I often insist on booking direct for a number of reasons, but there are times when utilizing a third party booking site has its advantages, especially when money talks.
Priceline has some cool features that even a hotel’s price match guarantee won’t match, because the discount is so deep.
The catch? While some third party booking sites will still allow you to collect points, Priceline is generally not one of them. But it may still be worth it!
If you’re a Marriott Elite and book through Priceline, you won’t get any of the elite perks, but with such a deep discount it STILL may be worth it to forgo the perks in lieu of the cash savings. Especially on trips that are only a night, or two, or three. If you travel THAT often, it isn’t going to hurt your status. And, if you’re not an elite member, it’s a no brainer.
And Priceline’s Name Your Own Price or Express Deals are the way to go.
Priceline is one of my favorite sites for small trips, because of their two unique booking features. One allows you to bid on your hotel room. The other is a more straight-forward deep discount booking option called Express Deals. I’m going to explain how they both work in detail below. Then, I’ll tell you about three different times in the past 6 months that I utilized them, and their outcomes.
Express Deals Explained
Express Deals tell you the hotel’s discounted price, with only the hotel’s STAR RATING, LOCATION, and this one is GREAT – AMENITIES listed! There’s no hotel name.
Express Deals are, I would say, the safer option over bidding if you asked me to choose, because you get to see the amenities in advance. However, you could probably do slightly better price-wise if you bid, and chances are it’s the same hotel that the Express Deal offer is on. Also, if you book an Express Deal on the Priceline App, it’s sometimes even cheaper.
Neither option allows you to select which hotel you will get, but that’s okay, because you know it will be something you are happy with, thanks to pre-selected criteria (star rating, location, and amenities). BUT!
With a little digging you’ll have a pretty good idea exactly which hotel the Express Deal is being offered on. So it’s not such a secret. For me, it’s like a game trying to figure it out, and if I’m right (I usually am), all the better.
I’m going to use Boston as my example city, because it’s probably one of the most difficult cities to book, just because there are so many options.
As part of a big New England trip, we started in Boston, and we used Priceline to see how much money we could save. We were specific on one thing – our hotel had to have a pool. This made utilizing Express Deals the better option over bidding, because we got to see the mystery hotel’s amenities beforehand. We also wanted it to be 4 or 5-stars, and in the Back Bay/Copley Square area.
We searched Priceline to see our options – hotels that matched our star and location preferences, and that offer a pool.
Priceline told me that there were three options for hotels in the area we wanted. They were all 4-stars and had a pool. They were: Boston Marriott Copley Place, Sheraton Boston Hotel, and The Colonnade Hotel.
The price if we booked using Priceline like any regular booking site (not utilizing the Express Deal) was the same as if we booked direct on all of the hotel’s individual websites. Not worth it use Priceline in that case then. But the Express Deal for the MYSTERY 4-star hotel in the area (that also offered a pool) was DEEPLY DISCOUNTED.
I wanted to make sure we didn’t get The Colonnade Hotel, because while it does have a pool it’s OUTDOORS, and we are going in winter.
So I clicked on the 4-Star Express Deal and compared the amenities with what was listed on Priceline if we booked regularly. They were all pretty similar. Most of the time it’s easier to decipher, but not in this case (again, Boston is not an easy city to book). But, after further digging, I was pretty sure the Express Deal hotel was the Sheraton Boston Hotel, based on the description, Dine poolside at this high-rise hotel near the Hynes Convention Center. None of the others had dining poolside in any of their descriptions, but this one did! Bingo!
It’s all about how you carefully compare the amenities, especially since so many hotels offer the similar services!
Best of all, the Express Deal price was almost $70 CHEAPER, PER NIGHT than if we booked direct.
That’s definitely enough of a savings to forgo any reward points/perks. Plus, I can still use any rewards card to book, so it wouldn’t be a complete loss on the points end. You can also add your reward number once at the hotel for things like dining and such.
I clicked to book.
Priceline offers the option to add insurance, which is very inexpensive and not a terrible thing to do, because booking an Express Deal has a no refund policy.
So it did end up being the Sheraton Hotel Boston, and I was really happy with the savings!
Hotel Bidding Explained
Similar to Express Deals, there are TWO important things to pay attention to when it comes to bidding on a hotel room. The first is STARS and the second is AREA/LOCATION. It’s also easy to guess which hotel you’re going to get, especially if you look at the Express Deal and compare. I’m usually able to save an additional $5-$20 per night by bidding. So for example, a hotel we booked in Denver was $103 per night booking direct, $78 per night on the Express Deal, and I was able to figure out which hotel it was, and started bidding based off of knowing the rack rate and Express Deal cost. I ended up getting it for $67 per night.
Priceline calls bidding, NAME YOUR OWN PRICE. It’s a little hard to find on the site, but if you scroll down you’ll see it. Enter the CITY and your DATES.
Next, you’ll see your options. This is where you’ll pick your area. Always start with ONLY ONE AREA, even if you have a few you’re interested in. Keep reading, and you’ll see why. Here’s an example of what you see for Boston:
Next, pick the Star Rating. Pick the one you’re most interested in.
Then, Name Your Price. Ignore Priceline’s price suggestion. Do your own research for the area and the hotel/star you’re interested in and low ball it.
Since you’re researching in advance, you’ll have a pretty good idea of which hotels you’re bidding on, as well as Priceline’s prices, and the book direct prices (which are typically the same). You don’t have to compare to the Express Deal, but I like to.
So again, LOW BALL, and it will usually get DENIED.
They’ll offer suggestions on price (that you shouldn’t be interested in paying), because it would then make more sense to book direct. Sometime’s they will then offer a free re-bid, otherwise you have to wait a couple of hours OR change something about your bid, and not just the price. This is where a handy little trick comes in.
Not all areas offer the same star-levels.
By changing something about your bid (like adding a new area), you’re able to IMMEDIATELY re-bid. If you’re bidding on a 4-star hotel in downtown, add in an area that offers only 1 or 2-star hotels. You won’t get those hotels, because the star rating you selected is a 4-star hotel. So you’re just going against the same star-level inventory as before, since that star-level doesn’t exist in the new area.
Bidding requires a lot of playing around. It’s easy to click on the map and see what gets highlighted and what doesn’t, and the savings can be worth it! Some cities have so many area options that I’ve been able to re-bid on 4 and 5-star hotels up to 10 or 15 times, only increasing each bid by $2-$5!
Real Life Experience
So like I said above, over the last 6 months we tested out these features first hand.By using Priceline’s Express Deals and Name Your Own Price, we saved…
$61 per night at the Hyatt Regency Cambridge.
$33 per night at the Denver Marriott Tech Center
$69 per night at the Sheraton Boston Hotel
How did it compare to booking direct once there?
Most of our stays were awesome, and we didn’t feel like we were treated any differently just because we booked through a third party. There are some caveats though. For example, with Marriott properties, I never have to worry about room type, because it’s all guaranteed via my profile. In this instance, it’s not. A simple call ahead to request usually sufficed. With one of the hotels it didn’t (Marriott Tech Center in Denver), but honestly the hotel was so bad that I’m not sure that any reward status would have made it any better.
The Hyatt in Cambridge and the Sheraton Boston were such great hotels! We definitely were treated no differently than if we booked direct. I’ll be doing detailed reviews of some of them, and will reference this post in them! I’m always interested in hear your deals! Comment, shoot me an e-mail, or DM me on Instagram to share!