Tag Archives: priceline

Books, Tack on Rules, and the Bidding Traveler

Today you’re going to get a little of bit of everything.  The last couple of days I’ve read some really great blog posts and found a web site that I think will be very useful to people looking for inexpensive hotels.

I read a number of blogs every day.  I think of them as my morning newspaper.  Nearly all of them are focused on travel and financial related topics.  One of these blogs, Money and Map, had a great article about how your child can get a book for free this summer at Barnes and Noble.  The post explains exactly how to participate in the promotion.  Essentially the kids need to read 8 books and then they get to pick one book for free from a list of books at Barnes and Noble.  I suggest checking out the other posts on her site as well.  She has great information about taxes, family travel and other financial topics.

Another blog that I love is One Mile at a Time.  This blog is very well known in the travel hacking community for good reason – he knows a ton about the game and knows how to explain it so everyone can understand.  I’ve also found him to be one of the definitive sources for information on the American Airlines frequent flyer program.  And a post this week shows just how well he understands the program.  He wrote about the rules for the North American gateway city stopovers.

Finally, I’m trying to plan a weekend getaway for my husband and 2 friends.  I was searching the various options for booking a hotel room such as using points and Priceline.  While researching the Priceline option, I came across a web site called The Bidding Traveler.  You may recall that a long time ago I wrote bidding strategies for bidding for hotels on Priceline where I talk about how you can get extra bids each day by including other zones that don’t have hotels in the category that you want.  It is a very effective yet manual process.  Well, The Bidding Traveler web site seems to make the process a whole lot easier.  You give the web site the minimum and maximum you’re willing to pay and they execute the bids using the permutations I talked about on the bidding strategies post.  You can read more about the site on this FlyerTalk thread.  I haven’t used the site yet, but I expect to once I know exactly which city they want to go to.

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Hawaii Review – Sheraton Waikiki

Our family took our first trip to Hawaii this past February.  It was an absolutely amazing vacation.  We cannot wait to go back.  I talked about the basics of the trip in a previous post.  I’ll cover the details of the trip in a series of posts.

Our trip started in Oahu.  We got in late Saturday night and we left on a Monday morning flight to Maui.  We stayed at the Sheraton Waikiki.  Our stay at the Sheraton was great.  However, there were some issues leading up to the trip.  I booked our stay at the Sheraton Waikiki using Priceline Name Your Own Price in May (9 months ahead of our trip).  I called a few weeks before the trip to make sure they had the reservation.  Two days before our trip, I received an email from Priceline stating that the hotel was overbooked.  It said they were going to move us to the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani.  They would give us an ocean view room, free breakfast for 2 one day, and access to the Sheraton Waikiki pools.  Priceline also gave me a $50 coupon to be used on a future booking.  None of that was acceptable to me.  While the Sheraton Princess Kaiulani is nice, it is not the same quality as the Sheraton Waikiki (which is located right on Waikiki Beach).  I was less than happy to put it mildly.

I called Priceline’s customer service line to complain and tell them that this was not acceptable.  They just kept saying that I could either cancel my reservation for a refund or accept what was offered to me.  Canceling wasn’t an option since we were traveling sure winter break and almost no other rooms were available at any hotel in Waikiki.  I spent 45 minutes saying that those options weren’t acceptable only to have the representative say that’s all they could do (and they said it was the hotel’s fault).  So I decided to try Starwood’s customer service.  They told me that they sell blocks of rooms to Priceline so this issue was Priceline’s fault.

I was about to give up when I decided to try calling the hotel directly.  I told them about the email that I received.  The hotel representative said she wasn’t aware that they were re-booking people at the Princess Kaiulani.  She asked if she could look into it and call me back.  I said yes, not thinking that they would actually call me back.  But they did.  They told me that there was a glitch in the system that allowed them to overbook the hotel.  So they contacted Priceline so they could let people know about the situation before they arrived.  She told me again about what they were offering.  I told her that wasn’t what I wanted and I didn’t think it was fair that I should be moved considering I booked this room 9 months in advance and they obviously weren’t overbooked then.  She said that luckily they had some cancellations that day and they would still be able to accommodate me.

I talked to my sister who used to work at a hotel about what happened.  She said that this happens a lot with hotels; she said that hotels overbook rooms just like airlines overbook flights.  And the hotels will try to move the people who paid the least for their rooms to a sister hotel.  So the moral of that story is to call the hotel directly if it happens to you.  Make sure you resolve it before the trip if you can or before accepting the room if it happens when you arrive.

With all that unpleasantness before arriving at the hotel, we were skeptical that we would have a good time when we actually got there.  But we were so happy that we were wrong.  The hotel was amazing.  It was literally right on Waikiki Beach.  You walked down some stairs from the hotel to the beach.  The hotel had an infinity pool for adults.  And they had a pool that had a water slide for the kids.  I think our kids would have been happy to spend the entire day at the pool.  Heck, I even loved the water slide.  I would definitely recommend this hotel to friends.  The location was amazing and the staff was great.

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Priceline Discount

I’m keeping it short and sweet today.  I have a Priceline discount.  The email says it expires on June 17, 2011.  But the web site says it expires on December 31, 2011.  So I’m not sure which one it is.  It is for Name Your Own Price hotel stays (3, 3.5, or 4 star) $10 off/night up to $50.  (They add $10/night to your bid.  If you are bidding for more than 5 days, they prorate the dollar amount down so it’s for $50 total.)  I won’t be using the discount.  The first person to email me at travelsavvyfamily@gmail.com telling me that they want it, gets it.

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Priceline Hotel Bidding Strategy

I rarely book a hotel through traditional sites.  I have had great success with Priceline.  I use the sites that I described in yesterday’s post to help me figure out where to start my bidding.  Priceline allows you to name your own price for a hotel stay.  You enter the star level of hotel you want and the area.  You are told the hotel you won after the bid is accepted.  If your bid is not accepted, you either need to wait a day to bid again, or you need to change either the level of hotel you’re looking for or the location.  However, if you implement the following bidding strategy, you can essentially perform the same search multiple times in one day.

Here’s how it works.  Let’s say you want to take a trip to San Francisco and stay at a 4-star hotel in Nob Hill.  The first thing you do is go to the Name Your Own Price section of site.  Enter in San Francisco, CA as your location and the dates you want to travel.  After that you’ll be taken to a page that shows a map of San Francisco with all the different areas.  The first thing you need to do is figure out which level of hotels exist in each section.  Here’s what is was when I searched:

  1. Civic Center South – 1, 2, 2 1/2, 3
  2. Financial District – 2, 2 1/2, 3, 3 1/2, 4
  3. Fisherman’s Wharf – 2, 2 1/2, 3, 3 1/2
  4. Japan Town – 1, 2, 2 1/2, 3
  5. Marina – 1, 2
  6. SFO North - 1, 2, 2 1/2, 3
  7. SFO International Airport - 1, 2, 2 1/2, 3, 3 1/2, 4
  8. SOMA - 1, 2, 2 1/2, 3, 3 1/2, 4
  9. San Mateo - 1, 2, 2 1/2, 3, 3 1/2, 4
  10. South San Francisco - 1, 2, 2 1/2, 3
  11. Union Square East - 1, 2, 2 1/2, 3, 3 1/2, 4
  12. Union Square West – Nob Hill - 1, 2, 2 1/2, 3, 3 1/2, 4

Notice that many of the areas do not have 4-star hotels (Civic Center South, Fisherman’s Wharf, Japan Town, Marina, SFO North, South San Francisco).  These are the areas that we’re going to use to get us free rebids.  Since they don’t have any of the star level we want, we can add them in to our search when our bid isn’t accepted, and that will allow us to rebid.  And we know there’s no way we could end up with a hotel in that area because they don’t have any 4-star hotels.

Priceline requires that you change the combination that you’re searching every time you rebid.  So here’s what you would do (until you get a win):

  • Bid 1 – bid on your preferred location of Nob Hill
  • Bid 2 – up your bid and search on Nob Hill and Civic Center South
  • Bid 3 – up your bid and search on Nob Hill and Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Bid 4 – up your bid and search on Nob Hill and Japan Town
  • Bid 5 – up your bid and search on Nob Hill and Marina
  • Bid 6 – up your bid and search on Nob Hill and SFO North
  • Bid 7 – up your bid and search on Nob Hill and South San Francisco

Now we’ve exhausted all the first combinations.  If you still haven’t received a winning bid, continue on including 2 locations.

  • Bid 8 – up your bid and search on Nob Hill, Civic Center South, and Fisherman’s Wharf
  • Bid 9 – up your bid and search on Nob Hill, Civic Center South, and Japan Town
  • Bid 10 – up your bid and search on Nob Hill, Civic Center South, and Marina

I think you get the idea.  You just keep adding in locations and changing the combinations of locations until you get a winning bid.  If you don’t win the first day, wait 24 hours, and try the strategy again.

Here’s a good site that talks about the strategy in more detail: http://www.squidoo.com/PricelineAssistant.

Up tomorrow: My favorite non-travel deal sites

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Priceline, Hotwire, and Last Minute Travel

I understand that many people will not want to play the credit card game.  Also it’s hard to cover all travel expenses through credit card sign up bonuses.  So I want to talk about some of the other ways that I save money when booking travel.

First, I almost never book hotels or rental cars through the main travel sites.  I generally use Priceline, Hotwire or Last Minute Travel.  Priceline allows you to name your own price, while Hotwire and Last Minute Travel give you discounted prices, but you don’t know the company you’re booking with until after you book.  Both of those methods may have people nervous – 1) because you don’t know which company you’re going to end up with 2) with Priceline, you may not know where to start bidding.

Luckily, there are ways around these concerns.  There are forum sites where people post winning Priceline bids and Hotwire bookings.  They also have information about which hotels participate in the programs.  They do not have Last Minute Travel information, but you can use similar techniques to Hotwire on Last Minute Travel.  My 2 favorite forum sites are Better Bidding and Bidding for Travel.

Rental cars are really straight forward.  I really just use the sites to know where to start bidding.

For hotels, each of the forum sites gives you a list of hotels that participate in the Priceline and Hotwire programs by level of hotel.  The Hotwire list gives you a list of amenities to help you figure out which hotel you might get.  Better Bidding also has a feature I love.  It’s the Priceline and Hotwire Calendar of Wins.  It allows you to easily search winning bids for a given time period for a location.  It’s a great feature to help you gauge what you should bid since hotel prices vary based on the time of year.

In tomorrow’s post, I’ll cover bidding strategies so you don’t have to wait a day between bids if your first bid is not accepted.

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