September 4, 2016

Frequently Asked Questions

I. General Topics

Yes, it is very safe to use FindOptimal.com.

First, we don’t process or store your credit/debit card information. All your hotel bookings are processed by a trustful third party accommodation booking website, including Expedia, Hotels.com, Priceline, Agoda and Booking.com. In fact, we don’t even see your credit/debit card information. You will be redirected to the third party’s website after you click on a booking link.

Second, we have an explicit policy regarding the data you provide us, including your personal information and parameters used in your searching profiles. We have a data management system to prevent unauthorized persons from gaining access to the equipment or media where your data is stored or processed. We don’t sell your data to third parties. And we strive to purge your data once we judge it is no longer needed to accomplish the intended purposes.

Last, we adopt HTTPS (also called HTTP over TLS, HTTP over SSL, and HTTP Secure) protocol for secure communication between the server and your computer. HTTPS provides authentication of the website and associated web server with which you are communicating. It protects against man-in-the-middle attacks. Additionally, it provides bidirectional encryption of communications between a client and server, which protects against eavesdropping and tampering with and/or forging the contents of the communication. In practice, this provides a reasonable guarantee that you are communicating with precisely the website that you intended to communicate with (as opposed to an impostor), as well as ensuring that the contents of communications between you and our website cannot be read or forged by any third party.

Yes, it is absolutely free to use FindOptimal.com.

We don’t add any markup on any hotel property for which you pay. We don’t charge any fee for any services offered from our domain – FindOptimal.com.

If you are redirected to a web page not under our domain name, such as a hotel booking page, please refer to the service policies of that company.

Registering with FindOptimal is for your benefit. No one wants to input all searching criteria every time. We need to create an account for you to store all criteria defined by you under multiple profiles (e.g. one for business and another for leisure). With such a design, you just need to define your preferences once. Then you can retrieve your information by signing in with your credential. Following hotel searches will be in a breeze. For example, you can define all criteria at home with your PC or laptop since you may want more screen space to check all definitions. Then you can use your mobile devices to do your hotel searches later, anywhere, anytime.

Nevertheless, if you don’t want us to store your records, you can still use all services without registering. The difference is that you have to type all criteria every time and what you have typed may go away after your session is timed out.

The app uses your location as the default destination input. This is very convenient if you are traveling and use your mobile devices to look for hotels nearby.

We use straight line distance from the hotel property to the destination that you typed in. If you input a specific street address, e.g. 123 Main Street, Annapolis, MD, United States, the distance is from the hotel to that specific destination. If your input is just a city name, we use the distance from the hotel to the city center.

If you input multiple destinations, the distance is from the hotel to the center of all locations that you typed in.

If you want to cancel your reservation, please contact our partner from which you booked the hotel. Usually you get an email confirmation when you make a reservation. Please find out the confirmation number in that email and go to our partner’s website to cancel the booking.

Whether the cancellation is refundable depends on the hotel’s policy and the option you selected on our partner’s booking page. Refundable bookings may be more expensive than non-refundable ones.

Yes, please access the following link using your smart phone:

https://findoptimal.com/app/, and then …

For iPhone users:

Once the page is open in Safari (the default mobile browser), select the share icon

Then select “Add to Home Screen”

For Android users:

Once the page is open in Chrome (the default mobile browser), select the menu icon

Then select “Add to home screen”, or “Install web app”

For Windows Phone users:

Once the page is open in your mobile browser, select the menu icon

Then select “Pin to start”

II. Features

First, Filters are temporary while items on the Control panel are permanent. Every time when you start a new web page or reload an existing page, the Filters will be reset. So if you want to keep a criterion for future searches, you should define it on the Control panel.

Second, Filters are yes-no conditions while you have more choices on the Control panel. If you check the Must Have box on the Control panel, the item becomes a yes-no condition. Otherwise, you can assign a dollar value to an item. The dollar value will impact the final ranking of hotels in the searching result.

Last, Filters are provided for you to filter one-time results quickly. You can see modified search results immediately with Filters. With items on the Control panel, you need to click the Apply button to see the new results after you make any modifications.

Prices in green are real-time prices while the static price ranges are in grey.

Retrieving real-time prices from all hotels takes time. So we provide a Quick Search option for you to get hotel information quickly with only rough price estimates, which are displayed in grey.

Hotel prices are vary dynamic. One night stay at the same room in a Las Vegas hotel over a weekend may cost you five times of what you pay during a week day. We try our best to retrieve the real-time rates. However, some vendors may not update the information to us timely. In that case, we also use the static price range or show “no price information”. Nevertheless, you can click on the booking link to get the final price from our partners’ web site.

If you don’t set up any preference on the Control panel, we will use the following default settings.

  • Hotel score reflects its price/value ratio. The value is determined by price of all other similar hotels in the region.
  • Each mile away from the destination has a penalty of $20. The penalty is continuous. So additional 0.5 miles cost $10, and so on.
  • Each additional point of guest rating (range: 0 – 10) has a bonus of $20. The bonus is continuous. So additional 0.5 points add a value of $10, and so on.
  • Hotels without price information, without guest rating and without pictures get very low scores.

The Search (Real-time Search) option searches hotels and retrieves real-time prices from top booking sites. The Quick Search doesn’t retrieve real-time prices. Instead, it uses static price ranges. As a result, the Quick Search option takes less time to return the complete result lists.

Both options will reflect preferences defined in your profile.

III. How to

Yes, you can. Please follow the following steps to enable multiple rewards programs and only enable the selected ones.

  1. Add a new searching criterion on the Control panel, select the Rewards Program category, select the first program you want to enable, and then check the Must Have box.
  2. Repeat step 1 to select another program.

Now the search engine will return hotels under the selected rewards programs.

If you just want to give a preference to the selected rewards programs, you can assign dollar values to the selected programs and uncheck the Must Have box. In that case, the search engine will give more preference to hotels with the selected programs, but it won’t block other hotels that offer much better value to you.

You can add multiple price range items in your searching profile. The final results will fall in any of those ranges. If that combined range is not as precise as what you want, you can always use the Price Filter on the Filter panel to refine the searching results.

You can start the search application directly from app.findoptimal.com. For your convenience, you can set it as a book mark with your browser.

guest rating

      Guest Rating

In the desktop version, detailed guest reviews will be displayed in the Info panel on the left after you click on the Guest Rating widget. In the mobile version, detailed guest reviews will be shown in the main panel after you tap the Guest Rating widget.

If you don’t see a Guest Rating widget in a hotel result, it means that there is no guest review on that property.

You can click on the address, which is below the hotel name and the star rating, to jump to the Map view. The selected hotel will be highlighted in red and will be displayed on the top.

IV. Secret Hotel

Hotels want to sell their perishable inventories but don’t want to make the deal public. Selling rooms at a deep discount hurts the hotels’ reputation and makes them difficult to sell to other guests who are not price sensitive. Therefore, they allow Priceline or Hotwire to offer those deep discount deals in an opaque way. You only get the hotel details after you complete the payment, which is usually non-refundable. With FindOptimal, you can click on the Reveal Hotel link associated with each secret hotel deal to find out what the hotel it is before making the purchase decision.

Priceline and Hotwire provide the following information of the secret hotels – geographic area where the hotel is in, star rating, guest rating, percentage recommended (Hotwire), savings, top amenities and hotel chain examples. We identify the secret hotel by matching all above information with our hotel database and other available public information (For example, Hotwire uses guesting rating and reviews from TripAdvisor. So we check the TripAdvisor website for a cross reference in addition to the above mentioned matching.)

Our predictions of Priceline Express Deals are very accurate. We show you the correct single property in more than 90% of cases. Hotwire does not provide enough information to identify the unique property in some cases. So we show you up to 3 properties that best match the information provided. In any case, we do not guarantee the answer is 100% correct. We help you significantly reduce the blind booking risk. But the risk still exists.

No. It is possible that multiple hotels match all information provided in a secret deal. Our predictions of Priceline Express Deals are very accurate. But in any case, we do not guarantee the answer is 100% correct.

Many secret hotel offers from Priceline.com or Hotwire.com are flash sales. They expire very quickly. Please click on the Search button to refresh the result list and see if you can get the deal again. Sometimes you have to make decision quickly.

Many secret hotel deals are flash sales, which expire quickly. It is possible that when you click on the Reveal Hotel link, the deal has expired. Please refresh the hotel search result by clicking on the Real-time Search button (Search button for mobile) and then try again.

Occasionally we have a difficulty to find a good match because different vendors have different prices and feature descriptions on the same hotel. In that case, you can do a manual match with FindOptimal. Basically you may use the filters or controls other than price to narrow down the result list to match the characters of the secret hotel and see which regular hotel is left in the final result set.

We normalized the secret hotel amenities so that you may filter the search results, customize display and control hotel ranking of secret hotels along with regular hotels.

If everything including price are the same, people always prefer to a regular hotel over a secret hotel because the latter has risks. Therefore, the default setting has $50 penalty for a Hotwire Hot Rate hotel and $25 penalty for a Priceline Express Deal. In another word, a Hotwire Hot Rate hotel has to be $50 cheaper to be ranked before a regular hotel with same conditions. The default penalty for Priceline Express Deal is lower because we can identify most of the Priceline Express Deal hotel. You can override all those default settings.

Secret hotels have risks and deserve some penalty for result ranking. The default setting is -$50 for a Hotwire Express Rate and -$25 for a Priceline Express Deal. To override those values, go to the Control panel, add a new preference in the Booking Type category and then select Blind Booking (for all secret hotels), Priceline Express Deal, or HotWire Hot Rate, and then assign a negative value.

There are two ways to disable blind booking. In the first approach, you can check Exclude Priceline.com and Hotwire.com Secret Hotel on the input panel before clicking on the Search button. This will remove all secret hotels from the result list. The second approach is to define a new preference on the Control panel: select Booking Type category, select Regular booking attribute, and then check the Must Have box. Sometimes, you may want to keep Priceline secret hotels but not Hotwire. In that case, you can add another preference: select Booking Type category, select Priceline Express Deal attribute, and then check the Must Have box.