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Q: What’s the deal with “opaque” travel sites like Priceline and Hotwire?

Illustration of a man working on his laptop, perched on top of a hotel.

Michele says...
Opaque sites are ones that don’t disclose the name of the travel supplier (such as hotels or airlines) until you’ve committed to buying. The theory goes that you’ll save some serious dough because these sites sell off excess inventory direct to consumers, rather than through traditional avenues like travel agencies. In one series of test bookings, Priceline came up with the lowest fares, while Orbitz, a non-opaque site that reveals the supplier, came second. Give opaque sites a try, but be prepared to work at getting good fares. You’ll likely have to tweak your criteria and be flexible on dates. If you have no time to fuss, opt for one of the big sites like Expedia or Travelocity instead.

A travel writer extraordinaire, Michele Sponagle has visited more than 40 countries around the world. Click here to send her your questions.