I enjoy staying in nice hotels but I hate paying full price for them! I have been using this website for years.
Priceline.com lets you bid for a hotel room. Priceline® has access to the excess hotel room inventory that hotel chains have. These are rooms that they believe they will not be able to book for a certain date. Priceline® is able to acquire these rooms at a low price, and allow you to bid on this inventory.
This type of booking is called opaque, because you will not see which hotel you are staying at until the purchase is confirmed.
I have some great tips in this guide that will help you get the rock-bottom price for your room. Before I explain some of my Priceline® bidding tips, I wanted to show how the Priceline.com works.
There are three main ways to book a hotel room on Priceline®:
- List View
The results of your city search criteria are shown on this view. You can see the name of the hotel, and the exact price is displayed. You are able to sort by hotel name, distance from city center, price, and overall popularity.
- Express Deals
The hotels listed on this tab show the price of the hotel, location, ratings, and amenities, such as a pool, restaurant, fitness center, or free Internet. You will not see the name or precise location of the property.
I have discovered that often you can figure out the identity of the hotel by the description and amenities listed. For example, this listing lets you choose your bed type, and based on the specific names of the room, the hotel is likely to be the Delta Vancouver.
If you book a Priceline® Express Deal and find a cheaper rate for this hotel, any time until the day before check-in, Priceline will match that price and give you an additional $25, with some conditions, of course.
There is no bidding involved using Express Deals, so it lets you find the location and amenities you need. If you are not comfortable bidding on a hotel room, I suggest using this alternative, to save some money over the standard room rate.
- Name Your Own Price®
This option lets you bid on a hotel room. This option can potentially save you the most on your hotel room. Two main caveats: reservations are almost never refundable, and you do not have choice in the hotel amenities (hotel may not have a pool or restaurant). Additionally, the bids are always for two adults (so you may get stuck with a king-size bed for three adults). I always make sure that if I used the Name Your Own Price option that my travel dates will not change. Do not use Name Your Own Price if you only prefer to stay at Hilton brand hotels, or if your room must have a coffee maker.
When you bid on a hotel on Priceline®, the website will ask you specifically where you want to stay inside the city based on zones.
Here is a sample example of the available zones in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Look carefully at the map, and understand each zone, and how close you need to be to the airport or city center. Staying outside the city may or may not be worth it to you.
Clicking on the detail map hyperlink next to each zone will show a larger view of the area.
You can choose one zone or multiple zones where you would like to stay. As soon as at least one zone is selected, you can choose which star level of hotel you would like to bid for. When you choose a star level, you are bidding on every hotel at that level and above. If you select a zone, sometimes you will notice that not all star levels are available to be chosen. This means the zone does not have any star levels in that zone to bid in.
One of the first questions most people ask when they start to use the Name Your Own Price® option on Priceline® is, what should I start the bidding at?
My experience tells me that I need to see what general prices for hotels are available elsewhere on other websites. I look first at the Express Deals option to see what is available to purchase as opposed to bidding. If the city is full for a sporting event or convention, expect prices to be higher.
I go on Hotels.com to see what the four-star hotels are selling for, and it will sometimes tell me how many rooms are left at certain hotels so that I can see the demand. If many hotels are not available on Hotels.com, this tells me that availability is low, and that I should have a higher starting bid.
Another resource is The Bidding Traveller. This website lets you see the past successful bids for the city you are bidding on. It lets you see what hotels were available at a certain star level, and the price range of successful bids. This is a nice resource to have, as it lets you know the successful bid history for that city for Priceline. It also gives you an expectation of the hotels available for a certain star level in a city, based on past bids.
Another forum that shows past Priceline® successful bids is Betterbidding.com. They have each major city broken down by thread, and help give you a feel of what price you should be bidding.
Typically, if Priceline® does not accept your offer, you can change the star level or area you requested, and try again immediately. Or, you can try your exact same request again 24 hours later.
If you had a successful bid, your hotel will be shown immediately after purchase. Your hotel will be from either a national hotel chain or a preferred independent hotel partner.
Remember, that hotels are non-refundable, non-transferable, and non-changeable even if the reservation is not used.
Even though I am getting a discount for my hotel stay because I do not know what the hotel name, I want to make sure that I maximize my discount.
Before you start to bid for a room, it is best to first do some research. Find out the current retail prices using other websites before you start to bid.
I always start my bid at 40-50% off the lowest Express Deal in the zone where I am looking to stay. As an example, if the Express Deal for a four-star hotel in Downtown Vancouver is $101 per night, I would start my bid at around $60-65, depending on my urgency to get a room reservation. The maximum I recommend bidding is $10 less than the same star rating in the zone that I am bidding on. In this case, I would bid up to $90 per night.
I have a trick that will get you a free-rebid. Remember, earlier where I showed that not all star levels are available to be chosen in a zone? If you wanted to stay at a four-star hotel in Zone 4 (Downtown Vancouver) and the first bid was rejected, simply increase your bid and add a zone that doesn’t have a four-star hotel in its zone. You can continue this pattern of bidding until you have an accepted bid or you run out of re-bids. If you run out of free re-bids, just wait 24 hours.
Priceline® Change Requests
On one of our first trips together to Hawaii, my wife and I booked a hotel on the island of Oahu, when we were actually going to the Big Island. We called Priceline® to get this exception, but we had to rebid again for the right dates and location. You will typically only receive a refund if you win another bid. We still had to pay a service charge for cancelling the reservation (around $30 Canadian), but it saved us hundreds.
Use a cash back website like Ebates
If you use a cash back website, you will receive up to 5% cash back when you book any Priceline Name Your Own Price Hotel using Ebates.
Purchases you make at Ebates stores are credited if you start your shopping session at Ebates.com, and click to a store via an Ebates link.
Triple-check your bid
Triple check your dates. The date selectors on the Priceline® home page tend to get a little bit slippery, and it’s easy to choose the wrong month. Check the month and day on every page, over and over again. You may be booking the right date in the wrong month.
Here are some tips before you start bidding on Priceline®:
- If you stay at a resort in Priceline®, expect to pay resort fees, which can be around $10-20 per day per person. These fees are not a part of your winning bid.
- When looking at the map for a city, pay extra attention to the zones. In Miami, the South beach zone has hotels that can be a considerable distance from the actual South Beach. In Las Vegas, the Las Vegas Strip Vicinity North zone has hotels that can be off the main strip by a fair distance.
- Parking is also extra, so be aware that you could pay up to $20 per night, as this fee is not included as part of your winning bid.
- Taxes are also not seen until the payment page, and this could be significant in some cities (tourism tax, hotel tax, and general state or provincial taxes).
- Priceline® bids are non-refundable, and you must input your credit card information before making a bid. Make sure that you double-check your zones, desired star-rating, and final price on the confirmation page.
- If you get a successful bid, place a call to the hotel to confirm your reservation with the type of room and/or bed you want.
- Try not to bid below a four-star hotel. I find that the best deals are for four-star hotels and higher. Also, the quality of the hotel can be questionable at the lower star-levels. Some hotels that Priceline considers three and a half star, I consider a three or lower.