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March 22, 2022

Does blind booking a hotel room really pay off?

Price-sensitive vacationers looking to book a hotel seem to have no end of options. The latest entry into the deal-finding field dominated by HotelsCombined and Kayak is Hotelly.

Hotel The fledgling service quickly canvasses a stack of existing hotel-booking engines and offers up their rates side-by-side so you can see which is cheapest for a given room. You then click over to the principal booking site to make your reservations – assuming you insist on knowing where you’re going to stay.

But are you better off in the so-called opaque market where you commit to a price or place a non-refundable bid before knowing which hotel you’re actually going to end up with.

Blind booking began with Hotwire about five years ago, but lately it has taken off, especially among American-based booking engines.

Last year, Travelocity joined the fray with its Top Secret Hotels, claiming to offer something like 45 per cent off hotels looking to fill unsold inventory that it categorizes as three- and four-stars. And Quikbook gives travellers a chance to book further discounted rooms by keeping the hotel names secret until the sale day.

The trade-off with all of these services is that your hotel's location will be something of a surprise. And you have to take your chances on some details. While you can usually figure out whether or not you’ll be right downtown, you may have to gamble on other information, such as if breakfast is included or pets are welcome.

But in most big cities, the chances are fairly good that you’ll end up with adequate accommodation. Hotwire’s four-and-a-half star hotels may be a good place to start for first-timers because the outcome is usually a major chain – Hyatt, Hilton, Starwood – with a proven track record. But, dollar-wise, there are likely better deals to be had.

The top resource for blind booking newbies has to be BetterBidding, a forum packed with useful information you can use to increase your bidding effectiveness, discover the names of the hotels you’re likely bidding on, and figure out exactly how much you should be willing to pay.

Has anyone tried to book a hotel blind? Were the savings worth the anxiety? Did the accommodation live up to your expectations?

By Gordon Powers, MSN Money



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Gordon PowersGordon Powers

A long-time fund company executive, Gordon Powers now heads up the Affinity Group, a financial services consulting firm. Gordon was a personal finance columnist for the Globe & Mail for many years, has taught retirement planning...

Jason BucklandJason Buckland

The modern-day MC Hammer of money, Jason can often be seen spending cash that isn’t his with the efficiency of a Wilt Chamberlain first date. After cutting his teeth as a reporter for the Toronto Sun, he joined the MSN Money team with...