Monday, May 19, 2008

Saving on Hotels - Priceline

Yesterday, I talked about how styles can determine what kind of lodging accommodations you may choose. For me, it boils down to the fact that I want a nice hotel room, but I don't want to pay the price (and neither does Michael, who is fine with a simple motel). We've figured out how to make us both happy: Priceline.

When we are planning a trip, Michael will find the nearest Motel 6 and tell me the rate. If he's afraid hotels in the area may fill quickly, he will reserve a room (just in case) that can be cancelled without a penalty. Then, I begin my work on Priceline.

When using Priceline for hotels, I always look at the options that are available in the different geographic areas they offer before bidding. Especially in major cities, almost all of the downtown properties charge $10+ per night for parking. So, if it works with our itinerary, I’ll pick a suburban or airport property and drive a few extra miles in order to get free hotel parking. Saving on parking helps our travel budget. Even with the very high price of gas now, a few extra miles of gas isn't going to make paying for city parking a better deal.

Also, I try to bid on 2.5 star hotels instead of 3 or 4 stars hotels. I like to stay in the nicest places possible for the lowest price possible. However, if you get a full-service/luxury hotel (3+ stars), you usually don’t get free breakfast like at the 2.5 star hotels, which we've still found to be very nice accommodations. The 2.5 star hotels are often extended-stay properties, which means they usually have bigger rooms and include a microwave, refrigerator, and sometimes even a range and/or oven.

Having free breakfast, a microwave, and a refrigerator helps cut down on dining-out costs. We can bring leftovers back to the hotel from restaurants that usually serve large portions to eat for lunch or dinner the next day.

Once I decide on the area and star level on which I want to bid, I will take the Motel 6 rate that Michael found and cut it in half. That's my first bid on Priceline. It's normally a ridiculously low price that isn't accepted for a 2.5 or 3 star hotel. If we don't get a room with that bid, I'll keep increasing the amount by $5/night until I reach the price of the Motel 6. If we think we'll get breakfast with the Priceline room, sometimes we'll bid up to $10/night more than Motel 6 (a 1 star motel). We've stayed at Marriott, Residence Inn, Crowne Plaza, and Holiday Inn for less than or about equal to a Motel 6. That makes us both happy!

Don't forget that when you bid on Priceline that if they accept a rate, you've bought that room -- no cancellations or changes. Be certain before you bid.

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Kate said...

You make a good point about 3 & 4 star hotels. We stayed in one really nice hotel and their "continental breakfast" was three bananas, a couple cups of yogurt and some cereal, I think. We got the idea that they're used to people who don't care about paying $12 for a fruit cup.

Robert said...

Too have saved money at Priceline & got it's travel packages in just $325.