Priceline is known for their “Name your own price” catch phrase. With Priceline, it is hard not to think of their commercials with William Shatner. Whatever a person wants to bid, he tells them to go lower. I have used Priceline on numerous occasions, but I have not always been satisfied with the search results or the frequency with which they accept my bid.
First let me explain the how Priceline works.
You complete an online form with the specifics of what you want. Choose the area where you want to stay and type of hotel you want (number of stars). You are trying to get a nice room for a cheap price. The risk involved is that (1) you do not know the name of the hotel until after you pay, (2) you do not know exactly where the hotel is located, and (3) what you pay is non-refundable even if you don’t like what you ended up with.
If you like knowing where you are going at the time of booking, DO NOT use Priceline.com’s name your own price function.
If you have a specific area where you need to be located, DO NOT use Priceline.com’s name your own price function.
The same is true for plane tickets – if you have a specific time you need to arrive/depart DO NOT use Priceline.com’s name your own price function.
I mostly check Priceline for hotel prices and rental cars. When looking for a hotel, I limit my request to 3 or 4 star hotels only. If you include 2 or 2.5 stars means you will probably end up in a hotel that would not have chosen on your own. Some of their 2 star hotels in Days Inn, Comfort Inn, etc (the chances are high that these properties might need disinfecting or at least bring your own sheets). Since I like Renaissance, Marriott, Embassy Suites, Doubletree, Hilton, it is better that I limit to the highest rated hotel properties.
Then I do my research and by going to hotels.com website to check out the prices of similar rated hotels and bid half of their advertised rate. If there are no takers, I may increase my bid (decreasing my savings). If I don’t want to increase my bid, I will wait 24 hours and try again. Priceline tries to be helpful and suggest ways to get a “winning bid” but it usually includes choosing lower rated hotels. I work too hard to try to save a dollar by staying in a grungy motel. Most of the time Priceline does not accept my price for hotels. The few times that it has worked for me, I ended up at very nice hotels (Doubletree, Holiday Inn, Renaissance).
The cheapest flights are usually going to red-eye or multiple stops. Decide how much you want to be inconvenienced in your travel and then bid accordingly. Keep in mind, that the cheapest flight could be on multiple airlines or have crazy layover times (like 30 minutes between flights) in which case you could miss your connecting flight and end up spending more to get out of your connecting city than if you booked with a different travel agency.
Overall, using Priceline takes a lot of patience. It pays off if you are able to save money on your hotel room, rental car, or plane ticket. Some people swear by Priceline, but I have found that most of the time, I do not receive the major discounts that they say they are known for giving. To me, Priceline is good to check, but most of the time, you are better off trying to find a deal another way.