Doc Macgyver gave me a fabulous Mother’s Day present this year: a trip to Mexico all by my lonesome to meet a friend. Of course I had a fabulous time. We found sun, sand, tropical air, heavenly food, some ancient ruins, repelling, zip-lining, yucky rain, kayaking, iguanas, a cenote, and plenty of quiet time!
Just scored another deal through Priceline! It’s not as cheap as I had hoped, but it’s much better than retail rate. We’re heading to Vegas for a job interview. I landed the Treasure Island for $75/night on a weekend, which isn’t bad. I was hoping for an absolute steal which sometimes occurs through the Monte Carlo, a little closer to $50/night. But oh well. Treasure Island web rate is $115 so $75 will do.
Of course, Priceline is well-known these days, but using it to its potential can sometimes be tricky. I’ve lost count of how many fantastic deals I’ve scored through Priceline.
Here are the steps I use:
- Look up the Priceline zones for the city I need to stay in
- Find out which hotels are in each Priceline zone
- Read reviews for hotels
- Research pricing on hotel websites
- Look up recent winning bids in my target zones
- Begin the bidding process on Priceline
Okay, okay. The steps might be a bit confusing. Let’s go over them one at a time.
STEP 1: To find out which zones are available for the city you’re looking, I recommend you use THIS LINK when visiting Priceline. I’ll explain why later. In the middle you’ll see the ‘Name Your Own Price’ section. Click on ‘Bid Now’ underneath the hotel icon. A popup window will show. Enter the dates and location that you will be searching for. Click ‘Bid Now’. It will take you to a page that has a map and some zone choices and different star levels to choose from. You’re not bidding yet! This is just research, so don’t let it scare you. The map on the right has sections of the city marked. If you click on the ‘detail map’ link for each of the zones, it will zoom the map in so you can see the boundaries for that zone. This is where you need to decide which zones you would be comfortable staying in. Get a notepad and write their names down. Put an X next to the zone that you want the most.
STEP 2: Now you need to see what your potential hotels are. Here’s where you visit BiddingForTravel and start doing some more research. You’ll have to set up a login and a password, but no biggie. You can handle that, right? Good. Now, if you have never been to this site before, the first thing you’ll need to do is click on ‘hotels’ under the FAQ section, and then read the ‘HOTEL FAQ’. Don’t skip this! Once you have all that info under your belt, then go back to the main page and scroll down until you see the state & city you’re looking for. On the next page click on the link for the hotel list. Depending on the size of the city, the list could be quite lengthy. But it’s organized in sections based on the Priceline zones, and since you already listed the zones you’re interested in, you should be able to go straight to those sections and find the hotels in each of them. You now have an idea of what hotels you could be matched with if you win a bid.
STEP 3: Next you need to read up on your potential hotels to see if you’re willing to stay there. I use TripAdvisor 99% of the time. The reason for this is because a lot of other people use it also, which means the reviews will be current. You really don’t want to trust a review of a hotel much more than a year old. If all you have to go on is a 5 year old review, then that’s all you have. But it’s much better to find a current review. Construction noise that someone complained about 5 years ago probably doesn’t exist now. And hotel staff changes often, so a complaint about service 5 years ago might not be valid anymore. Hotels also remodel, and 5 years ago what would be old bedding and dirty carpet could be brand new today. The list goes on and on. Also, if someone has a bad experience on their trip they often try to blame it on their hotel. So make sure you read the review carefully and understand what the writer’s true gripe is. There are some reviews on BiddingForTravel, and I do make sure to read them. But they are often old, so I always back them up with TripAdvisor reviews. Once you’ve read all the reviews you need to determine whether or not you feel comfortable staying at all these places. If there are a lot of hotels on the list, I sometimes print the list out, and then cross off the ones that I would absolutely not want to win. Once you’re done, you can see how many hotels are crossed off in each zone. If you have the majority of the hotels crossed off in one particular zone, I recommend you do not bid in the zone. If there’s only 1 of maybe 5 or more hotels crossed off, I would say you could take your chances bidding there.
STEP 4: Do some visiting of the hotel websites directly. Enter your dates and price out what the retail cost of the room is. This gives you an idea of what you would pay without Priceline. I always, always, always like to know how much I’m saving.
STEP 5: Here’s where you go back to the main page for your city & state on BiddingForTravel. Underneath the hotel list link are all the winning bids that people have posted. You now need to scroll through these and look for any that match the zones you’ve chosen. Watch the dates that the winning bid is for because holidays will always be higher than others. Depending on how popular your city and zones are, you might have to go back a year or so to see winning bids. This now gives you an idea of what you will be paying when your bid is accepted. This could also be an indication of what zones you want to bid in. If you see that the most recent several bids in your target zone are all the same price and all the same hotel, chances are that’s the price and hotel that will be accepted. Make sure it’s one you can be happy with. Go back and read the reviews and look at the hotel amenities again if you need to.
STEP 6: Once you’ve done all the research, it’s now time to start the bidding process. Even if I see 5 recent winning bids all the same price for the zone I’m looking at, I always start the bidding lower if I have the time. If you have several zones that you would be happy staying in, these are call free rebidding zones. Now would be the time to go to BiddingForTravel and click on the ‘Hotels’ link under the FAQ section again. This time you want to click on the link entitled ‘Advanced Free Re-Bidding for Experienced Hotel Bidders’. This will walk you through how to get the most bids without waiting the standard 24-hr time period on Priceline. It will also explain why I had you mark your priority zone with an X.
WHEN I DO NOT USE PRICELINE: I would choose not to use Priceline if there were not enough hotels in my zones that had acceptable reviews and standards. I also have not used Priceline when I’ve traveled out of the country. All of my international travels have been to Latin America and we don’t like big touristy resorts. We usually like small, out of the way places, and those aren’t an option through Priceline. I use a different process for my international travel.
ONE OF MY WINNING BIDS: Williamsburg, VA at $44/night plus taxes. The hotel website wanted $91. I prefer to get the cost down to less than half retail, but depending on the city, it’s not always that cheap. Also, the reason I do all my Priceline research and bidding through the link I mentioned in STEP 1 is so that it gives credit back to the moderator of BiddingForTravel, since I use her site a ton! You have to make sure you don’t ever go directly to Priceline, or your browser will remember. And then even if you go to the special link after, it still won’t give her the credit. If you go directly through Priceline at all, you have to restart your browser.