Walkthrough: Getting Great Deals on Priceline

After doing my own research on this topic and landing some GREAT deals on well-reviewed hotels, I decided to give you guys a How-To guide for bidding on Priceline.

First and foremost, understand that the “Name Your Own Price” portion of Priceline is tricky in that you aren’t bidding on a SPECIFIC hotel. You are bidding on a zone that may include several hotels with whom Priceline has an agreement. Using the steps from this walkthrough, you’ll have a good idea of what hotel you’ll be getting should your bid be accepted.

Now… bookmark these sites:

  • Big Crumbs (BC)
    • Register an account here. It will give you 2.4% – 5.6% cashback
  • Priceline (PL)
    • You have to have an account here to bid.
  • BetterBidding (BB)
    • No need to register. This is purely for research.
  • Bidding Traveler (BT)
    • Another site just for research.

Ok, so open those 4 sites in multiple tabs.

Let’s go through a dummy booking. You always start out at Big Crumbs, sign into your account, and click through to Priceline. This will initiate a tracking cookie to track your cashback.

Once on PL, go to the “Name Your Own Price” section. Enter Maui (pick any city it shows) and some days to check in/out for this example. We will try to get a “Resort” on Maui.

On the screen that shows the zones and the mini-map, click each zone individually and note which zones have what you want (Resort). Ka’anapali-Lahaina & Wailea-Makena zones both have Resorts. Now write down which zones do NOT have Resorts – Kahului & Kihei. These are your REBID zones.

Example of a REBID zone

Now switch to your BetterBidding tab and go to the Priceline Hotel List – Hawaii sub-forum. Here, you’ll find all the different PL zones, the hotels in them, and their star ratings. Make sure you are ok with ALL the hotels in a given zone and star category. Do your research and read reviews. If you are uncomfortable with one hotel in a zone, do not bid on the zone because you could very well end up at that place.

So I decided that I want to stay at Resort Wailea Marriott in the Wailea-Makena zone. It is the only reported Resort in that zone so you have a 99.9% chance of getting that. To supplement the research, search for the same stuff on Bidding Traveler. Using both BB & BT, research what the winning bids for the Wailea Marriott have been. Once you have a general idea, you can start your bidding. Remember, you have 2 rebidding zones that do not have Resorts listed. If your first bid does not get accepted, add a rebid zone and raise your bid by a few dollars. Don’t worry; you’re still only bidding in your main zone. There is ZERO chance that you will get a lesser hotel in another zone if you did your rebid research properly.

If you run out of rebid zones, then you are done for 48 hours, I believe. Do more research on what the winning bids for that zone have been, what hotels they were, and the maximum you are willing to pay. Don’t try to lowball by a great deal on PL, it’s just a waste of bids. In the above example, BT says the average winning bid for the Wailea Marriott is $126 per weekend night. With 2 rebid zones, Bid 1 = $100, Bid 2 = $107, Bid 3 = $115 (providing I wasn’t in a time crunch and could just start over in 48 hours).

BT search that shows the average winning bid

Generally, if you’re using Priceline, you want to stick to 3-star hotels and higher because you won’t save TOO much going for the lower end hotels.

The MOST IMPORTANT part of this whole process is learning the “rebidding zones”. This means that if you want a 4-star hotel, your rebidding zones are the hotels that DO NOT HAVE a 4-star option available. By rule of PL, you are allowed to bid on your zone again as long as you change part of your booking (i.e. date, # of nights, or adding zones).

A few caveats about Priceline stays:

  • They are fully pre-paid, not flexible, and non-refundable.
  • You won’t earn any hotels points on them, but if you’re like me, you don’t stay in hotels enough to bother with hotel programs.
  • The charge on your CC bill will be categorized as Travel – Airlines, which is actually great for those you get bonus points on airline purchases (Amex PR Gold).

To wrap it up, use BetterBidding and Bidding Traveler for research to tell you what hotels are in what zone, what category PL rates them as, and the up-to-date winning bids for these hotels. Sorry for the uber-long post, but this is meant as a handholding walkthrough for the straight up NOOB. As I’ve figured out, if you do this process once, it will be second nature if you ever have to do it again.  Just check out my scores because of this whole write-up – http://www.biddingtraveler.com/users/infamousdx. Any questions just ask!

P.S. If you found this walkthrough helpful, please feel free to start your bidding through my referral link. No worries if you’d rather not!