Let me start by saying that Priceline is not the right “travel booking system” for everyone. Some people will find their system to be a lot of fun and a great way to save money. But others will shy away from it due to the lack of structure and increased risk. That being said, you definitely want to give Priceline a try so you can get a better idea of what it offers and whether or not it can work for you when planning future trips.
The first thing you need to know about Priceline is that you do not get to choose the hotel you are booking, or even its location. To go along with this, you have to be willing to book using your credit card and realize that this money is nonrefundable.
So why are so many people using Priceline to book their next hotel room? Simply put, it can help you save a lot of money. Sure, you have to take a chance but this can work in your favor from a financial standpoint.
To start, remember that Priceline wants you to bid your maximum the first time around so they can make money off of you. Of course, as a smart shopper you know that this is not the best move. Priceline tries to “force your hand” by setting bid limits and not allowing you to place more than one bid on the same location within 24 hours. Why do they do this? If they didn’t, you could essentially place a $1 bid and then slowly creep higher until you hit the right amount. While this would work for you, it would not make Priceline any money; and they are not going to agree to that.
Fortunately, there are a few tricks that allow you to use the Priceline system against itself. Most importantly, Priceline allows you to immediately rebid as long as you make a change to either the zone you want to stay in or the star-level of the hotel. Subsequently, this means that you can more or less place a number of bids one after the next instead of adhering to the 24 hour rule. Of course, it is not always easy to use this strategy. It works best in cities that have multiple zones, and several high quality offerings throughout.
For example, you could opt to place a $100 bid on a five star hotel in the downtown zone of Los Angeles. If you get rejected, you have two options. You can wait 24 hours to bump up your bid, or you can add the four star level at the same price. While this may not make sense, it allows you to expand your options while still having the chance at booking the five star room despite your previous failed attempt.
Another successful strategy is to add zones in which the “star quality” you are chasing does not exist. You can do this by checking all the areas around your target, and keeping an eye on the star levels that are offered. If no hotels are available in your star range, that level is highlighted grey. At this point, you can increase your bid by a few bucks in your first zone choice as well as the new zone. Since you are using a rebid your offer goes through, but Priceline only looks at your original target since no hotels in the second area meet your criteria.
By learning how the Priceline system works, and how you can use it to your advantage, there is no denying that you can save big money when booking your next hotel room.