Wednesday, September 30, 2009

How to book hotels inexpensively

We book hotel rooms with Priceline on a weekly basis for my husband's business. We also use priceline for all of our family's personal travels. We have stayed in resorts that cost several hundred dollars per night for about $60, or at exclusive hotels along the California coast for a fraction of the price that we would have been given at the door. For vacations where we stay in the same place for several days, I like to get an extended stay hotel with a kitchen in the room, which cost about $25-$30 per night.

Whenever somebody asks how we get such great deals on hotel rooms, I recommend them priceline, but more often than not, they later tell me that they could not figure out how to do it right.

Priceline
has two different offers for hotel rooms: a) Pick a room at one of the hotels they offer and book it at their price. This is more expensive, and really no different from any other travel site. If we ever need to do this for some reason, we prefer travelocity.com OR b) Chose "Name your own price". You will not be told which hotel you are staying at, you simply chose the area you want, how many stars, and what you are willing to pay. Priceline then either accepts your offer and gives you the info on your hotel, or rejects your offer, in which case you have to change your search or wait until the next day to try again.

This concept does take some getting used to, but with as much as my husband travels, we know exactly what the best deals are where, and what the minimum price is that will get accepted. The star levels really do not say much about how nice the hotels are, as they are almost always major chains, just how many extras that particular hotel offers (e.g. room service, shuttle, etc.). For example, the Extended Stay America hotels are rated as 1-star, and they really are far from being the bottom-shelf, worst hotels out there.

So here is a step-by-step explanation.

1) Go to priceline.com, and click on "Name your own price". IMPORTANT: If you just go the "Hotels" tab, you are picking and booking a certain hotel at a certain price, which is not nearly as good of a deal.


2) This little window will pop up, where you enter the approximate vicinity of where you are staying and when. You can book rooms for the same night until 8 PM Pacific Time. For demonstration purposes, I am going to enter "Indian Wells, CA" where we stay frequently.


3) The next screen shows the various areas that are available in the particular city you are looking at. For Indian Wells, there are only 3 areas. Major cities such as Phoenix can have a dozen or more areas, so it's not like you will end up at a hotel across town even though you are not picking a particular hotel.


4) Here is a close-up shot of the same screen as above. You will notice that area 3 has a "Best deal" symbol by it, meaning that this area will offer you the nicest hotels for the lowest price. If this is an area you can stay in, it would be your best option to chose.

This is another close-up of the same screen, showing that the resorts are the best deal. So even without being able to chose a certain hotel, you now know that your best option will be to chose "Resorts" in area 3.

5) At the bottom of this same screen, you then enter your price and information. When you hit "enter", you need to confirm that you understand the offer is non-refundable and non-transferable. We also always opt-out of travel insurance. After that, priceline will tell you whether or not your offer was accepted.

In my example of Indian Wells, there are several different resorts that can be booked at $55-60 per night, even though per priceline the median retail price for resorts in that area is $199 (you can see that info in the box next to where you enter your price; see above image).

Resorts are great for families with lots of children because they usually offer huge rooms, sometimes even two-room suites, with 2 queen-size beds, a queen-size sleeper sofa, and playpens on request. Booking through priceline only guarantees one king-size bed, but hotels are almost always happy to substitute a room with two queen/double beds instead at no extra charge. As another rule of thumb, the nicer the hotel is, the nicer the staff will be, and they are not likely to complain about there being too many people in the same room.

That's it. Not nearly as complicated as it may seem. Please let me know if you tried this after reading about it here.

6 comments:

  1. What a great article! I used to use Priceline when I was single actually. You can save lots of money. I would imagine you cant get such deep cuts with flights though. I never did have much luck with that. Sure, I would get $40 or $50 savings many times on a flight costing $300, but havent experimented lately with Pricelines website. I wonder if they would be good for last minute flights?

    Anyways, I will try it again next time we need a hotel, so thanks!

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  2. Hi Mrs. Anderson, I was wondering if it was the same for plane tickets? Because I plan on taking my grandmother to Spain next summer, and I'm trying to find the cheapest tickets possible.

    Thank you so much and God bless,
    Stellar.

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  3. I appreciate your Priceline tutorial. I already knew about Priceline.com. For those who watch TV how can you not know about it after William Shatner's corny Negotiator commercials?! I tried it once before, years ago, but my bid was declined. I just tried it this morning with a couple of different dates and star levels for Oklahoma City. I guess my bids were too low and therefore declined.
    My family has had good results redeeming La Quinta Returns points for free nights, but we've had bad experiences at a few of their locations, such as a maid stealing my cell phone. We used to have good results getting deep discounts with Quest Savers Travel Club, which is now named Leisure Plus. Less and less hotels accept or honor that though. We still can get small discounts at certain chains with the Sam's Club Travel member codes. I recommend checking reviews on TravelAdvisor.com before reserving or going on a trip anywhere.

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  4. Thank you for posting this! I've always been curious about it but rather lacking in the courage department. You lay it out in a simple and concise manor that even I understand. ;D This is why I keep coming back, keep up the wonder work!

    Peace,
    Bunny

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  5. Thanks for the information! I was able to get a great deal on a room when we went to Dallas recently. I will also be using it again to get a room when we go to visit family in Kansas.

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