Discover the Financial Principles of the Bible

Using Priceline to Save Money on Vacations

Ever really, really needed to get away for weekend? Or a week? Or how about a month? We’ve all been there; stress gets to you, the weather can get to you, life in general can get you and sometimes you just need to step away from it all and spend some time relaxing and recuperating. Only there’s that little problem about not having enough money to foot the bill; yeah that one’s a killer. If you’re like most Americans you’ll just flip through the wallet and find the credit card that isn’t maxed out already and prepare for some plastic meltdown. Hopefully, if you’re a faithful reader of eChristianFinance you’ll already know better than to think that is a viable option. Getting away for a vacation doesn’t have to be as expensive as most would believe. There are some realistic ways to cut expenses while not skimping on the experience. One of the best ways to save is by using www.priceline.com. Now at this time, priceline.com isn’t exactly a secret anymore. We’ve all seen the commercials with William Shatner hawking deals for average joe, but while most commercials are big on glitz and little on execution, priceline.com actually delivers…if you know how to use it.

A lot of users will go to priceline.com and do searches for plane fares/hotel bookings and when the web browser spits back some prices and options they’re content with that. Well, yes, you can find a decent deal that way but if you want the really good deals you need to be willing to dig a little deeper. The absolute best feature of priceline.com is the “Name Your Own Price” option. This is where you can put in your own bid on what you think is a good price for your hotel, flight, rental car etc. This is very appealing to the savvy negotiator. This isn’t like haggling with a greasy salesman over a badly used car, this is price negotiation at its finest. You sip your coffee and calmly type in a price; priceline.com does some magic and if you’re lucky (and shrewd), you’ll get yourself a steep discount on the perfect vacation.

Here’s how it works: airlines don’t like flights with empty seats and even if they only get a small amount of the normal fare its still better than flying with no one in that chair. It works the same way with hotels. So priceline.com will submit your bid to most of the major airlines/hotels and if someone out there is needing your money badly enough they’ll match you up. A perfect union. Move over matchmaking.com and say hello to Priceline! Advantages? Absolutely! Disadvantages? Yeah, there’s some. Let’s take a closer look.

I’ve used Priceline for several years now and over time I’ve saved thousands of dollars combined on my travels. Last year my wife and I took a two week trip to Europe. I used Priceline for all my hotels, the end result? I was staying at 4 and 5 star hotels most of the time for under $100 a night. While we were in Europe we met some tourists that were spending more than that to stay at dubiously titled hostels. The main advantages of using the Name Your Own Price option on Priceline.com is the money that you will save. I’ve found that most times you are able to save at least 40-50% on hotels over Priceline’s already reasonable rates and usually 70-80% off of the hotel’s normal asking rate. (In Venice, Italy we stayed at a 5 star Hilton for $115 a night while the normal room rate was $495).

Using Priceline.com’s bidding feature is very simple. You just select “hotels”, type in the city that you want to stay in and enter the dates that you would like to stay there. Once you select “Search Hotels” and Priceline will return several hotels back to you. This listing of available hotels will have room rates and star ratings that you can purchase directly if you wish to stay at a particular hotel. If you’re willing to be a little more adventurous however, you can step up to the bidding process. On the top right hand side will be a little box that says, “Name Your Own Price.” This is where the fun begins. Clicking that box will take you to a new screen with a few necessary options. You’ll get to select the general area that you’d like to be located in; this way you can ensure you’re in the right area of town and not miles away from the places you’d like to visit. Once you select the area, you can then select the star rating of the hotel that you would like to stay in. I almost always select 4 star or greater since these hotels are the ones that will offer the greatest discounts off their normal rates. Finally, you have to enter your bid. Priceline will indicated the median retail price for hotel in the areas and star rating that you’ve selected. General rule of thumb that I’ve used is that you can typically get your stay at least 50% off of that median price. You can bid lower, of course, than that and sometimes still get a match but it just depends on how willing the hotels are to negotiate. The longer your stay though the more you’re going to save by getting a lower room rate. The main advantage of course is that you’re saving a lot of money and you’ll probably end up staying at a much nicer hotel than you would otherwise stay at. The disadvantages are that you don’t get to choose precisely which hotel you are staying at, you can’t just say “I want to stay at a Hilton on 3rd and main.” Generally speaking though, the cost savings are greater than any hotel loyalty rewards points and the locations are close enough that they represent no problems. When I recently stayed in St. Louis, MO I wound up at a Hyatt Regency directly across from the Arch which was where I wanted to be in anyway.

The airlines work in a very similar way although there are some significant differences that can make the “Name Your Own Price” less attractive than it is for the hotels. All you need to do is simply enter where you are flying from and where you want to go and then follow the same procedure for naming your own price. The drawback is that you can’t specify the times that you’d like to fly out at or the time you’d like to fly back, you can only choose days. This means if you have a tight schedule you need to keep, you might not get what you want. You could fly out anytime on the day you select (morning, midday or evening). Priceline does guarantee some things however. They guarantee you will get to spend at least 24 hours at your destination (i.e. they won’t fly you in at midnight on Friday night and ship you out at 11am on Saturday morning), but beyond that its somewhat up to the mercy of the airline schedules and availability. Again, just like the hotels you won’t get to select a specific airline that you’d like to fly either. Also, this isn’t available if you need to fly through multiple cities. Beyond that though, if you’ve got some freedom in your schedule then the name your own price for airlines is a wonderful idea that can save you a nice wad of cash.

The one area I wish Priceline would expand is to include the name your own price feature is their Vacation Packages. You can use this to put together an all inclusive vacation package to a certain city (Airline, Hotel and car). Unfortunately, they don’t have a name your own price option for these packages. However this might be something that they introduce in the future. So there, now you’ve learned a great way to save at least 50% (usually) on all your hotels and flights, maybe you can afford that little getaway after all. Time to check out Florida!

Filed in: Budgeting, Christian Finance, Family Finance, Stewardship

Comments are closed.