Tips / hints for using Priceline.
July 8, 2006 10:31 PM   Subscribe

Experiences or tips for using Priceline.com

My wife and I are going to take the family on a trip to San Deigo next month.. As expected, San Deigo is SUPER expensive in August so we decided to give Priceline a shot. For years I have avoided Priceline.. it seemed confusing..

Should we use Priceline?

Does anyone have tips or experiences on using Priceline?

Is there anything else out there like Priceline?

thanks!
posted by cowmix to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
I've used Priceline with some success. A similar site is Hotwire.com, where they give you the prices but don't give you details (like time of day or airline). I got a great airfare from there last month. The name for services like these is "opaque travel" (Cf. "transparent travel" sites like Expedia)

Here's a random article I found awhile back that was somewhat helpful, with good tips to keep in mind.

This site also claims to have "secrets" to doing well on PL.

Finally, BetterBidding.com appears to be a frequently-mentioned resource for opaque travelers.

The main thing to remember is that with the discounts come uncertainty. The more flexible you can be, the more likely Priceline/Hotwire is for you. There are generally NO refunds and no changing your mind with these services. But if you don't, say, HAVE to be there by ? PM or anything too specific, you stand to save a lot of money.
posted by SuperNova at 10:49 PM on July 8, 2006


I've used the info on the biddingfortravel.com forums (both their bidding FAQ, and intel from other posters) to get good deals on 4 star hotels in Portland.
posted by Good Brain at 11:22 PM on July 8, 2006


My fiance has used it twice for booking hotels for us in Palm Springs, CA. The first time it worked out well, where we got a nice 3 star hotel for a decent price. The next time it didn't work out too well: the hotel was actually closing the day after we stayed there (e.g. the night we were staying was the last night the hotel was going to be open), and the hotel itself got overall really bad reviews. We've basically decided not to use the site anymore because of the upredicability.
posted by escher at 12:04 AM on July 9, 2006


I believe BetterBidding.com was started by people who thought the administrator of biddingfortravel.com was too rude or obtuse or something, but last time I checked there was still more info at the latter.
posted by grouse at 3:30 AM on July 9, 2006


For flights, if you don't care what time of day you leave, Priceline is amazing. It's very staraightforward and it's great that you only pay what you think it's worth. This is probably the third time I've mentioned it here, bu I once flew roundtrip Boston to Helsinki for 300 bucks.
posted by Mayor Curley at 5:43 AM on July 9, 2006


Family travel may be problematic at Priceline. It seems they do not let you select the type of room (number of beds), but Hotwire does. Here's a brief discussion from the BetterBidding forum. (Disclaimer: I have used neither, just been tempted.)
posted by Snerd at 6:22 AM on July 9, 2006


I've used Priceline for rental cars and plane tickets using BiddingforTravel as a loose guide to see what I could expect. I'm not sure if you are looking for plane tickets or hotel rooms and I have no experience with the latter, so here's what I have to say about Priceline.

1. You have to not care at all what time you travel. So, if you have a Friday - Wednesday trip, you have to be ready to leave either at 7 am Friday or 11 pm Friday, with the same leeway on the other end. This can sometimes play hell with work schedules or making hotel reservations.
2. I've found the savings to not be totally insane, generally. When I've looked at what people were getting on BiddingforTravel, I could usually get close with Kayak.com and then turn down truly awful flight times and connections.
3. You often wind up going through major hubs. This is great if they are on your way, less great if they're not.
4. For whatever reason I've found Priceline works best for last minute stuff, which is usually not what you want for a family vacation.
5. I got what I thought were super cheap car rentals through them with almost no hassle at all. In fact, I dont' know if this was Priceline or not, but I also didn't get all the annoying insurance upsell when I went to pick up my car when I'd paid for it via Priceline.
posted by jessamyn at 7:33 AM on July 9, 2006


Priceline is often extremely cheap for hotels. I've never purchased airfare or car rental through them, but I highly recommend them for hotels.

Check on Expedia/Orbitz/etc. to get an idea of what the "real" prices are, and bid with that in mind. Always bid first on ONLY the highest possible star level that you would be interested in, and on ONLY the most ideal location. If that bid gets rejected, you can then include a lower star level or further away location in your next bid. This is so you can maximize the number of bids you can attempt; priceline lets you immediately bid again if you change your bid to include different criteria, otherwise, you must wait 3 days before you can place a bid again.
posted by gatorae at 7:39 AM on July 9, 2006


has Priceline broadened their services? because I was looking for hotel+airfare deals to europe and they gave specific prices, flight details, hotel specs and choices of room type....


I remember I used hotwire and/or priceline back in the late 90's for a rental car and I do remember the deal being real vague as in my bid price was accepted and a vehicle would be waiting for me on that date, but they couldn't specify what until the deal was paid for and unchangeable....So I understand how that works----

but I thought Priceline must have changed because the specificity and cut and dried prices I see now----am I wrong on thnking the prices on the deal I saw are not as specific as I believed??
posted by stavx at 8:03 AM on July 9, 2006


I should say that I have successfully and happily used Priceline with Biddingfortravel several times, and recommend it. BUT be sure to read all the FAQs, know exactly what you're getting and don't expect more.
posted by grouse at 8:35 AM on July 9, 2006


I used Priceline to get a hotel in NYC last year and got an amazing deal. (Waldorf-Astoria for $120/night, heck yes!) I used Biddingfortravel.com and saw what kind of deals people were getting, and used that as a guideline. I'd definitely recommend using it for hotels - heck, in my mind, a 4 star hotel in NYC is a 4 star hotel in NYC! I wouldn't use it for plane tickets, only because I am leery about not knowing what time I am leaving until I've already paid for the ticket.

One important thing to note: you do not get hotel points (ie Hilton HHonors, etc.) for stays you've booked via Priceline.
posted by SisterHavana at 9:26 AM on July 9, 2006


I used Priceline to fly Indy to NYC in 2000 for like $125 round trip. The first leg was a turbo prop (wish I had taken 2 dramamine. I spent the flight wondering if I was going to get sick). Both of the layovers were of the "get off the plane and walk to the next plane and get right on" type. I didn't care about departure and arrival times, and that's why it worked out so well.

I just got a hotel room in a smallish Iowa city that "lists" for $75 on Expedia/Travelocity for $35 a night.
posted by jeversol at 10:02 AM on July 9, 2006


I've had good experiences with hotwire, except for the time I picked a hotel "near" O'hare that was a $50 cab ride away, and created numerous transit headaches.
posted by mecran01 at 11:04 AM on July 9, 2006


I've also found Bidding for Travel helpful. As grouse said, you MUST read all the faqs. Also, check their lists of hotels and prices that other people have booked; it'll keep you from bidding too high.
posted by wryly at 11:45 AM on July 9, 2006


I used priceline for a weekend trip and it sucked. I got in at 11 p.m. Friday night and took off at 7 a.m. Sunday morning -- essentially only got one full day there.

For just $50 more, I could've arrived midday Friday and left midday Sunday -- gotten an extra 24 hours out of my visit.

I think I'd use priceline again if I was going to save hundreds of dollars and I was going on a long enough vacation that losing a day wouldn't matter. But for weekend trips or small savings, it's not worth it.
posted by croutonsupafreak at 1:36 PM on July 9, 2006


My wife uses Priceline a lot, with great success. When booking a hotel, she just specifies a four-star hotel and a price, figuring you can't go wrong with a four-star. (There's my tip: Specify the number of stars.) We spent a Friday night this month in the at the Hilton in Long Beach, Calif. She got the room for less than a hundred bucks; it was a huge room on the top floor, with a great view.
posted by diddlegnome at 7:48 PM on July 9, 2006


I used Priceline for a hotel only stay. We got a great deal - I got a 4 star hotel for $50 for the night - but I would be careful using it for a family vacation if specific location of the hotel is important to you. I don't know much about hotels in the area to which you're traveling, but I'm betting that there are a lot of hotels - and since you can't pick the exact one to bid on (or at least when I used it you could only bid on the class or star rating of the hotel) you may end up frustrated if your hotel is too far from the sights you want to see, etc...

I agree to stick with the 4 star hotels - scout the locations first to make sure that any of them would be okay - and then bid low and hope for a bargain!
posted by KAS at 8:03 AM on July 10, 2006


This is my second post on AskMe about Priceline today - I swear I'm just a fan!

For the past year or two, Priceline has had a 'vacation packages' section that lets you choose exact flights and hotels. I've used Priceline when I need hotels (it's all about the star ratings) and rental cars (unless you're part of a loyalty program, does the rental brand really matter?), and for complete vacations, but never for flights that weren't part of a package, as I'm not willing to risk getting stuck with inconvenient flights. For vacations, they'll show you the cheapest flights by default, but you can them sort by your criteria and pick and choose the flights you want.
posted by hsoltz at 8:16 AM on July 10, 2006


Here's a very explicit description of how to use Bidding For Travel in conjunction with Priceline; might be useful if you are not very familiar with these services.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:48 PM on July 10, 2006


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