You've heard William Shatner pitch for them. You've no doubt seen the pop-up ads on websites or read about them in newspaper travel sections. I'm talking about the travel consolidators such as Expedia, Orbitz, or Hotwire. Be it for airplane fares, rental cars, or in this case hotel stays, they get access to unsold inventory and pass the savings on to you. For this trip I chose to try Hotwire.

I'll admit I've always been skeptical of using Hotwire. I've never liked the lack of control over your destiny required in exchange for a lower price "“ Hotwire's policy let’s you select the general location and quality rating, then they choose the hotel. Once you hit enter and the transaction completes you have no cancellation recourse.

With a small amount of trepidation, I chose the 3* option that turned out to be a Sheraton Inn. I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived to discover it sat on the border between 3 and 4 stars. The room was large and the beds comfortable. A full breakfast was included in the rate, not just a roll and coffee. The business center worked well and the on-site restaurant got good reviews. The initial contact I made over the phone when specifying a room type was less than professional, but subsequent conversations in person with the front desk were quite acceptable. The best part of all was the price. At $66 per night it was 66% of what Orbitz charged, 45% of the price quoted by Expedia, and nearly 60% off the price given by Sheraton's official website.

For an independent traveler, typically staying in a hotel only 1 or 2 days at any location before moving on, this probably isn't something to try. For a stay that will make your hotel the base from which to take day trips, this is an option worth considering.

Written by Steve Smith and Christine Johnson