Las Vegas isn’t the easiest town to get along with when something big is going down. Case in point: During CES back in January, I was shocked to see the nightly rate for my hotel room skyrocket by roughly 600 percent — pretty much matching my entire budget — during the show’s high-water mark (understandable, since the hotel was an easy stroll from the LV Convention Center, where the show squats).
I panicked for a few minutes, swore, then sat down and fired up the Hotwire app I’d just installed. Within an hour I was at the lobby of a swank joint, just off the strip, with my own suite — for a fraction of the rate of my old room (which, frankly, was a craphole).
And today’s release of the Universal Hotwire app dismisses the only real complaint I had: Having to use the iPhone-only app on my iPad.
The app keeps it mercifully simple: Pick a date, a location, and your party size, then hit the search button and wait for Hotwire to work its special magic. The result is a screen with rates within blob-like areas, and a rough description of the hotel attached to the rate — but no hotel names (Hotwire says it does this because hotels believe that advertising significantly lower rates up front can damage their brand).
After booking — no refunds allowed — the name and exact location of the hotel is revealed. The app also makes Hotwire’s customer service numbers easily available.
It’s quick, easy to use, and works especially well for last-minute bookings — as long as you’re willing to roll the dice, since you don’t know exactly what you’re getting. Hopefully Hotwire will at some point add the other features — like car and flight booking — available on their website but not on the app.