My wife and I just completed a vacation of several southern US cities. The biggest travel cost that you incur is accommodation.
I decided to use Priceline to book our hotels for this vacation. I’m glad I did.
I believe Priceline offers tremendous savings over other booking websites (like Expedia, hotels.com, etc.)
Our hotel needs were fairly simple. Typically we don’t spend a lot of time in our hotel room. Instead, the majority of our time is spent sightseeing. A 3 star or 2.5 star hotel suits our needs. Luxury amenities, such as a hotel spa are not necessary. We’re just looking for a clean, reputable hotel for a night of sleep. Those that prefer a 4 star or luxury resort shouldn’t shy away from Priceline. The savings for these upper end properties can be significant.
You shouldn’t use Priceline if:
1. You want a particular property or want to utilize your loyalty program.
For example, you are fond of Hilton properties and only want to stay there.
2. You want an exact geographic location.
For example, you only want to stay in the city’s downtown core.
If you aren’t too picky, and want to save money, then continue with Priceline.
Three pricing models
Priceline offers three levels of pricing, as shown in the following screen tabs.
1. List View
The results of your initial search criteria is shown in the list view. Here the exact hotel property and price is shown. If you see something that you like in this list, go ahead and book it.
But, I think we can do better. 🙂
2. Express Deals
There are some great deals here. My guess is that these are hotels that are trying to fill significant vacancies in the next few days. (i.e. last minute)
The problem that many people have with this model is that you don’t know what hotel you are getting. It only lists the geographic area. For example, “3 star, East End City”. The name of the hotel and exact location is only revealed to you once you’ve confirmed your intention to book, by submitting your credit card number.
I have utilized Express Deals when I failed in my use of the ‘Name Your Own Price’ option.
3. Name Your Own Price
Finally, here’s my favorite option: bidding on your hotel room. This option presents the most potential savings. Priceline states that you can save 60% here. Based on my experience, I would agree with that statement. However, you’ve got to do a little work with this option. Priceline only allows you to bid once in a 24 hour period. But they do allow you to make multiple bids, as long as you alter your accommodation criteria.
Here’s a step-by-step example of how I make a successful bid.
1. Search criteria
Enter your search criteria and select “search hotels now!”
In this example, I’m looking at San Antonio hotels for an upcoming Sunday night.
The List View is displayed showing you the search results.
This gives you an idea of the costs of the hotels that you are looking for.
2. Express Deals Map
Click on the ‘Express Deals’ tab. Once again a list of prices is presented. Scanning the list, you’ll get a feel for the costs of certain star properties in a particular geographic zone.
Next, I click on the ‘Show Map View’ icon.
Now it’s time to make some Notes.
a) On a piece of paper, identify those geographic areas that you are willing to stay in, and rank them in order of preference. I noted that I only wanted to stay in the 6 zones closest to downtown and southeast in San Antonio.
b) Click on each of your preferred geographical zones on the map.
Here you will note the lowest Express Deal price, for your star rating, in each zone.
For example, in the screen shot below, I can see that a 3 star hotel in the downtown San Antonio Riverwalk area is $69.
3. Make several Bids
Here comes the part where you set your parameters and make some guesses. Sometimes you’ll get a deal that is much lower than the ‘Express Deal’. Sometimes, it will be close to the ‘Express Deal’ price. In my example, there is a 3 star hotel in one of my selected geographic locations, that can ‘be had’ for $69, using the ‘Express Deals’.
Now ask yourself the following questions:
What is the highest price that I’m willing to pay for a 3 star hotel? I’ll say $60.
What is the lowest price that you think this property can ‘be had’ for? I’ll guess $40.
There’s a hint on how to determine the lowest possible price. In the ‘Name Your Own Price’ panel, enter a ridiculous low number. In this screen shot, I’ve entered $25. When I tab away from the field, a red message is displayed indicating, “Based on recent data, your price only has a small chance of being accepted”. Keep increasing this number and tabbing away from the field, until the red message disappears. This will give you an indication of the minimum price.
Now it’s time to submit your first bid.
The plan here is to slowly increment our bid, until we hit that ‘sweet spot’ where Priceline will accept our bid, at the cheapest price.
In my example, I can make 6 different bids, running through 6 geographic zones.
We’ll increase our bid $4, for each bid iteration (i.e. 60 minus 40, divided by 5 incremental bids)
Bid #1. Select 3 star hotels. Select your favorite geographic zone. Enter a bid of $40. If the bid fails, move on to Bid #2.
Bid #2. Select your 2nd favorite geographic zone. Enter a bid of $44 (i.e. 40 + 4)
Bid #3. Select your 3rd favorite geographic zone. Enter a bid of $48.
Usually this method is successful. But, even if my six bids fail, I still have other options. I can switch and bid on another star level. For example, I can go ahead and try the same above bidding process for 2.5 star hotels. Alternatively, I can also simply go back and accept an earlier ‘Express Deal’.
In almost every case, I was successful with my bidding procedure.
I know that in a few instances, I have saved well over 60%.
I feel this small amount of work was well worth the hundreds of dollars that I saved over the course of my vacation.