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Jan 20

How to effectively bid for hotels on Priceline

Earlier this week I wrote about our mini-vacation planning to go out East for my birthday to spend sometime with family and friends where I talked about what are my criteria to either booking hotel room through a discount site or hotel directly.  In that post the math, benefits and other tangibles tipped the scaled to booking directly through a hotel’s website, in today’s post I’d like to talk about the other portion of the trip and this time booking through a discount site makes a lot more sense.

We will be staying in Hartford for the first night and so I did a Priceline search to see what was available — being from Hartford originally I know the area very well and my criteria is to stay directly in downtown (which has very little options available).  I was actually very surprised how expensive the listed prices are for the 4 hotels:

Posted Rates

Posted Rates

Typically rooms in Hartford should hover right around $100, with Marriott always on the more expensive side, but still I’d say the rates posted were about $100 too much.  I then decided to look at the option of “Express Deals” and while it had plenty of options none of them were useful as there were absolutely no hotels available in the area that I wanted:

Plenty of options, but none downtown

Plenty of options, but none downtown

So with no luck on the Express Deals I then decided to look at what will show up if I bid my own price on the stay.  Something that you should consider, and something that’s easily taken for granted in a small city like Hartford, is that Priceline typically — conveniently for them, not you — shifts the boundaries of the areas that they typically define.  On Bidding options I often time notice that the areas are much broader and typically may encopass areas that will actually be too far out or not what you’d consider “prime”.  Perfect example is this option for Hartford that I was shown:

Bid-price "Downtown" Hartford Area

Bid-price “Downtown” Hartford Area

What the Bid area includes is actually a major portion of East Hartford which has a large set of their own hotels motels so even though you’re bidding on what you think is Hartford Downtown you may actually end up in a completely different down with a non-refundable booking.  Thankfully, even if you’re not as familiar with an area you still have a few “tricks” that you can use to make sure you’ll end up somewhere where you expect.  Take note of Step 2 above where the star level of the hotel is listed, what it’s telling you is that there are 3.5, 3, 2.5, 2 and 1 star hotels available in Area 6.  If you hop back to the original search for Hartford downtown hotels and utilize the map view and search for 3+ star hotels you’ll get the following information:

Downtown availability of Hartford Hotels

Downtown availability of Hartford Hotels

what you’ll notice is that there are only 4 hotels total in that area and that there are three 3.5 star hotels directly in downtown area, all “lesser” star hotels are actually scattered in other parts, such as East Hartford, but they are included in the Area 6 of Bid your own price.  So as long as during bidding for the hotel you stay limited to 3.5 star selection in Area 6 you’re guaranteed to get a hit for a hotel directly downtown.

I ended up putting a bid of $70, which I thought was a reasonable price for a hotel to pay and I won!

Winning Bid

Winning Bid

I ended up pay $86.83 total with tax and fees, if I would have purchased at the listed price the room would have cost $125.23.  This was a great deal for about 5-10 minutes of due dillgence “investigative” work.  Now obviously the complexity of this goes up if you’re trying to book a city with dozens of areas and thouthands of hotels (like NYC) but for most modest size cities these are the tips & tricks that we utilize to get the best rate.

 

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