Booking a hotel, the ProBargainHunter way

Lobby of Palmer House Hilton in ChicagoWhen traveling, we all dream of staying in a 5-star hotel but rarely can afford one. Even if we have the money to spend, paying for the luxury is often the last thing in our list after such ever important items as paying off debt and saving kids for college. As they say however, where there’s a will, there’s a way.

One of the solutions is to use a travel bidding site such as Priceline. Major hotel chains such as Marriott and Hyatt use Priceline to sell rooms that would otherwise go empty and yield no revenue. My best bargains came the way of Priceline. Back in 2003 we traveled to Toronto and stayed in downtown 4-star Marriott for just $35/night. When the receptionist saw our reservation he didn’t believe the price and had to call the manager to confirm.

Savings on a hotel in Europe can be even more substantial taking into account the ever declining US dollar. Right now, when a room in a 3-star hotel in London can easily put you down by $200 per night, I know of no other way for a couple to stay at a brand-name 4-star hotel for under $100, the kind of rate you can easily get with Priceline. Not convinced? Read on!

Know the rules

We all know however that there is no such thing as free lunch and surely enough there are a few catches that you need to know before giving Priceline a chance. Here are the most important ones:

  • you bid without knowing exactly which hotel you end up booking; for big cities you get to pick a city zone; for smaller ones it is entire city
  • if your bid is accepted, your credit card is immediately charged and there are no refunds; there is no choice of smoking/non-smoking and free breakfast is rarely an option; all you are guaranteed is a double occupancy room
  • if your bid in not accepted, the only way to re-bid right away is by changing the price and the hotel star rating or location; alternatively you can wait 72 hours and repeat your attempt w/o changing anything

Sounds complicated, isn’t it? This is where community comes to help. Imagine if you knew the minimum bid you had to make to get a decent hotel in, say downtown Chicago… Or better yet if you knew that the chances are it would be either Hyatt Regency or Palmer House by Hilton… You can obtain exactly this information from BiddingForTravel forums where thousands of bargain hunters like you log their Priceline bids, successful and not.

Be informed bidder

The bidding forums are grouped by region and it is very easy to find what you are looking for. For example the above mentioned London hotels are all grouped in this forum and as you can see people currently report successful bids for 4-star hotels in the range of 80-100 US$.

A separate group of forums is dedicated to hotel reviews which by the quality and amount of reviews can probably be challenged only by good folks from TripAdvisor. Did I say you can’t re-bid right away? Guess what, there is a certain strategy called free re-bids where you essentially get to bid second time w/o changing your desired hotel location or star rating. Find this and a lot more useful tips at the BiddingForTravel’s Hotels FAQ page.

Here are a few final notes before you jump in saving green. This bidding strategy works best for popular destinations visited by travelers who participate in the forums. You are entirely on your own if you plan a trip to, say Steven’s Point, Wisconsin. If you do end up using the site though, share your bidding experience and help your fellow travelers!

Photo: Palmer House Hilton in Chicago courtesy of Hornplayer at Flickr

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3 Responses to “Booking a hotel, the ProBargainHunter way”

  1. 1 Lance Jan 30th, 2008 at 11:38 am

    Priceline is BAD for airline tickets. They give you the worst ticket for the most amount of money.

    Priceline is GOOD for rental cars. Especially from the airport. The location of pickup will be the same. No worries about connections or flight times. I saved about 75% on a rental AND ended up with my preferred rental car brand.

  2. 2 Dorkydad Feb 3rd, 2008 at 1:44 am

    While I’m biased, I’ve found Hotwire to often have even better deals than Priceline. Learning that I was stuck in Grand Rapids this past week, the gate agent at American Airlines gave me a voucher to stay at the Hilton near the airport for $89 a night. Instead I went online, pulled up Hotwire, and booked a 3* hotel near the airport for $46… and guess where I stayed? Yep–the Hilton Grand Rapids Airport.

  3. 3 Abstract Annie Feb 5th, 2008 at 9:32 am

    There is a great new site where you can pick up hotels with up to 70% off. LateRooms shows late availability via a database providing over 500,000 genuine hotel deals and discount hotels across the USA and the rest of the world. Also ranges from 4 star and 5 star luxury hotels to guest houses and city apartments.

    They take most forms of credit card etc. – worth visiting to pick up a bargain in the area you are heading to.

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