Tuesday, February 23, 2010

17 Travel Tip Tuesday: Cracking the Priceline Code

We love a good bargain. And one of the true places to find real hotel deals these days is Priceline, with it's Name Your Own Price feature. The user simply types in the intended dates and city, selects the neighborhood and desired star level, places a bid, and voila! You get matched with a hotel that will accept your price, often at more than half off its regular rate. But there is, of course, a catch. When using Priceline, users don't find out which hotel they've won until after entering their credit card information, and then there is no way out. This is a big drawback, because paying $100 for a $300/night four-star hotel room is a steal, but paying that for a dilapidated $100/night hotel holding on to its high star rating from better days is not. And the neighborhoods Priceline utilizes for searching purposes are often large, so not knowing exactly where you'll be staying can be a huge deterrent.

Luckily there is Bidding for Travel, a website that capitalizes on the human joy of spilling the beans. Here, successful users share the details of what they bid for what star level and where, and what they got. It is usually a limited group of hotels that use Priceline's services, so you can be pretty confident with what you'll get for what price if you copy these bidders' instructions. Friends of mine recently used Priceline to book the Park Plaza in downtown Boston. And what do you know, PositiveBear just got the Park Plaza last Friday for $63/night. Bidding for Travel was also the guiding light for our successful bid for the Conrad Centennial in Singapore; there had been a string of recent winning bids reported at a surprisingly low price so we hopped on the discount train and rode it all the way to five star luxury.

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