Traveling can be stressful, I’ll be the first to admit it. Sometimes, no matter how much planning you put in, one thing after another seems to go wrong. Flight delays, missing hotel reservations, bad weather, out-of-commision tourist attractions; the list is endless and can accumulate in one trip resulting in a travel disaster.
Arriving late at night to Chicago for a wedding celebration, once such instance occurred where I needed last minute accommodations. As a Chicagoland native, I’m at no loss for contacts in the area, but due to my procrastination, no one appeared to be available at a moment’s notice.
Sitting down in a Starbucks for “dinner” and charging my aging phone, I searched Airbnb for a good dealin the Wrigleyville area and was, to my dismay, let down by steep prices after expecting rates a little more competitive with those of hotels.
Moving to google in the hope of more options, I search for ‘cheap last minute hotels’ and came across hotwire.com.
Having never heard of the site before, I click and make the hotel search engine scour the Chicago area. Scrolling the results, I learn that Hotwire is in the mystery business. Prices are revealed in descending order, but what’s different than other accommodation aggregate sites is that they do not reveal the exact hotel. Aside from the listed discount rate, all you’re left with are the hotel’s star rating (including what 4 hotels you have the possibility of booking in that range) and the neighborhood it lies in.
The lowest priced hotel this evening was at $42; VERY reasonable for a Friday night’s stay. This listing was also within the River North neighborhood; a hip and popular downtown area just over the river from the loop, steps away from Chicago’s famed Magnificent Mile. With all the surrounding nightlife, shopping and competing high-end hotels, I had a hunch that this mystery hotel couldn’t be THAT bad.
Taking my chance...I booked it!
The Embassy Suites in River North was my surprise room for the night and I couldn’t believe my eyes! For $50 it was a steal! Granted it was February and still slow for the travel season.
I checked in with a warm and welcoming receptionist and started towards the elevator. The Embassy Suites is particularly impressive with about 20 floors encircling an inner courtyard topped with a glass ceiling.
Unlocking my door and noticing my window that looked out into the courtyard, to my surprise, I open up to giant suite! Full living room, separate bedroom, large bathroom and even a little kitchenette! Despite my travel fatigue and the accumulation of many prior sleepless nights, I was unable to contain my excitement in the first hotel I booked myself!
My stay included a complimentary breakfast that featured an omelet station. Refilling my coffee to take back to the room, I began getting ready for the wedding, the reason for my trip. With lunchtime approaching I strolled across the street to the conveniently located Whole Foods, picked up lunch, and used my kitchenette before my late checkout, which the receptionist had graciously granted me the night before.
I bid adieu to my very Chicagoan view, with star cameos by the Sears (now Willis) Tower and the Wrigley building and hop on the nearby ‘El’ just in time for the wedding.
Hotwire.com’s mysterious process, however questionable at first, definitely paid off in the end with my luxurious Embassy Suites stay. How often I will be impressed by Hotwire’s results remain to be determined, but I know that I’ll be using it in the future to reveal what my next “Hot Rate Hotel” might be and praying I don’t land myself in a seedy Motel8!