- You Won't Know the Hotel Name: At least not until your reservation is done and your credit card charged. You WILL know the area, quality level and price, but not how others rate the place.
- No Refunds, No Changes: Once completed, reservations cannot be canceled or changed.
- Watch Out for Sneaky Hidden Fees: They may not be obvious in advance, but here's what to look for .
- No Special Requests: These services do not accommodate special requests such as adjoining rooms, extra beds, king-sized beds and the like. If you need to make a special request, don't use them.
- Saturday Strategy: Some properties hesitate to discount for Saturday check-in, making it hard to get the lowest hotel rates. You may have better luck if you wait until Friday to make your reservation.
- No Points: You cannot earn frequent stay points for hotels reserved through these services.
Five Steps to Cheapest Hotel Rates Using HotwireHotwire's ease of use, ability to see booking fees before reservations are completed and its reasonably-priced trip insurance make up for its somewhat-higher rates. To use it:
- Go to the Hotwire website. Select Hotels and enter your destination city, number of rooms/people and travel dates.
- Results are displayed with area name and star ratings, for example: "Union Square East Hotel" 3.5 stars for $79 per night. Use the star rating and area refine tools on the page to narrow down the number of results.
- They won't give the hotel's name, but you can read about its amenities and location and see how many previous guests recommend it. The rate shown does not include taxes or booking fees.
- Choose a hotel and click Continue. Find the Know Before You Go section to find out about parking fees and other charges. Click Continue again and you can see the taxes, but their total does not includes the extra fees from the previous page. Compare your total cost (room, taxes, fees and everything else) to the rates you've found elsewhere before you make your reservation.
- To get such low rates, you give up the right to cancel, change, or get your money back. If you might have to cancel or change your reservation, reserve directly with a hotel, even if it costs a little more.
Seven Steps to Get the Cheapest Hotel Rates Using PricelinePriceline can get you rock-bottom prices on four-star hotels. It works best when used in smaller cities like San Francisco where you can get a better idea of where your hotel will be located.
To get the very cheapest hotel rates with Priceline takes a lot of work, which is not worth the time invested for small extra savings. However, we've used the simpler process described below to get four-star hotels in San Francisco for as little as $75 to $80 per night.
- Check Areas: Go to Priceline. From their main page, you can click Hotels and enter the city name and other information about your trip then search for deals that show the hotel names. These are good to check, but you want to use the "Name Your Own Price" option. Find that link and click on it, then enter your information into the new window that appears.
- Check Quality Levels: To find out what quality levels (star ratings) are available in an area, check the box next to it. The range of ratings available will then show up below, with ratings not available grayed out. Write down the quality levels available in each area, whether or not you actually want to stay there.
- Review the areas on the map that appears and pick the area(s) you want to stay in.
- Check the Going Rate: Go to the BiddingForTravel forum, select your city and note what rates others have gotten from Priceline for the same quality level, area and date you're interested in.
- Check online booking services: Get an idea of the going rates for similar quality properties. Because of Priceline's booking fees and nonrefundable reservations, we suggest that you set your maximum Priceline bid at least $20 lower than this going rate.
- Bid: To get the lowest rate, start with a bid a little lower than the amount you got from BiddingForTravel and work up.
- Go back to the Name Your Own Price option of Priceline Hotels.
- Enter the city name, dates and number of rooms.
- Select your preferred area and the quality level you want (this system works best if you choose four stars).
- Enter your bid. Ignore the retail price and all messages urging you to choose more areas or raise your bid. Re-enter the same bid if you are asked to. At this point, you'll have to give them all your personal information. Wait to find out if your bid was accepted. Making fun of the silly picture of William Shatner is optional.
- Rebid: If your first bid fails (and it probably will), Priceline won't let you increase the bid unless you also change quality level or add an area.
- Increase your bid by $5 to $10 at a time, up to the limit you've chosen.
- Add another area you're interested in, or if you want to stick with a specific area or run out of interesting areas, choose the Priceline loophole sometimes called a "free rebid." This is how this it works: If you're bidding on a four-star hotel and add an area that has no four-star hotels in it, you can't possibly end up staying there, but Priceline will let you increase your bid anyway.
- Keep rebidding, adding areas and increasing the amount each time. If you run out of acceptable options, you can wait and try again. Priceline will send you email when you can do that. If you can't get a room for at least $15 to $20 less than the going rate you discovered while doing your research, stop bidding and make you reservation another way.