Mystery Hotel deals: Luxury for less

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So, you’re on an around the world backpacking trip and are sick to death of hostel dorms and fancy a bit of luxury for a few nights but you’re a backpacker so your funds are low. Or you’re just a regular 9-5er and want to treat your partner to a weekend away in a fancy hotel but don’t have much dosh in the bank. We all want a little luxury sometimes but we can’t always afford it. Or can we? Have you heard of a Mystery Hotel deal? Well, get excited because I’m going to tell you all about how to get those few nights in a luxury hotel for half the price of what it would normally cost you.

Following our recent mini-vacation to San Francisco we realized that not many people know about the money-saving gem that is a Mystery Hotel deal. When we managed to get a room at the most coveted hotel in downtown San Francisco for less than a hostel we thought it was time to let you all in on our little secret. So, here we lay our secrets bare on how to book a Mystery Hotel deal.

corfu, greece, balcony
Paul “working” on booking us the best Mystery hotel deal

Here’s the 4 best websites to get this deal:

  1. Priceline
  2. Hotwire
  3. Expedia
  4. Lastminute

What is a Mystery Hotel deal?

Even the best hotels can’t fill all their rooms all the time, so, they sell the empty rooms at a massive discount. Every hotel wants to be able to say it’s fully booked, right? Most of the other guests have paid full price and so the hotel has more than met it’s sales target, hence, they can afford to sell off their remaining rooms to the likes of Expedia & Priceline for a significantly lower rate. But if everybody knows about the price cuts, their reputation might suffer and their other guests probably won’t be very happy. So even though these rooms are sold on certain booking sites, the hotel names are not publicized. Now, are you ready to be shown how to book a Mystery Hotel deal?

Rooftop pool at our hotel in Seminyak, Bali

Why you should book a Mystery Hotel deal

Simple – because it’s a bargain and it’s highly highly unlikely you’ll find a better deal anywhere else.

That 4 star hotel you by-passed because you couldn’t afford the price displayed, well it turns out by using the tips we’ll give you in this post you WILL be able to afford it.

Why you shouldn’t book a Mystery Hotel deal

Obviously there is some risk, because the rate you’re getting is so-damn-good it’s non-refundable. Yep, once you’ve booked that’s it there’s no getting out of it! Maybe you don’t like surprises, then obviously a Mystery Hotel deal isn’t for you because remember you don’t find out the name of the hotel until you’ve booked and paid.  YOU CAN guess the hotel you’re going to get, but you need to spend time doing the research (further on we’ll show you how to find out the name of your hotel before you book). Basically, if you’re not too fussy and don’t NEED a swimming pool, a hair straightener in your room or a hot tub on your balcony then you should take a chance on a Mystery Hotel deal.

Okay, is this all making sense so far? Great, now if you’re ready we’ll show you how to book your Mystery Hotel deal.

Let’s start with a hotel search on Hotwire (we find this the most user-friendly website to book your Mystery Hotel). Enter your dates and destination in the search engine. Your page should look like this:

Once you click on one particular Mystery deal, you will see more information. The description usually looks something like this

how to book a mystery hotel

Here’s some things you should make note of, some will be more important to you than others. The location is always a big one for us as we don’t want to be getting buses/ trains etc. if we are only in a city for a few nights.

  • The location.
  • The star rating.
  • The standard price of the room.
  • The TripAdvisor rating and number of reviews.
  • Scan the description for a distinctive feature like a rooftop pool or spa.

How to find out the name of the hotel

First thing, look at the list of amenities the Mystery Hotel is saying it has. Also, remember the star-rating. Now, open TripAdvisor in a new tab (we use TripAdvisor because to us, it has one of the best filters). Use TripAdvisor’s filters to select the location the Mystery Hotel says it’s in (in this case “Downtown – Coal Harbour, Stanley Park”), select the star-rating of the Mystery Hotel (in this case 4 star). Now, tick off all the amenities the Mystery Hotel is saying it has (in this case swimming pool, business center, fitness center, pet friendly, self service laundry). Make sure to tick as many of the amenities as possibly for your best chance at guessing the correct Mystery Hotel.

Here is a screen-shot of what you need to remember about your Mystery Hotel for the TripAdvisor search (list of amenities, its traveller rating and its location):

how to book a mystery hotel deal

how to book a mystery hotel deal

Now, you’ve probably narrowed it down to two or three hotels.

If you’ve got a keen eye for detail or really really want to know exactly what hotel you’re going to get – click on the Map option on your Mystery Hotel, click enlarge and now you can zoom into the area your hotel is in even down to the street name. Cross-reference that location again the two or three you’ve narrowed it down to so far.

As you can see it’s not super easy to guess exactly what Mystery Hotel you’re going to get, but if you’re saving that much money they ain’t gonna make it easy for you – are they?!

Pay attention to the TripAdvisor rating

Now, that you’ve guessed the name of your hotel (well done you!), type that hotel into TripAdvisor to see how well it’s rated by other travellers.

Here are the 4 things you should be looking for:

  1. A rating above 75%.
  2. A Certificate of Excellence. This is basically an award from TripAdvisor for being a fantastic place to stay.
  3. Do the photos on here look as good as the professional photos on the hotels website?
  4. Is the most recent review a good one or a bad one?

Is it really worth it to book a Mystery Hotel deal?

For us, yes it has always been worth it to book a Mystery Hotel we’ve stayed at some pretty fantastic hotels for some pretty fantastic prices. Also, I like surprises, it’s a thrill not being 100% sure what hotel you’re going to get until after you’ve paid.

And most importantly, I highly highly doubt you’ll get a cheaper deal anywhere else.

how to book a mystery hotel deal
Sipping (lots of) cocktails at the Fairmont

What hotels did we get when we booked a Mystery Hotel deal

Sydney – the 5 star Sofitel Sydney Wentworth

San Francisco – the 4.5 star Westin St Francis on Union Square

Barcelona – the 4 star Confortel Almirante

Florence – the 4 star NH Anglo American

Vancouver – the 4 star Westin Bayshores on Coal Harbour

Some additional tips:

  • The Priceline app only shows the prices in USD, but their website will let you change the currency.
  • At the moment, the Mystery Hotel Deal is non-refundable but supposedly Priceline may be changing that soon.
how to book a mystery hotel deal
Our Suite at the NH Hotel, Florence

*TELL ME: what did you think of our advice on how to book a Mystery Hotel deal? Have you ever booked a Mystery Hotel deal? What was your experience like? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook & Twitter.

Psst, you can read more money-saving tips from us here


34 Thoughts to “Mystery Hotel deals: Luxury for less”

  1. An article really original and helpful! Love it 🙂

  2. Mel

    Great tips! Every time I’ve used a mystery hotel deal it’s turned out to be absolutely amazing. Love the pic of you at the Westin haha!

    1. It was pouring rain outside so couldn’t get much better then Cake, a bathrobe and a nice comfy bed. Glad to hear your successes on the mystery deals too.

  3. Great advise! I wish I had known about this last summer when we stayed two nights in Seattle. But this summer, I’m going to be looking for places to stay in two separate trips to Chicago. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Love getting discounted hotel stays – and you’re right, they’d rather have a full hotel than empty rooms.

  5. Awesome tips! I’ll be definitely trying this out on my next trip. I like staying in hostels, but it’s definitely something I need a break from. Hotels can seem so luxurious after staying in hostel rooms haha.

  6. Incredible! 🙂 This is the first time I’ve heard about mystery hotels. I’ll share this with my family and friends. Thanks for the tips!!

  7. I had heard about the Mistery Hotel’s cheap fares, but never thought about how could we find out the hotel names! Tha’s a cool hack, to search for it in Trip Advisor! Tatiana – EfZin –

  8. wow!!! I am totally bookmarking this page!
    Thanks for sharing such useful tips.
    Cheers! 🙂

  9. This is such a great idea for a way to get a hotel room! Definitely keeping this in mind for the future!

  10. Great tips, thanks. I have booked hotels like that in the past, but had no idea how it really works.

  11. This is great! I’ve never heard of this website before, maybe I’ll try this for my next trip 😀

    1. Good to hear you enjoyed the info, hopefully it can save you some money in the future.

  12. I’m definitely going to try this one out in Switzerland!
    The prices of the hotels and even hostels are just incredibly expensive.
    Thanks for the tip:)

    1. Goodluck, neither of us have been there yet, maybe have to do some couchsurfing.

  13. I have never heard of them before, but I’m definitely going to have a look at those website! Thank you:)

    1. Let us know how you get on. Glad we could help you out.

  14. Good info. I’ve always been a little wary about websites like Priceline, so thanks for the detailed info. Especially since you can sometimes get 4 star properties. Love the Westin St. Francis.

    1. Thanks, We have noticed even there normal prices are actually very good aswell its currently one of our go to websites. The Westin St Francis was a very nice treat for sure.

  15. Nam

    This is definitely something that I have to check out 😉 thank you for sharing this tip with us and I think you are wise to not display how much you paid!

    1. We was wondering if we should or not but then we decided to go with not saying, Prices change so often its more about the fact that these deals defently have saved us money.

  16. I do this all the time!! To me, a hotel is a hotel and being there is more important than where you stay. I don’t really care where I lay my head at night, I just care that I’m close to where I want to be and the mystery deals let you choose the general area. Totally worth it!

    1. Completely agree. Thanks for reading.

  17. Love all of the useful information on mystery hotels. We’ve always been too skeptical about booking them, but perhaps we have to try it out!
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. No problem glad it helps. Maybe a random birthday treat?

  18. Ivy

    I love mystery hotels and Priceline bidding too! We got Westin Maui for 165/nt a few years ago and Fairmont Whistler for 148/nt last year!

    1. Great deals. Have you seen the mystery holidays? Maybe one day we will give them a try.

  19. Thats sounds pretty sweet and a great deal. I have come across those, but I have never dared to book one. I guess I’m too much of a control freak and like picking out the hotels myself.

    1. Maybe now you know it turns out good your try it next time, thanks for the comment.

  20. We have done this once, and had great results.
    Loved reading about your experiences 🙂

    1. We love using it, glad you had good experiences with it to.

  21. Creative post with useful details. Thanks for putting this together.

  22. This is a fantastic travel tip! Thanks for sharing. I’ll certainly be using this 😉

    1. Thanks for the comment, We highly recommend doing it atleast once.

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