Guide To: Secret Hotels
So you want to stay at a top hotel, but those prices are ridiculous right? There is a way. You can choose an unnamed hotel at a huge discount. A range of sites including Priceline, Hotwire and Lastminute.com allow you to book what they call ‘Secret Hotels’. You won’t know which hotel you’ll be staying at until you pay, but these top tips can help you get an edge on the competition and narrow down your options. 5* hotels at 3* prices anyone?
Secret hotels can save you a packet
Hotels sell their rooms across multiple platforms so the same room won’t be the same price everywhere you look. The hotels would rather fill their beds on the cheap than leave them empty, so they’ll often sell off unused rooms through ‘secret hotel’ sites to fill their vacancies without upsetting their usual clientele.
To book one of these, you just need to visit one of the sites that sell’s rooms in unnamed hotels. There are plenty to choose from including SuperBreak, Late Rooms and Hotel Direct but we’re going to focus on three of our favourites; Priceline, Hotwire and Lastminute.com.
It’s really simple. You choose a date, location and star level and they’ll provide you with a list of potentials to choose from. Once you’ve made your booking, they’ll send you confirmation of exactly where you’ll be staying.
The main thing with these is that booking the room when it’s a ‘secret’ can cut the cost by hundreds of pounds. For example, we found a couple that managed to bag a luxury week in New York through Priceline, staying at the Times Square Sheraton. They got it for £330, but the advertised rack rate was £1,200 (a saving of £870).
It’s possible to identify the hotel before you book
The idea of handing over your hard earned cash without knowing what you’re getting can be pretty unnerving, but you can play detective and there are ways to identify the hotel in question prior to booking.
The simplest of these is to head over to Google. When you book a room at a secret hotel, you’re given a description. These are often taken straight from the hotels website so a simple copy/paste into a search engine can potentially reveal all. If not, it’s usually possible to look through a few results to get a pretty good idea of which hotel they’re talking about.
There are no guarantees and no refunds
Remember that while these guides can help you find out which hotels they’re talking about, there are absolutely no guarantees. At the end of the day, these hotels are so heavily discounted because you aren’t supposed to know which ones they are.
With all of the sites covered in this guide, there are strict no-refund policies, so once you’ve paid, that’s it. If you need more flexibility, don’t want to take the risk or think your plans could change; secret hotels may not be for you.
Taxes and added extras
This doesn’t really apply to secret hotels in the UK, but when heading abroad, it’s not uncommon to find local city taxes and added extras that aren’t included in the price.
Sometimes these charges will reveal themselves before you commit to your booking so you’ll have time to change your mind, but it’s also possible that the first you’ll hear of them is at the hotel.
Secret hotels might not be the cheapest option
Before heading down this route, do some research and benchmark the standard room rate for the kind of hotels you’re looking for. If you’ve managed to reveal the hotel, you can find out the exact price and head to a comparison site to double check you’re getting a good deal. A good place to start is with sites like TripAdvisor, TravelSupermarket or Trivago. (We’ve got more on these and others in our Cheap Hotels guide).
Always double check that the price quoted (and those found through comparison sites) is better than going direct. It only takes a minute or a quick phone call and you can often get a better deal going direct.
Crack The Code
Here we break down the top tips for cracking the codes on our top three ‘secret-hotel’ sites.
Though typically limited to the UK, SuperBreak, Late Rooms and Hotel Direct also offer secret hotels, but we’re focusing on these three today:
This one differs from the other two in that it has a ‘name-your-price’ feature. As a US site, it’s particularly strong on US hotels.
You can bid on a room, in a specific area for the price you want to pay and your bid is either accepted or rejected.
How it works
Identifying hotels on Priceline is a bit trickier than with the other two, but your area and star rating selections can make it easier provided you haven’t chosen too many of them.
If you’re looking for a 5* hotel in the Grand Central Station area, a quick search on TripAdvisor reveals there are only 4 of them. It’s not a guarantee you’ll be staying at one of them, but it’s a reasonable bet.
You can also use TripAdvisor to see what others have posted for clues. Add the word Priceline to a search and then use the map view to find a location. You’ll usually find a list of results that could help narrow down the search, add to that the fairly basic info provided by Priceline before you book and you can start to build a better picture.
This secret-hotel booking engine has saved huge amounts for price sensitive, savvy travellers from the 5* Venetian in Las Vegas for £66 per night instead of £150 to the Hilton Doubletree in New York for £79 per night instead of £172. It also has a great selection of secret rooms at hotels in cities across the UK.
But these hotels aren’t quite as secret as you might expect them top be. You can actually get around this by matching its ‘Secret-Hotels’ to its non-secret ones.
Uncovering their secret hotels:
While big savings are possible, they’re never guaranteed, and its possible that two hotels could have the same facilities so there’s always a risk your detective work could backfire. It’s also possible that ‘secret-hotels’ don’t feature in the ‘normal’ list (or vice versa), so it can be hard to accurately identify them. Only do this if you’re flexible about here you end up, otherwise Hotwire might not be for you.
The last of our selection is also the most well know when it comes to secret savings via their ‘Secret Hotels’ section. It includes discounts for hotels around the world but is particularly strong in London.
Uncovering their secret hotels: