Identify That Mystery Hotel Before You Book It

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You love the money you can save with the incredible deals on travel websites like Priceline and Hotwire, but booking blindly is risky.

It turns out, there’s a loophole that may let you see that secret hotel before you hand over your credit card information.

The tip was shared in an article by John Matarese that appeared on many TV station websites around the country recently. It originally came from DailyFinance’s Jason Cochran several years ago.

According to Cochran, all you need to do is channel your inner Sherlock Holmes and check out some aerial photographs from Google. That’s right: Some simple bird’s eye aerial map reading is the key to identifying that mystery hotel, at least on Last Minute Travel, a popular travel bidding site.

Matarese said using Cochran’s trick is easy:

Say you want a four-star hotel in the Downtown Disney section of Orlando.

Last Minute Travel will give you a map of the area where that hotel is located.

But switch to the Google Earth or bird’s eye view and in many cases you can find the actual hotel. In this case, the only hotel in the bird’s eye photo is the Hyatt at Lake Buena Vista.

So, in this hypothetical case, you know you’re booking a $160 hotel for a mere $84 a night (plus tax). Nice.

“Depending on the area, you may not be able to read the name of the hotel from the distance, but you will be able to see the area, down to the street,” Cochran said.

This is where your sleuthing skills could come into play. Cochran said:

If you can’t identify the hotel on sight, you can at least get a neighborhood for it, and using the “view facilities and price details” link, match up the available amenities with hotels that you know are in the same area. It takes a wee bit more homework, but the location clue from the map will almost always narrow down the choices to only one or two probable targets.

If you want great deals and you want to uncloak the mystery hotel before you plug in your credit card information, there are some other tools available. Travel + Leisure’s Tom Samiljan wrote:

You can save up to 60 percent with mystery-booking pioneer Hotwire and Travelocity’s Top Secret Deals. The trade-off: They don’t tell you where you’re staying until you’ve paid. For that, turn to Bidgoggles and HotelDealsRevealed, which can help you figure out what property might be behind the curtain. Better yet, Guestmob offers similar discounts if you let it choose one of four predetermined hotels for you (all in the same part of town).

I like to know which hotel I’m going to be staying at before I pay for it, so I typically use Expedia. However, now that I’m armed with these tips, I might finally try a hotel bidding site like Last Minute Travel.

How do you book your hotel stays? Please share any money-saving hotel booking strategies below or on our Facebook page.

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