Hotwire Hotwire
by ,
4.5 5stars

Hotwire Review

Hotwire
Rating:
Bottom Line:
Simplistic approach to booking the basics; uncluttered interface and low prices offered to travelers looking for a quick and efficient reservation process

Full Review:
Started in 2000, Hotwire has made a name for itself among some of the most often-used travel sites. The prices Hotwire offers are usually very low, but it’s the simple, straightforward approach to booking that keeps users coming back to book their trips. Although Hotwire’s user-friendly interface maintains its customer base, it’s important to note that its customer support is somewhat lacking.


Getting Started

Hotwire welcomes users to its home page with a clear layout of tabs that allow them to get straight to the point. Tabs at the top of the page include: Hotels, Cars, Flights and Vacations, which is essentially a bundle deal, where travelers can select prepackaged trips with any combination of flights, car rentals and hotels to save money when booking ahead of time. Travelers can choose an option and type in the airport or general destination they'll be traveling to, as well as which city they'll be staying in. Hotwire keeps its search filters relatively basic, although they are helpful while booking. For example, when searching for a flight, users can opt to filter by airline, number of stops or departure times as well as sort by price, duration, departure time (earliest vs. latest) and arrival time (earliest vs. latest). Hotwire also gives the option of cheaper travel costs, depending on whether users are willing to extend or shift their trip by a few days.


The top right of the home page only has three options for users to click. Feedback allows users to fill out a virtual comment card to let Hotwire know how it’s doing. The Support option is a dropdown tab that allows users to go to the help center or manage their subscriptions to deal alerts. Finally, My Account is where users can handle basic account and personal information as well as trip information (if they already booked).


Search Filters and Other Features

The search filters available on Hotwire are pretty basic, although they were clear and easy to surf through. While the filters vary with the type of search you generate (for example, the flight filters won’t be the same as the car rental ones), they generally include price, star rating, amenities or recommended. There is little to say about the extra features available on Hotwire as the site is generally very focused and doesn’t host much extra “fluff.” That said, Hotwire offers Hot Rate deals that are special prices for certain hotels, airfare and car rentals. It’s important to point out that Hot Rate deals are usually the first to pop up when you start a search — you can click on tab to the right of the Hot Rate tab to see the other price options.

The Planning Tools option at the very bottom of the page highlights a few popular vacation destinations and some of the site’s bundle deals for those who aren’t sure about the details of the trip they’d like to book. We were a little disappointed by this tool, as we hoped for something similar to Expedia's Scratchpad.




Price Competitiveness and Packages

We tested three potential trips (two domestic and one international) from different airports and destinations. For each of the tests, we looked at the prices for the same flight and hotel, that way we could accurately compare the prices and spot any changes.

While it was easy to compare both flight and hotel prices for domestic trips, it was rather challenging for international, as not all travel sites allow you to book with the same hotels. As such, we weren't able to successfully compare the pricing for international hotels.

Booking six months in advance

The first trips we tested were about six months in advance. On average, the domestic flights we tested produced very low rates, but we found that the price point on other flights was rather inconsistent from airline to airline, so users should be wary of their options. A round-trip flight from Phoenix, Arizona to Miami, Florida on Delta Airlines is offered for $403 through Hotwire, which was quite a bit lower than some of the other flights we came across on other sites. The round-trip flight we tested from San Francisco, California to New York, New York on Delta Airlines rounded out at $395, which was a bit higher than we expected to see when booking so far ahead, but certainly not an unreasonable price tag.

The price of booking an international flight six months in advance was decent — we found a round-trip flight from Austin, Texas to Rome, Italy for only $1,387. Again, we noticed that the prices offered from other airlines fluctuated. Even if you have a specific airline in mind, we recommend doing a thorough browse of all the offered flights on Hotwire to find the lowest possible price that includes your preferred amenities. Overall, Hotwire is pretty helpful as your go-to booking site when it comes to booking a flight six months in advance.

When we went to book a hotel six months in advance, the hotel in New York City was offered to us at a rate of $152 per night at the Comfort Inn, which was exactly the same price we got booking six weeks ahead of time. Renting a compact car six months prior to our trip was also offered at a slightly lower price as it was at six weeks, topping out at $42 per day, which is middle-of-the-road pricing, at best.

Booking six weeks in advance

As far as booking six weeks in advance, we found the prices we were presented to be shockingly low. Normally, this is said to be the best time to purchase airline tickets, as they'll be cheapest around that time. We started by checking the prices for two domestic flights, each with different origins and destinations and on different airlines, and were impressed with the low prices. For example, a round-trip flight from Phoenix, Arizona to Miami, Florida on Delta Airlines was offered for $335 through Hotwire. That price was marginally lower than the highest price we found for that flight across the board. We were also surprised to find extremely low prices on a round-trip flight we searched from San Francisco, California to New York, New York on JetBlue Airlines, offered on Hotwire for $338.

The hotel we booked in New York, the Comfort Inn, gave us a fair rate of $152 per night. Renting a compact car came out to $46 per day, which was rather expensive in comparison to some of the other travel sites we tested. We concluded that booking six weeks prior to your departure date through Hotwire didn't offer the best prices for car rentals or hotels, but we did notice a significant discount in the prices on flights, so if you do choose to use Hotwire for a domestic trip, you may be better off booking your car and hotel at a earlier date than your flight.

As far as booking an international flight, we chose to search the cost of a round-trip flight from Austin, Texas to Rome, Italy. When booking six weeks ahead, we were very pleased with the low price we were offered in comparison to most other sites. The flight by United Airlines topped out at $1,104, another very low price. We concluded that international flight prices on Hotwire were some of the lowest around regardless of the time of purchase.



Booking last minute

Finally, we tested a trip that would theoretically be booked last minute. For our purposes, we defined "last-minute" as one week before the day of departure. As a general rule of thumb, this is not recommended unless absolutely necessary, as the cost is usually much higher than you would pay a few weeks or months prior to your travel dates. Hotwire was no exception to that rule when it came to domestic trips, but last-minute international flights were surprisingly low. A last-minute flight from San Francisco, California to New York, New York was available for as low as $689 and an International flight from Austin, Texas to Rome, Italy for $1,060.

Booking a hotel at the last minute is generally advisable, as hotels often lower their rates in order to avoid having empty rooms. When we tested a last-minute booking at the Comfort Inn in New York, we were offered a quote of $110 per night, which is a great rate for a last-minute reservation. Finally, renting a compact car through Hotwire at the last minute was surprisingly cheap, with deals as low as $34 per day, leading us to believe that in terms of hotels and rental cars, booking last minute through Hotwire may be one of the best options out there.


Booking Process

The booking process on Hotwire is streamlined from the get-go. The home page features all of the search services it offers, and the Vacation tab features booking packages or bundles. Once you've decided what service you require — be it a flight, hotel, car or some combination of the three — you can book directly from Hotwire. One aspect of this service that we appreciated was the lack of pop-ups or redirected pages offering different deals. Hotwire seems to understand the need for travelers to be able to book quickly and efficiently.




Rewards Program

Hotwire itself does not feature a rewards program, which may be a problem for frequent travelers. The service explains, somewhat vaguely, that the reason it does not host a rewards program is because it already offers very low prices available upfront.


Customer Service

Hotwire's Customer Support is very basic, if not lacking. By clicking Customer Support tab on the top right of the home page and selecting Help Center from the dropdown menu, you'll arrive at a customer service portal with a search bar and a list of frequently asked questions, separated by Hotels, Flights, Cars and Packages. From there, users can decide whether the pre-answered list of questions can adequately answer their questions or if they’ll need to perform their own search. We were somewhat displeased by the fact that when we did type in our own keywords and questions into the search bar, Hotwire merely directed us back to the page of pre-written answers.

Under the Customer Support tab you can manage your account info, view your recent or upcoming trips, edit payment information and set your account preferences. Singular to Hotwire, we found a tab for Travel Advisories, which alerts you to all travel advisories for different locations throughout the world — something that may be helpful for the last-minute traveler.

Hotwire did not make it easy to locate its contact information, but after doing some searching we found that the first recommended mode of contact is through email, prompting users to fill out a few details and send in a request for help. It took about a day for our email to be returned. There is also a toll-free phone line available 24/7, but we were put on hold for over 30 minutes, so we would not recommend this for those in need of a quick answer.


Conclusion

Hotwire is well-known for being one of the most efficient travel and booking sites. When we tested it critically, Hotline more or less held up its end of the deal. The prices we found for the multiple flights we searched were very low in comparison to the other prices available throughout the web, and the booking process itself was very easy to master. The customer service aspect of the site was somewhat weak in comparison to others we encountered, but for the semi-experienced traveler, this shouldn’t be a huge problem. We'd recommend Hotwire to just about anyone who has booked a trip online before and doesn’t need a great deal of assistance.

Compare to Other Travel Sites

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Service Details

Available to Book:Flights, hotels, cars and vacation packages
Best for:Semi-experienced travelers without a need for step-by-step assistance
Competitive Pricing*:
Loyalty Program:No
Search Filters:
Mobile App:iPhone, Android

*These ratings are based on the prices we received when testing both domestic and international trips (see Price Competitiveness and Packages section of the review for more details)

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