Can internet sites Hotwire and Priceline offer savings over other ways of reserving hotel rooms? Many people have been intrigued by these auction-like websites, which keep the hotel’s name a secret until the purchaser bids and wins. People wonder: have the winning bidders just bought a night’s stay at some dirty, run-down place that will sour their mood while on vacation? The answer to such questions is—it depends.
Hotwire and Priceline have some similarities in the way they operate. Rooms ordered through these services are paid for in advance and are non-refundable. Before placing a bid, the would-be buyer chooses the date, number of rooms needed, the section of the city that is desired, and the quality level of the hotel. Even if a person never bids using these sites , the sites provide valuable information by illustrating the price differences between different sections of a town or region.
Selecting the appropriate quality level can be a challenge. The lowest level is one star, the second to highest, five stars. Resorts are at the top of the scale. As a person looks at different towns and areas on these websites, they will see that some areas have nothing higher than two stars. Clark Howard, the consumer advocate who is also a confirmed bargain hunter, refuses to bid on anything rated less than three stars. Hotwire or Priceline, in turn, promises to provide Mr. Howard at least a 3-star-quality room, and may give him a 4 or 5 star room depending on the rooms that are available.
if there is a chance you will have to cancel your stay
if you want to stay at a certain hotel
if you must have a smoke-free room
if you travel with pets
if you don’t like surprises
Hotwire is easier to use than Priceline because the buyer does not have to decide on an amount to bid. Prices for rooms are already listed. A person who wants two beds in a room can reserve a room for three people. In some towns Hotwire lists hotels where all rooms are for non-smokers; by using that category a person can be assured of getting a smoke-free room.
For the more adventurous traveler, Priceline offers bigger bargains than Hotwire. Priceline has two sections: a regular travel service that works like Orbitz or Travelocity, and the famous “name your own price” section. The big savings are found in the “name your price” area. Priceline promises winning bidders a room suitable for two people on a specified day, in a certain section of a city, of at least a minimal star level—and nothing more. If a person wins a bid on Priceline but wants a smoke-free room, two beds, a refrigerator, or any other special feature, the best move is to call the hotel directly as soon as possible and ask a favor. Usually the hotel will select a room that satisfies the buyer’s requests. Most hotels are quite willing to accommodate their guests special requests, but under the Priceline rules they are under no obligation to do so.
Clark Howard suggests that Priceline bidders use Hotwire to check prices, then offer a bid 20% less than Hotwire’s price. If a bid is rejected, it can be increased by $5 or so and offered again after 24 hours. This simple plan is often successful because prices and availability of rooms for a given date change daily. To get results more quickly, there are ways of submitting several bids per day. Bidding strategies are discussed on websites and hoteldealsrevealed .com. About 40% of hotel rooms are empty most nights, so it may be worthwhile to take a chance and bid.

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