How To Get The Best Hotel Room Deals
Ryan and I were introduced to the “name your own price” section of Priceline several years ago and now we almost never stay in a hotel without going through Priceline. (I say “almost never” because I go to a few conferences each year and those are always at a specific hotel.)
So what exactly is Priceline?
Priceline is a travel website like Orbitz and Expedia where you can make reservations for hotels, rental cars, and flights. BUT, they have another fun aspect to it where you can name your own price instead of going with the prices shown! You can pick any price you want and they will check their system to see if a company (hotel/rental car company/airline) would be willing to go that low.
But there is a catch…
You can’t choose which hotel you stay in, which rental car company you use, or which airline you fly when you use the “name your own price” option. You pick the quality you want, or the size car you want, and then Priceline assigns you to a hotel or car rental company that meets your selection requirements.
We have scored some incredible deals by using the name your own price section of Priceline and I wanted to share some of my best tips & tricks for getting the absolute best deals on hotels by going through the steps that we take when we’re looking for a hotel room.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you ever use the “Express Deals” section of Priceline to book your hotel room, PLEASE double and triple check the price at every step of the checkout process. They are notorious for changing the price in the middle of checkout, and it can be easy to miss that they raised the price while you were checking out.
Head over to Priceline and click on the hotel section under the part that says “For Deeper Discounts – Name Your Own Price” (you’ll need to scroll down a little.)
Then enter the city that you want to stay in and the dates that you will be staying there.
I used Albuquerque, New Mexico as the example and this is what shows up on the Priceline site when I type in Albuquerque:
You can see all of the different areas around Albuquerque and the different star ratings available for the areas.
For this example I’m going to go through the steps like I want a hotel that’s at least 3 1/2 stars and I want to stay somewhere east or north of Albuquerque (that would be zones 2, 3, 5, 6, 8, 10, 11, and 12).
Now that I know where I want to stay and which star rating I want, I’m going to go to a different section of Priceline to see a general discounted price for hotels with that star rating.
I’m going to open up a new window in my browser and go to the Priceline homepage again. But this time I’m going to click on the button that says “Search Express Deals”.
(Have I lost you? I know it seems like a lot, but getting $150 or more hotels for only $45 per night is definitely worth it!)
Put in all of the same information that you put in the first time (the same city and same dates). This is the screen that should show up after you do that.
When the new page comes up, you’ll click on the box next to the icon that shows 3 1/2 stars. You’ll also click on the area that says “Locations” and click on the zones that you narrowed your areas down to in step 2. There will not be numbers next to the locations in this step, so you’ll just have to count out and click the right ones.
As you can see, there’s only one hotel in my zones that matches the 3 1/2 star rating and they have it reduced to $59 per night with an express deal (which means you can get it lower than that with the name your own price section!)
Go back to the Priceline Homepage again. This time you’re going to type in your city and dates of travel right into the main text box at the top of the Priceline page.
There’s a box at the top of the page that lets you choose star ratings, so for this example I will choose 3 1/2 stars again.
The zone locations in this section aren’t very accurate (they all say “Downtown Albuquerque – Airport”) so click on the button that says “Map View” at the top right of the page.
You should now be able to see on the map which hotel(s) are in the area of the city that you want to stay in.
For this example, it shows the Sheraton Uptown for $114/night and the Albuquerque Marriott for $179/night.
*Chances* are that you will be getting one of these two hotels when you actually bid on your room.
Step 5 (OPTIONAL):
One of the websites that I like to take a look at when I’m looking for hotel rooms on Priceline is BetterBidding.com. It’s set up like forum and you can click on the state that you will be staying in and then search for your city.
People get on this forum and let everyone know what price they paid for a certain star rating in cities across the country.
When I went to BetterBidding.com, went to the New Mexico section, and searched for “Albuquerque Uptown” there were 33 results that came up and the first 3 results were for 3.5 star hotels in Uptown Albuquerque.
Just in case you can’t read it from the picture, the information on the forum is:
- 3.5* Albuquerque (Uptown) Albuquerque Marriott – $55 on August 17, 2013
- 3.5* Albuquerque (Uptown) Albuquerque Marriott – $62 on Feb 16, 2013
- 3.5* Albuquerque (Uptown) Sheraton Uptown Albuquerque Hotel – $62 May 27, 2012
My best guess with my current information is that I would end up getting the Marriott (the one that’s listed at $179/night in the regular price section) for somewhere around $50 – $60.
At this point you might want to go to Google and read some of the reviews for these two hotels to make sure that you are okay with either one (since you have no guarantee on which one they will assign you to).
Now that you have a good idea of which hotel you will get and what your target price is, you can head back to that very first “Name Your Own Price” page (it should still be one of the tabs in your browser if you opened up a new window for step 2).
I am going to select zone 12 (Uptown) and 3 1/2 star.
My first bid is going to be $40 – $45. I know that someone got it for $55 recently, and I know that the Express Deals price for a 3 1/2 star in this area is $59.
Sometimes low-balling it works and they accept it right away and sometimes you have to work your way up with the bid price (which I will go over in the next step).
But it’s always better to start low if you can, right?
If they accept your bid then GREAT! You’re done and you will be automatically assigned to a specific hotel (hopefully one of the ones that you thought you would be assigned to based on your research above).
If William Shatner isn’t able to negotiate your bid price then you’ll go back to your original screen to rebid, BUT you’ll have to either add a different area to choose from or add a star level down.
Because I’ve done my research ahead of time, I know which areas do not have any 3.5 star hotels available. So, I can safely add in those areas one at a time and increase my bid price as I add each area.
Based on the Express Deals page, I know that Albuquerque East doesn’t have any 3.5 star hotels available. So I can add that area to my “Name Your Own Price” page and rebid.
I would raise it to $50 at this point but you can do smaller intervals (you can bid $46 or $47), just know that each time your bid is rejected you’ll have to add another area, and at some point you will run out of areas to add!
I continue with the same process of adding a new area without any 3.5 star hotels for each bid that gets rejected until one is finally accepted!
Once my bid is accepted I find out which hotel I am assigned to and I am automatically charged for the room.
I’d love to hear your Priceline experiences! Have you have good experiences? Bad experiences? What other sites do you use to find the best travel deals?
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*Affiliate Disclosure: If you decide to use Priceline then I would love it if you used the underlined links in this post to do so! We make a small percentage from them if you click on the links in the post and reserve a room/car/flight. 🙂 *
A warning about Priceline: don’t miss your flight.
I have a close friend who recently booked a flight on Priceline, and missed her plane. The airline wanted to re-book her on a later flight, either by changing her ticket, or putting her on standby, and couldn’t.
Priceline purchases tickets “in bulk” and “pays cash” regardless of what method of payment you use. As a result, the tickets are non-refundable, and you can’t go standby on another flight on most airlines. Priceline refused to help her, saying there was nothing they could do, and the airline was bound by the ticketing policy.
Surviving The Stores says
Ack! I haven’t used priceline for plane tickets yet so that is really good to know. Thanks!
I love priceline to book hotels and car rentals. I used the site several times and I have never being dissapointed. I got very good hotels and resorts for excelent prices. I use betterbidding.com for reference. I didn’t know about the other site. Thank you
I’ve been using priceline for over 9 years and love saving $. As for flights, I recently bought a ticket through priceline and was able to ‘confirm’ a seat for an earlier flight (the airlines stay far far away from calling it standby these days). It really depends on the customer service rep you get on the other line. I probably got lucky, but I also called twice before I was able to get the change made. I was told about the ‘buying in bulk and not being able to change’ deal, but somehow the 2nd rep I spoke didn’t question it. The rule is, be calm, ask for other options and be ready to pay some more if needed (Delta charges $50-$150 to confirm seats). I don’t book flights via priceline as much as I used to. I think you get better deals on hotels & car rentals.
I have also in the past been able to rescind bids as long as it was a legitimate error i.e., wrong location, wrong dates. I believe the unwritten rule is one cancellation per year, since I’ve done a couple cancellations. They charge a cancelation fee, but if you rebook within 7 days, you get refunded a portion of it.
I use and post on betterbidding.com and tripadvisor.
The best advice I can give on Priceline is to learn the art of “free
bids” which present the opportunity for placing a number of bids in a
short period of time -vs- the normal protocol. The
Bidding For Travel site does a great job explaining this and
providing feedback on success stories.
Adrian Fettke says
I need a rock bottom deal on a hotel next month and I´m diving in. 😉 Thanks for posting!
Kristi Simmons says
Great article! I do the SAME exact thing you do! We rarely use any other site for hotels. I have never been disappointed. We went to Florida last year and got a Springhill Suites for $40 a night.
Kristi Simmons….how did you get suites? Please help! 🙂
Kristi Simmons says
one other thing I like is it is paid for so they don´t tie up my money with a huge hold (they usually just hold $20 dollars and sometimes nothing) since we don´t have credit cards and use a debit card to pay for incidentals.
Laury Worcester says
Thank you…we dont
Laury Worcester says
don´t travel much but I will definitely consider trying this next tiem we do:0
Jaime Stensrud Condie says
Wow. That is awesome. Thank you!
Kathye Carter Shuman says
Well, I thought I was good at getting priceline deals, but you have given me even more info. Thanks! One thing I have discovered about priceline is that the best deals are to be had 7-8 days before you want to travel, or after 3 pm on the day that you want the hotel. I once sat in the parking lot of a hotel using similar research techniques and pricelined a $159 room for $59, then went in and claimed it. I had just called the hotel and the best price the desk clerk could give me was $145.
I have been using Priceline for years. They are the cheapest out of all of the others like Expedia…etc.
I recently missed a layover flight by waiting at the wrong gate. I know! SMH. Anyway, they definitely issued me a ticket at no charge for another flight. It was so scary, but for them, it was no problem!
I love priceline and have gotten some very good deals over the years. To get an idea of what other people have won (or lost) bids on, I go to biddingfortravel.com This site is a place where priceline bidders list where and how much they got their hotel for. This site helps to see what the going rates for bids are first. I do it with car rentals too.
Also bid for the highest star first at a low ball bid so you can work your way down if need be.
I also rely on tripadvisor.com for real people hotel references and critiques by travelers and guests of the property
Kristina Hartley Webb says
Wish I would have seen this before booking my hotel in HI. 😉
Dana White Holman says
Jenny Marble Wendi Barrett this is really good information for you girls learning to get the travel deals.
Inge von Roos says
I have found rooms with 2 1/2 stars are good. I also check hotwire. Sometimes they have a better deal.
[email protected] says
Umm…this is incredible! Thank you so much for a very thorough tutorial! Awesome!!
Rachel @ Surviving The Stores says
You’re welcome Shan! So glad it was helpful!
I tried going for the ExpressDeal, but at the moment to accept it said “the room accomodates up to 2 adults”, and “the hotel MAYBE an affiliate of the hotel in the list and any filtering search may not coincide..blah blah” And I got scared. Because, we are 6 and I followed your tips and after going back over adn over to be told that it may not be the hotel you were “guessing” in your steps was a huge risk. Did Priceline figure the trick?
I’ve stayed at Holiday Inn and Suites before through sites like Priceline and Booking.com and have received points toward my stay. I just play dumb and assume I will receive ether and have had no trouble getting them….I should get them! I’m staying there , aren’t I?? I wouldn’t take the first no for an answer if they deny you points…just stay nice. They want your future business.
Another thing that I do frequently is when my bid is not accepted I just delete my history and cookies and then I’m able to start over without having to add areas!
One of the problems with Priceline that you need to be aware of is that there is only a guarantee that the room will sleep 2. We have booked rooms knowing the room needs to sleep 4. After we find out which hotel is negotiated, we call the hotel and ask how many the room will accommodate. If it only sleeps 2, Priceline allows you to book another room at the same price. As well, if you have a problem with the room, you have to deal with Priceline and not hotel management–this has proved to be a problem for us in the past.