Saturday, May 23, 2009

I heart Priceline (and BetterBidding)

Waaaaay back when we first started thinking about roadtripping it out to the midwest, I crunched some numbers and realized that a weeks' worth of hotel rooms adds up fast. Just prior to our dreams of a vacation being crushed, I discovered some websites that totally rocked my world. I'm hoping that this quick tutorial will inspire you to do some cheap traveling this summer, too.

There are two websites you need to know: BetterBidding.com and Priceline.com. As long as you have these sites, you're good to go. Priceline is where you actually buy your hotel rooms, but BetterBidding is where you'll find out how cheap you can get them :-)

I ended up getting a GREAT price at a beautiful hotel in Chicago, so I'll use that as an example.
First you'll need to know how Priceline works. Basically, you go to Priceline, click on "Name your own price" and then input your desired travel location and dates. The screens look like this:



I put in Chicago for one room in June (not my real travel dates). The next screen will ask for your desired location, star rating, and then will ask for your bid (what you're willing to pay for a room). Here it is:

(source)
You can see the different options for location under "Step 1". The important thing to know when booking through Priceline is that you will have NO IDEA what hotel you'll end up with once this is all said and done. You will know the general area (Michigan Ave as opposed to the Millenium Park area) the hotel will be in, as well as the star rating (because you get to choose it), but you won't know the exact hotel until after it's paid for. That's right... if your bid is accepted, it automatically charges your card and THEN will tell you what you ended up with. There are some rules for how often you can bid if you don't win, but Miss Glitter over at Weddingbee does a great job of explaining everything, so I'll leave that to her. Click here for the full scoop.

But it's a little scary, right? Paying for the room (non-refundable through Priceline) before you know where it is? Well, the folks at BetterBidding are helping people get a better idea of what acceptable bids (name your own price) have been and what hotels are being won.

Here's the quick How To. Go to BetterBidding and scroll down to your desired state. You'll see something similar to this:

You should see some options under each state: tips, hotwire, and priceline. Click the Priceline option for your desired state. Then you'll see this:

(source)

Lucky winners of hotel bids post their wins so you can get a gauge on what hotels have come up and what the winning bids have been. You can see the first topic is a 4 star hotel in the Millenium-Loop-Grant Park area with a winning bid of $69 a night. Armed with this information, you can bid on Priceline in the same area with a reasonable expectation that you could win a bid for about $65-75 and will probably end up at the Palmer House.

OK, back to my example. After scrolling through the pages for Chicago: Millenium-Loop-Grant Park, it became pretty apparent that hotel rooms were going for anywhere between $60 and $80. I bid $70 for a 4 star room in the Michigan Ave area and won on my first try! After i won, I was a little angry with myself for not starting out with a lower bid, but I learned my lesson and get an even better deal on our St. Louis hotel. But in Chicago, we'll be staying at the Hyatt Regency... for $70.... $88 including tax. If we booked through the Hyatt website, we'd be paying $195 including tax - for the same exact room!!! Booking through Priceline saved us $107! And look at where we'll be staying:

(source)

$88 a night for this! How unreal is that? It's especially amazing when I know I should be paying $195 a night. Love. It. So. Much.

Yey for affordable travel without sacrificing style OR comfort. Anyone else have fantastic luck with Priceline?

2 comments:

~K~ said...

I am going to sooo check out betterbidding.com. I never heard of that one. Thanks for the travel tip!

Allison said...

wow...you got a great deal! I have never been able to do Priceline because I'm too nervous about what I'd end up with - sounds like that other site would be helpful.

I'm the one that can't pick a hotel until I go to Tripadvisor and read ALL the reviews first...hehe.