|My Priceline Name Your Own Price wins from 2012|
1. You Save Money
This is an obvious one, but the blind bidding sites save a lot of money. I usually start by looking up the current rates for 4 and 5 star hotels in the city I am visiting, and start bidding at 50% off those rates. I aim to pay between $40 - $70 a night for a 4 or 5 star hotel. My rule is never more than $70 a night. Hotwire Hot Rates are about 20% more than Priceline's Name Your Own Price, so I also usually look at Hotwire first to give me an idea of how low hotels are going, but then book via Priceline.
|The AAA 4 Diamond Hilton Skirvin, one of the best hotels I have ever stayed in, and I paid $55|
This may sound like the opposite of what you would think, but its true. Hotels will place guests in the room they paid for, full-price paying guests first. Rooms with double beds, which is what Priceline guarentees, are the fewest available at a hotel and most often room type book by families on weekends. Thus, I very rarely get stuck in the room with two double beds, and always get upgraded to the queen or king rooms. The Priceline guests get "stuck" in whatever rooms are left after all the full-price customers are allocated rooms...usually this means we get upgraded. We have stayed in a few suites (i.e. the Junior Suite at the Westin in Minneapolis, which we paid $40 for, and online was going for $300 the weekend we stayed) and almost never actually in the double room Priceline says we will get.
3. You Can Book Very Last Minute
By last minute I mean the day before or day of your trip. I often watch prices well-ahead of the trip, but do not book until right before we are set to leave. This nets the lowest price, as this is the time when hotels really dump a lot of rooms on the blind bidding sites. Now I do check prices weeks in advance, as prices may be very high and never go down; for example, if there is a major convention or other event in the area, its unlikely you will get a steal of a deal on Priceline's Name Your Own Price. The blind bidding sites rely on low demand for hotels, and over supply. This is why the price gets better the closer to the date, as hotels begin to realize they will not fill the rooms. The less time between booking and your stay, the better the price you will likely win.
|I booked this 3 star Ramada (Springfield does not have 4 or 5 star hotels) in my car while driving home from Texas. I used my iPhone to book it 4 hours before I arrived.|
I really love driving down the interstate and seeing the advertisements for the Super 8, Holiday Inn Express or some other low end hotels for $50, $60, $70 a night knowing I paid less than that for the Westin (our most often won hotel brand). I find it completely crazy that people pay those prices...and always wonder what they would think knowing I paid less, and I am staying at a 4 star hotel. My experience (say at the Westin) will be far superior than those at the Super 8, and to top it off I spent less money.
|Another AAA 4 Diamond Hotel and an "expensive" brand for $50|
Some people may be a bit more leery of not knowing your hotel or being able to choose every little feature of your trip, but the more I travel the more I realize that all hotels (at the 4 or 5 start level anyway) are 90% the same. It is a bit exciting to go through the bidding process, not knowing what hotel you will get, and to finally win the deal that saves a ton of money. In the end the Westin versus the Intercontinental isn't that big of a difference, its not like you are asking for the Ritz Carlton and getting stuck camping at a state park...I like the excitement of not knowing where I will stay, but am sensible enough to know that either way its a 4 or 5 star hotel and will be a decent stay regardless of what I win. Its like gambling for travel enthusiasts!