Priceline.com – Save as little as $0

by Sandy L on July 23, 2010

A year ago, I fell totally and hopelessly in love with Priceline.com

My friend was getting married in LA and I got to stay at the Hyatt Regency for $60/night.  I have a character flaw. Once I find something I like, I become pretty loyal to a fault. I’ve used  priceline.com exclusively since then with equally impressive results…UNTIL last week.

I took a new job in May that requires me to be out of town 1-2 days a week. It’s usually in the same medium sized city.

Well, for 2.5 months, I’ve been lucky and have consistently been getting rooms for $60-$70/night saving about $40-$60/night. Last week, they jumped to $95. I tried again this week, and still had no luck til I reached $95.  (I rationalized this as an effect of tourist season.)

Before I continue the story, here’s what I’ve learned over the last 20 priceline bookings.

  1. It works best in large cities where there is lots of competition.  Medium cities are hit or miss and if you’re looking the boonies, forget it.
  2. When you bid on a hotel, even if you would be okay with staying at multiple locations or star ratings, pick your highest star rating and your lowest price first.  Then, if you’re rejected, you can keep bidding up as long as you expand your search or add a star level.  Before you do that though, click through the map areas to see which stars are in which areas.  It will help you with your decision making.
  3. Sometimes, priceline will prompt you and tell you what price is likely to be approved, sometimes not.
  4. Sometimes priceline will offer to extend your stay for the same rate, sometimes not. I noticed I received the same offer twice from the same hotel chain. As best as I can tell, this is dictated by the hotel, not some random thing.
  5. I haven’t really found a pattern around the advantages and disadvantages of advanced bookings vs last minute bookings. I’m doing an experiment right now. I was rejected for a Boston hotel a month ago and I’ll try to book again in August. (2 days before the trip).

BUT THE BIGGEST THING I LEARNED THIS WEEK IS:

Check the price of the hotels in the area BEFORE you bid. Don’t do the name your own price thing if you bid the same price or more than the cheapest hotel on their list and at that star rating.  I ended up staying at Country Inn Suites (2.5 stars). It was nice and came with breakfast. But when I looked to see how much I saved it was zip, zero, nada, nothing, diddly squat.  I bid $95 and the published price was also $95.  There were other hotels in that area and star rating that were more expensive, but in this case, priceline didn’t give me a discounted un-advertised price to save me money, they actually defaulted to the lowest advertised price. What’s up with that?

This appears to be a departure from what I’m used to. In the past, even if I bid on 3 star hotels, sometimes, they’d throw me a bone and award me with a 4 star hotel. If I were a betting woman, I’d say they’re messing around with the background code.

I also wonder if it recognizes me and knows that I’ll bid up to a certain amount. Now that I’ve set a new high for myself, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out if there’s code that tracks that stuff. I’m just speculating of course.

After all that, I’m still keeping an open mind and will continue to use them for now. It might just be that it’s summer and things are booked up.

For a more comical take on Priceline.com. Check out Len Penzo’s article on his adventures of getting locked out of bidding for hotels.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Everyday Tips July 25, 2010 at 1:54 PM

I have never been brave enough to try Priceline. I think it’s because I want to know what hotel I am bidding on. (Or am I wrong, do you know the hotel ahead of time? I seem to remember the last time I looked into it, you just bid on a generic ‘quality’ level hotel and you got what you got.
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Sandy L July 26, 2010 at 11:09 AM

Yes, you are right. You don’t know the hotel ahead of time. For work, I really don’t care what brand I stay at as long as it’s close to my customers. I figured it was a good way to see if they give you scuzzy places or not. I was being a guinea pig for upcoming family trips. Most of the places I choose are 3 star and up. I haven’t been disappointed by rooms at all. The worst I can see is that some of them may have needed a little updating (like they probably were a really nice 3 star 20 years ago).

It helps if you know the area too. I chose to stay downtown in a couple of places and the down towns were totally dead. Hotel was fine, but nothing really near it.

I’ve always been a frugal traveler..backpacking Europe staying at youth hostels, camping, etc. Hotel rooms were never a priority (til I went to disney with a 4 year old and 5 month old).

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