Hotel Bidding on Priceline.com

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Save Big on Hotels By Mastering Priceline.com

The “bidding” feature on Priceline.com has become one of the most popular tools for travelers to slash prices on hotels. But to get the lowest price, know the best strategies…

HOW BIDDING WORKS

Using the “Name Your Own Price” option, hotel room bidders select an area (such as a city or a neighborhood)…a quality level based on a star system…and the amount they’re willing to pay. If a hotel accepts the bid, the bidder’s credit card is charged—he/she cannot reject the hotel or cancel the booking later. Discounts often are 50% off standard rates or even much greater.

Caution: Be wary of bidding for airline tickets. You might get a flight with a long layover or a predawn departure.

BEFORE BIDDING

Visit BiddingTraveler.com, which tracks successful Priceline bids. Enter your destination and travel dates (weekend rates can differ significantly from weekday rates), then take note of the average and lowest winning bids for hotels of the quality that you want (click the link below the hotel).

Helpful: If you’re willing to invest some more time, also visit BiddingForTravel.com and BetterBidding.com, online forums where Priceline.com usersmshare information about bids. Check the posted rates offered by discount travel Web sites such as Hotwire.com, Kayak.com and Orbitz.com.

HOW TO BID

Set your initial Priceline bid near the low end of the range of accepted or stated offers you found, or if you want to simplify your task, set your initial bid near the average winning bid amount.

If your bid is too low and so is not accepted, the official policy is that you cannot try a different bid for 24 hours unless you adjust one of your bidding parameters other than price. But there’s a way to get around this restriction. Simply add an additional nearby geographic area to your hotel search—but choose an area that doesn’t contain any hotels of the quality you requested. With no appropriate additional hotels added to your parameters, you’re effectively bidding on the original area again. To find areas that lack hotels of a given quality, select from the areas listed one by one. If the star level you want is listed in gray and cannot be selected, the area has no hotels of that quality.

Helpful: Priceline occasionally makes “counteroffers.” Reject these. They usually mean that you’re coming close to a price that will be accepted. Bid slightly more than your last bid but less than the counteroffer.

ALTERNATIVE STRATEGIES

Try starting your search several days early so you can rebid every 24 hours without changing your parameters.

For a second chance to bid right away at a different price, your spouse or other traveling companion can try the second time under his/her name.

If you want to stay at a particular hotel, call it directly (not the chain’s 800-number) after checking BiddingTraveler.com for a bid typically accepted for that hotel, and ask to speak with someone in guest relations or the manager. Tell this person that you know the hotel often accepts Priceline bids of that amount, and ask if you can have that rate if you book directly. Hotels sometimes agree to this because it saves them Priceline’s fee.

Source: Marc Peyser, editor of Budget Travel magazine, New York City.    www.BudgetTravel.com

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