Priceline: How to make it work for you

Priceline has forever changed the way I book hotels when I am traveling within the United States.  I now see pricing and booking hotels as a process of negotiation, and the better I am at it, the more I save, and the more I can travel.  Over the years, I have acquired a few techniques for maximizing Priceline’s potential to save me money.  Here I’d like to share a few with you.

1.  Don’t settle for face value – always “Name your own price!”

It may seem a bit risky to bid on a hotel room instead of choosing your hotel directly through Priceline’s hotel listings.  But believe me, whatever risk is involved (very little, in my opinion) is minimal compared to your potential savings (up to 75%!). It is true – when you bid, you don’t know what hotel you are booking with until your bid is accepted.  But Priceline allows you to specify how many stars you prefer, and this makes it highly likely that your hotel preferences will be met.

In my experience, the hotels I have stayed in through Priceline bookings are on par or sometimes even better quality than I would have managed to find on my own, and I most likely would have spent much more.

The biggest drawback to the bidding process is a loss of control regarding where your hotel is located.  In general, the bigger the city, the more likely that Priceline will give you the flexibility of narrowing the neighborhood where you prefer your hotel will be located significantly enough to ensure your satisfaction with the location.

Please remember that if you have a car and are trying to stay in the city center of a large city, there are usually large parking fees for the hotel garages.

2.  Time is your friend.

Sometimes the bidding process is not ideal if you know exactly what you want from your hotel and what you want to spend on it.  If your bid is very specific, there are potentially only a small number of hotels that can meet your bid, and you have no way of knowing what their bottom line is.  Priceline controls your bidding process by forcing you to broaden your search by decreasing your star level or increasing the areas you are willing to stay every time you lose a bid.

But, you can continue to bid without changing anything about your original bid once every 24 hours.  So, if you plan ahead, you can begin your bidding process several weeks ahead of time in order to ensure you get the lowest price possible.  What I have done in the past is begin my bidding very low ($40), and then re-bidding with the same parameters and increasing my offer by $5 when I am permitted to every twenty-four hours

Keep in mind, this process is absolutely not necessary if you are flexible about your star levels and location, because as long as you change your bid parameters each time you bid, Priceline allows you to continue to bid as many times as you like.

3. Do some research first – your potential hotel is not as much of a mystery as you may think.

If you spend just a few minutes looking at the hotels listed at face value on Priceline’s site for the city and dates you need, you are actually looking at the inventory Priceline is pulling from to meet your bid for the “Name your own price” side of their site.  If you like what you see, you can be confident that you will be happy with whatever hotel accepts your bid.

Most importantly, this research allows you to familiarize yourself with the pricing of hotels for your city and time-frame so you have a better idea of where to start your bid.  If the lowest listed price for a hotel within your preferred star category is $150, then you can be pretty sure that your starting bid has to be a decent offer, and if you are bidding last-minute, you will need to bid higher.  On the other hand, if the price range of hotels you like on the site spans as low as $75 for example, you know your starting bid can be much lower.

4. Get an app!

With the help of my iPhone Priceline app I have booked hotels while standing in a theatre lobby in mid-town Manhattan, while in the passenger seat driving through South Carolina, standing in line at the airport, etc.  Many times I have used the app and literally checked into my hotel as little as a half hour later.  The app makes the process simple and quick.  It doesn’t have all of the information available through the website, but it will redirect you to your phone or iPad’s browser if necessary.

5.  If you are indecisive, Priceline is either your best friend or your worst enemy.

If you have trouble deciding on hotels and often find yourself spending hours of time researching every hotel option in the city you are traveling to, Priceline is a godsend because it does the research for you, in that the hotels it works with are comfortable and usually rank highly in customer reviews.  You can finally let go and save yourself all the research time and spend that time researching other critical things, like transportation options to and from the airport (if you are flying).

On the other hand, once you book a hotel through Priceline, you are charged immediately for that hotel.  If you happen to need to change your dates for any reason, this can be difficult to impossible to pull off.  So beware.  In this case, Priceline might end up costing you money instead of helping you.

Please note: I am in no way making money from advertising or sponsorship related to my travel tips.  I write these tips solely from personal opinion.  Also, these tips are related to booking hotels through Priceline, as I do not use Priceline for airline bookings.


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