Priceline is one of the riskiest ways of booking a hotel room (you can also use them to book cars and flights). Risky because, the actual hotel name and excess location are revealed after you have paid. Both sites rely on hotels and suppliers who have excess capacity of rooms. As a consumer, it has meant getting rooms at amazing prices. I have stayed at the Westin St Francis, in Cardiff, Wales, on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, in Seattle’s heart and off Times Square,New York in four star hotels and on Orchard Rd, Singapore in a five star hotel, all for around $100 a night.
Priceline’s main feature is Name Your Own Price. You decide the date of travel, the location and hotel star rating, name the price you’re willing to pay, and find out if a hotel accepts your offer. The risk is that you may get a location in the city, you do not really want or a hotel you don’t like. For a business trip, these are acceptable risks. For a vacation, I am less inclined to take the risk. Having said that, I have booked many, many nights and have been very happy.
Some tips and warnings:
- Reservations are basically not refundable (although I have managed a refund on a couple of occasions)
- Research before booking. I check prices on Kayak for four star hotels in the same city and then deduct 40 per cent and use this price as the starting bid on Priceline
- Run from booking 3 star or less. Every time I have booked a 3 star hotel through Priceline, I have regretted it. 3 star hotels with excess capacity have this excess capacity for a reason
- With experience, there are more complicated nuances and strategies to the website- Read Hotwire and Priceline Forum for advice and tips from customers
- You cannot earn frequent flyer or hotel points but I have often found that when I present my Hotel membership card (Eg Marriott Rewards or HiltonHonors), that hotel staff will upgrade me or give me other bonuses linked to my membership status.