Have you ever worried that you're not really getting the best price when you book a travel reservation? Some companies exist specifically to help you get discounts. By partnering with hotels, cruise lines, airlines, and car rental companies, they give you access to greater discounts than you'd get booking through the brand itself.
The two main travel booking companies for online arrangements are Priceline and Expedia, which is the owner of Hotwire. Ninety-five percent of online booking is done through one of these companies. Priceline and Hotwire are similar in many respects - they offer the same range of savings on hotels, car rentals, and flights.
But there are also some key differences. The main ones are in their bidding systems or lack thereof, their bundle packages, their opaque pricing tools, and the specificity of their offerings.
I've taken a look at the discounts, search tools, amenities, types of booking, and general offerings of each. This is what you can expect to find from the services when choosing the right booking for you.
Overview of Priceline and Hotwire
Unique Priceline Features
Unique Hotwire Features
Types of Travel Bookings
Priceline offers hotels, flights, car rentals, and cruises.
Each of the search parameters functions very similarly to Hotwire's for hotels, flights, and cars.
One of the nice touches with the flights, though, is that you can specify what class ticket you're looking for.
There are also helpful boxes that let you check whether you also need to book a car or hotel. By bundling multiple bookings together, you can get even larger discounts.
The cruise section pulls deals from thousands of different available cruise options. Some of the settings you'll use include:
Once you search, the interface will show you the cruise offers sorted by price. You can see the cruise line, a picture of the boat, the price per night and for the total package, and the departure location.
There are buttons that let you view an individual cruise's itinerary, sailing dates, and ports of call. Also available are bonus offers from the company.
Hotwire lets you book rental cars, hotels, and flights. It doesn't have an option for cruises, and the travel bundles are limited.
The interface makes the selection process as simple as possible. Rather than presenting you with city guides and travel advertisements, the system asks you where you want to go and when.
When searching hotels, all you need to enter is:
That's it. The system will immediately pull up the cheapest hotel deals.
With cars, you just enter your pick-up and drop-off dates, the pick-up location, and whether you're dropping the vehicle off at another location.
Flights are searched by origin, destination, departure and return dates, and the number of passengers.
Priceline's booking system has all the same features and easily-navigated interface, but it also includes cruise bookings and makes bundling easier.
The Name Your Own Price tool from Priceline is exclusively available through the app. You can download it through the Apple app store or Google Play.
With this tool, you'll choose the price you're willing to pay, the area you're staying in, and the star quality level. Priceline then allows you to negotiate a deal that works for you. You won't have confirmation of who's "bid" on your offer until you've finalized the deal.
In the past, this tool was used for every aspect of the service. These days, it's mostly utilized for hotel booking. If you bid too low, the app will warn you that your offer has little chance of being accepted.
Hotwire doesn't come with a bidding system. This is one of the selling features of the app. It's specifically designed for those who want a cheap deal without needing to pre-negotiate.
Priceline's mobile app comes with the Name Your Own Price tool for hotel bookings. You don't have to use it if you don't want to. Hotwire, on the other hand, only offers pre-priced deals.
In addition to the bidding system, which doesn't tell you who you're negotiating with until the deal is finalized, Priceline offers a tool called Express Deals.
This lets you input certain parameters regarding hotels, flights, or car rentals, and then to compare deeply discounted offers that meet your criteria. However, the criteria that you can use is very limited, and the available locations tend to cover wide areas.
Hotwire's Hot Rate® Hotels tool works the same way for hotel bookings. However, there are a few features that make it more convenient.
The deals will list price, hotel star rating, and the general location of the hotel. The "general location" feature tends to cover a smaller area, so you get a more specific idea of where you'll be staying.
In addition, if you click the "Which Hotel Will I Get?" tab, you'll be shown four hotel options in the area. You have a guarantee that one of them is associated with the booking. That helps give you a much more specific idea of your end result than the Priceline feature.
Hotwire comes out on top because it has more specific location choices, and it allows you to see exact hotel options that you might be staying at.
Pros and Cons of Priceline
Pros and Cons of Hotwire
Final Thoughts: Which is Better?
Both Priceline and Hotwire are well-established industry leaders in online travel bookings. Their features make it easy to find places with discounts, and they're excellent choices for people on a budget.
Priceline is best for those who appreciate the bidding tool. You can name your own price and strike a deal with hotels, rental companies, or airlines to meet your needs. The service also has the most comprehensive cruise booking system online. It's a good choice if you want to bundle multiple travel bookings for extra discounts.
Hotwire works best for people who already have a good idea of what they want and are seeking the lowest price. It has more specific deals when looking for opaque pricing, allowing you to set greater location and specification limits on the amenities.