Sunday, February 28, 2010

Reader question

Thanks to reader Doug for asking a great question:

Dear Edge,

How do I get Priceline to bid on a specific hotel on a beach, and not just on a range of hotels and then I end up with one I didn't want?

Priceline is an awesome tool for saving substantial money on all of your travel needs: hotels, rental cars, and airfare.  While there ways to improve your chances of getting a successful bid for a hotel, there is still some chance that you will get a hotel that you didn't quite want.  So first, be flexible.

Strategy 1

Generally, when I use Priceline, I start with a 4-5 star search, but using Priceline's normal booking method, meaning, you see everything before you buy, not afterwards.  I get a feel for the hotels they are offering, neighborhoods, and price.  If the hotel I want is not listed, Priceline may not have a relationship with it.  But, if you are flexible, as I am, then this what you should do.  Using the hotel rate listed on Priceline, go ahead and low ball that by 50-60%.  Priceline claims "to save you 50% or more," thus that should be your goal.  Bid away.  If unsuccessful, you have a few options: change the star quality, neighborhood, or wait 24 hours and re-do it.  During that time, do more homework to see if your bid is unreasonable.

Strategy 2

This can be done in conjunction with Strategy 1 as well.  Visit and see others' successful bids on Priceline rooms to gauge how much you need to bid.  For example, if you want to stay in San Francisco at a 4 star hotel, you can see what others bid using that criteria within a certain time period.  That way you can also get an idea of what the hotel might be.  Bid away. 

In the end, if you really want to stay at that beach hotel for less, then using AAA, or a similar discount program, will likely be your best options.  As I discussed elsewhere, your credit card provider may offer a substantial discount as well.  If still unsatisfied, call the hotel directly and see if they have flexibility in their rate.  If you plan on staying more than a couple of days, there might be some room to negotiate, especially if you are a member of the loyalty program.

Keep the questions coming.  Email them, or leave a comment below.