Kas asked for more info on Priceline bidding. Rather than putting this in the comments section, I decided to just put up a post about it.
When you go to Priceline, there are two different ways to work the site. You can purchase from the site based on the listed prices on the site or you can “make your own price”. I always use the name your own price option. Here is how it works for hotels:
You type in the name of the city or town you want to visit, the dates you want to go and how many people. The next screen will break your city or town into multiple areas. When I was bidding for Hershey, PA, there were six areas to pick from: Harrisburg, Harrisburg East, Harrisburg West, Hershey, York and Carlisle. There were also a bunch of star ratings, from 1 star to 4 stars.
The first thing I do is click on each area individually to see the star ratings that appear for each area. For example, if you click on Harrisburg, you might have hotels in the 1 to 4 star range, but when you click on Harrisburg East, there may only be hotels in the 1 to 3 star range. I list each area from highest to lowest star range on a piece of paper.
When bidding on Priceline, you have to pick at least one area, then at least one star rating and then you type in the price you want to pay. If your bid is rejected, you have to add one more criteria, either a new area or a lower star rating to be able to bid again. So on my first bid, I’ll put in the area I really want to stay in or the one that has the nicest hotels available, then the highest star rating and I bid LOW. I’m talking 75% off the average price for a hotel in that star rating. The website will actually give you this info after you check off an area and a star level. My first bid is usually rejected. I will then add another area and increase my bid by a few dollars. If that is rejected, I will add another star level and increase my bid again. Sometimes when I add the lower star level I won’t increase the bid just to see if including that gets me the deal I want. I progress this way until I get the deal I want, each time adding one new area or decreasing my star rating but never both at once. Sometimes I don’t get the deal I want and need to wait 24 hours to try again. Generally, the closer I am to the time when I want to go, the better deal I get unless it’s a holiday weekend. Holidays you need to start a bit sooner.
It is important to note that you do not get to select which hotel you want to stay at, just the star rating and the area. Once you submit your bid for a 4 star hotel in Indianapolis – Downtown, you could stay at any 4 star hotel there. You will get a 4 star hotel and it will be in Downtown Indy, but you don’t get to pick which one. I’m not brand loyal when it comes to hotels and I’ve used this method about two dozen times to get hotel rooms. I’ve been pleased everytime. I’ve even gotten free upgrades to club level rooms in New York City (at the time I got a $359 room for $74 a night, which is an incredible deal to stay in NYC).
If you are going to use this method, you need to be patient. It might take you a couple of days to get the deal you want. In the case of Hershey, PA, I couldn’t get the deal I wanted because it’s a very expensive place to stay. I decided to go to Boston instead. I never thought it would cost more to go to Hershey than to go to Boston but hey, we roll with the flow.
When booking flights, I’ve found the least expensive way to go is through the airline sites. You need to be careful of the booking fees on many of the travel sites. Their price might be a bit less than the airline but once you tack on the booking fees, all your savings go right out the window. I’ve never used Priceline for flights because I don’t like layovers when flying. I want to get where I’m going nonstop and I’m willing to pay extra for that (see I’m not cheap with everything, especially when we are talking about my time). I also like to fly early in the morning so I have less chance of my plane being delayed. With Priceline you have to give them a time range. AM is usually from 6am to 10am. That’s a big difference if you want to fly somewhere and actually want to do something the day you arrive.
I’ve also gotten rental cars through Priceline with excellent results. When we went to Indy, I paid $12 a day for our compact car and when we got there we were upgraded to a crossover vehicle. The retail price on the compact car was $22 a day and the retail on the crossover we got was $40 a day. Not too bad.
I hope my little tutorial on Priceline has gotten you excited to start bidding. I want to hear about your winning bids.