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We have a couple of family rules about travel.
- Family trips are debt free. We may put the trip on a credit card (can’t stand those holds!), but we schedule a payment as soon as the reservation is made.
- We save for trips. We like to transfer to our general savings accounts. This helps us with cash flow.
- We hunt for deals before booking our trips. Some work up front means we either save money on the trip costs or we upgrade a bit without spending more.
There are many ways to snag vacation deals. I want to share one of our favorites – bidding.
Scoring an Awesome and Cheap Vacation
If you’ve follow me on Twitter, from time to time, you may have seen something like this:
(Yeah, I tweet out deals because I’m a money nerd.)
We’ve been using Priceline for years and have found it to be a relatively easy way to save some cash.
Ben from Smart Money Life asked a great question about the quality of the hotel you get when you bid on Priceline.
I’d thought it would be great to explain a bit more about the Name Your Own Price feature and tell you how we use it for our vacations.
Bidding on Priceline
I think the biggest bonus to using the bid feature is that you can get a good hotel for about half price compared to the deals I see online.
We tend to choose 3 1/2 star or higher hotels and the bid feature gives us some big savings.
While you can get some solid deals with bidding, there are some cons that you should know and weigh before you use it.
- You don’t which hotel you’re going to get until after you’ve booked
- You may not get points for some hotel programs.
- You can only specify a zone for the city you want to stay in.
As you can see, Priceline’s bid feature isn’t really for everyone. Some travelers are very specific about the hotel they want to stay in or they may want to accumulate some points.
Priceline has all the terms spelled out before you go ahead and make you bid, so please review them to see if this is something that you want.
How We Bid for Hotels on Priceline
We try to be reasonable with bidding and we’d rather pay a little more to get a good hotel than just go for the very cheapest hotel. Here are some ways in which we’ve successfully named our own price and got a great hotel.
- We focus on 3 1/2 or higher hotels. Since we can’t choose the exact hotel, we do this to maximize our chances of getting a solid hotel. You tend to find more savings at the higher star levels.
- We are specific with the city zones. Again, since we don’t know what hotel will accept our bid, we choose the neighborhoods and areas we’d love to be in.
- We bid low and slowly increase. How much do you bid? My rule of thumb is to at least go half of Priceline’s median price listed. We went lower than that for or hotel bid, just to see if we could get it accepted and we snagged our deal.
If you want to get an idea of successful bids, try Better Bidding.
Search for your city and see if anyone bid for the dates that you’re traveling. Be mindful, though, that you may not find the exact dates you’re looking for.
It helps to start bidding at least 4 weeks away from your trip since you can only bid once a day and your first bid may not be accepted.
Use Name Your Own Price for Car Rentals and Flights
We’ve found a great deal on a car rental by basically following the same strategy with starting low and slowly increasing our bids. We snagged a rental car for $13/day.
You can try it yourself here and save some serious money.
I thought that the car rental office would try to tack on more fees, but when we picked up the car we only had taxes and regular fees with it.
They honored the deal and we walked away with an upgrade from an economy to a midsize car.
We manage to save some money on our flights. Priceline asks if you’re willing to make adjustments to either the time you leave or the connections you take. By adjusting our schedule, we were able to cut the bill in half.
If you know how to bid, Priceline vacations can give you more bang for your buck.
Your Thoughts on Planning a Vacation
If you hunt on the web, you can find some fantastic information on getting great deals on flights and travel.
What about you? Are you planning a vacation soon?
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