bidding sites.

      Aloha, Rob