I’ve used priceline.com about 20 times so far. This is the travel site where you can say what you’re willing to pay for a hotel room. Captain Kirk is on the site and he hasn’t let me down in finding a good deal. I thought I’d share my tips on how to bid on rooms.
I don’t low-ball the bid so it raises the chances it won’t be accepted. If your bid isn’t accepted, you have to do something more than rebidding $5 higher. You either need to add an area in your search, or lower your required Stars (2-star, 3-star, etc).
If you are looking to stay in say the Bay Area or in Los Angeles and not particular where you stay, you have the better chance to get a good value as you can add neighboring areas if you rebid. There’s usually around 3 cities in a defined area in the bigger metropolitan areas.
Also, if you are going off-peak, you’ll have a better chance of getting a lower bid accepted. Off-peak for tourist areas are mid-week in something other than summer. For business hotels, it’s Fri/Sat.
Most of my bids have been accepted between $55-$60 for 3-star hotels. I’ve used priceline for rooms in San Diego, Los Angeles (went to a concert at the Greek theater and got a room at the Beverly Hilton for $70), Silicon Valley, East Bay, Chico, and Seattle.
Priceline will display the typical rate of a room in the area you’re looking at before you bid so you’ll get an idea if you are hitting some peak time. If the rate for a room in the Star rating you want is $170, I doubt you’ll get an accepted bid at $60. Be realistic about your bid and don’t try for the “up to 50% lower” Captain Kirk tells you. What I usually do if I bid on an area I haven’t bid before is to look at what the room rates are if you choose the hotel. If you see a $79 2-star Best Western, I’m just happy if I can get a 3-star room for the same price. My wife and I like 3-star rooms as they are cleaner and the beds are more comfortable.
Priceline adds a fee on your bid (for them) which is $10. So, to get that $79 price, you’ll need to have your bid accepted at $69.
I have found one major negative with priceline bidding though. Two times now I’ve had a bid accepted by a hotel that charges you to park. One was in downtown Seattle and the other in Walnut Creek (the Marriott by the BART station, probably the only hotel in Walnut Creek that charges for parking). Adding a $20-$25 a day parking fee pretty much wipes out the priceline bidding advantage. I called priceline to complain that parking fees should be included in the nightly rate for bidding but they said parking is like long distance phone calls and not part of the room rate.
Overall, we’ve saved a bunch by using priceline bidding. While you lose the ability to choose the particular hotel you want to stay, you do get a good deal. Give it a try!