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thereuare

Should i Bid Early or Close to Arrival Date

40 posts in this topic

There is no pattern to whether you should bid early or wait for the last minute. I recommend bidding whenever you are certain your plans are firm... as once your bid is accepted it's non-refundable.

I usually recommend bidding early, so that time is on your side. This gives you a few opportunities to submit a few "low ball" bids and still not panic if they are rejected. As well, inventory changes all the time. I once received a hotel about 8 weeks before the arrival date, and by the time i had arrived the hotel was sold-out during my stay. Of course, my room was prepaid and there was a place for me, but my point is that if i had waited until i was closer to the arrival date i never would have gotten a room at this hotel.

No matter what, you should ALWAYS first make a reservation at a hotel that is FULLY refundable. This not only guarantees that you'll have a bed to sleep in, but also gives you a more "level head" when deciding what to bid.


Please use this HOTWIRE and these PRICELINE LINKS: HOTELS, CAR RENTALS, and AIRFARE to begin your travel purchases

Check and Research Hotel Rates at: MAPS and HOTELS.com (now with WALKSCORE!)

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I've been thinking about this (and read various stuff here and elsewhere), and can see pros and cons for each technique. I'm interested in what you think and which you prefer...

Pros for bidding far in advance

+ More time to play with various bids

+ More time to research

+ Don't need a '100% refundable' booking just in case

Cons (Pros for bidding close to your date)

- Hotels may be keen to fill last minute vacancies and lower their price

- Allow your plans to change

- You may need a lot of time to play around

Thoughts?

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The only thing i would disagree with is:

Hotels may be keen to fill last minute vacancies and lower their price

Since the hotels are selling excess inventory, they're already offering their rooms at near rock-bottom prices, and lower prices closer to the check-in date i would think are less likely (some Priceline rates are just above cost to begin with). The only area where lower prices closer to check-in may hold true is with some properties in Las Vegas, but LV is different than any other hotel market in the world.

Other things to consider:

- as hotels book more rooms, they're more likely to pull their Priceline offers than offer deeper discounts. For example, i received a hotel via Priceline in NJ that eventually was sold-out for my dates, if i had waited until closer to check-in, there is no way i would have received a room there.

-if there is a way to 'identify' the hotel today and/or you're happy with all the hotels that have been reported in a given zone, try to book it (if your plans are firm). Zones are re-defined all the time and the new zones can often be larger, thereby making it more difficult to 'identify' a property. Even if a specific hotel (or hotels) can't be identified, a larger zone makes it more difficult to pinpoint the area you'll ultimately end up. (the San Diego "Coastal" zone as an example)


Please use this HOTWIRE and these PRICELINE LINKS: HOTELS, CAR RENTALS, and AIRFARE to begin your travel purchases

Check and Research Hotel Rates at: MAPS and HOTELS.com (now with WALKSCORE!)

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The reason I said prices may be further lowered closed to the time was a conclusion I drew from reading various posts on winning bids. Those prices always seem very low. Obviously, the time of posting doesn't necessarily equate to the time of winning the bid, so there's one problem with my conclusion.

Plus your arguments are also very valid. I guess hotel inventory isn't much different from airline seat inventory. Sell the lower priced ones first, then gradually increase your price closer to the 'departure'.

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I guess i should have clarified a bit more....

In my experience, generally speaking, most hotels don't change their Priceline rates as the arrival date approaches (one particular hotel in Las Vegas being the exception that i can think of right now).

The rates that the hotels offer Priceline generally remain constant throughout, with the rate mostly determined by season (ie- offering a Priceline rate of $40 during low season and $55 during high season). There are of course exceptions to this rule, and some hotels have multiple 'low season' rates and multiple 'high season' rates (ie- during low season, they're offer Priceline rate of $35 if hotel is projected to be less than 50% occupied and $45 if over 50% occupied, while during 'high season' offering $50 if below 50% occupany and $60 if over 50% occupany). Of course this is adjusted for when conventions and special events are in town.

I guess the (long winded :) ) point i'm tying to make is that i believe rates for a specific date stay fairly constant, and are usually only changed if they see that actual occupancy is significantly different than what was previously projected. It's usually more of a question of 'availability vs. no availability' rather than 'low price vs. high price'.


Please use this HOTWIRE and these PRICELINE LINKS: HOTELS, CAR RENTALS, and AIRFARE to begin your travel purchases

Check and Research Hotel Rates at: MAPS and HOTELS.com (now with WALKSCORE!)

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I would say that you should bid as soon as your plans are firm. We had a stay at the SF Park Hyatt in mid-May booked through Priceline for $75 a night that was done last August. It was a major convention where most hotels would (and was) sold out so tried to bid as soon as was available. $75 is higher than what has been reported for this hotel (around $60) but still a considerable savings over the lowest rate that was seen for that period. Should be noted that the hotel was indeed sold out.

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This question seems to be coming up more frequently lately so i'm bumping this topic and also adding the following which i posted elsewhere in response to:

Will hotel prices get cheaper closer to check-in?

Hotel rates don't follow a set pattern of lower/higher rates as check-in dates approach... they're a constant function of supply vs. expected demand. If the hotel feels at the current date it should be have more reservations than they currently do (ie- low occupancy) then they'll lower rates... if the hotel is more booked than they thought they would be at the current moment for a specific date (ie- high occupancy) then they'll raise prices. It's in constant flux, with the hotel making judgement calls as to current occupancy vs. anticipated demand as the date draws near.


Please use this HOTWIRE and these PRICELINE LINKS: HOTELS, CAR RENTALS, and AIRFARE to begin your travel purchases

Check and Research Hotel Rates at: MAPS and HOTELS.com (now with WALKSCORE!)

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I've often wondered about this. I believe that it may depend on the market. I think the idea of bidding early may be a good one, but I've heard several anecdotal tales of people paying too much in advance for hotels in cities I paid very low prices for just a day or two before arrival.

Here's my theory on this: I think thereuare may be correct on recommending advance purchases for many areas. However, IF you are wanting to stay in a big city that is a popular convention city, and IF you are planning on staying downtown in a nice hotel that is typically used for convention business, THEN I suspect that later may be better. Here's why I think so:

Conventions work by organizations making arrangements directly with hotels or with a city's convention bureau. They schedule the convention center or hotel meeting rooms (depending on size of convention/conference), and make a major deposit. They also are granted a block of rooms at a convention rate. This block is held up until a certain date. Until then, the hotel can't book the rooms for anyone else. Once that date is past, then the rooms become available. If you were to try to book a room well in advance, then the room might not be available. But once the release date has passed, you might get it. In fact, if the conference is undersubscribed, there might be quite a few rooms available at distressed prices. That's the theory, anyway--however, note that rooms are released many weeks in advance, not days, so I'm not talking about the difference between a week before your arrival vs. a day.

Another thing I've seen, however, is that for large business meetings (not so often conventions), a company might book a large block of hotel rooms in a major hotel. They pay their deposit. They may end up postponing the meeting and rescheduling it (they can usually rollover their deposit, perhaps with an additional fee, to the new reservation). Their rooms now become available, and if they cancellation was close to the meeting date, the hotel may be more desperate to sell the rooms.

I doubt these are factors in many towns and markets, but in large cities and major hotels, I believe they may be a factor. In any case, I tend to book the week of my arrival.

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Conventions...    schedule the convention center or hotel meeting rooms... and ...are granted a block of rooms at a convention rate. This block is held up until a certain date. Until then, the hotel can't book the rooms for anyone else. Once that date is past, then the rooms become available.

Agreed...

My particular experience is with what i would consider "medium" size convention-like events (national gymnastic meets) in mostly "secondary" cities -San Diego, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Savannah, Minneapolis, Fort Worth, Corpus Christi, Nashville (no offense Leo)...

It has worked well for me with two different approaches. I know when the cut-off date is for the "official" block of rooms is at the official hotels (usually 2-4 hotels connected to or nearby the events). Cut-off normally is about 2-3 weeks in advance of the meets.

Up until that time, I usually don't have the greatest success in getting historically low bids. Once the block is released though, I can normally do at least as well as other posters have reported.

However, in several instances, I make use of my "way early bidding" strategies. (like 3-6 months and once, even 11 months in advance!!... really!), using my coveted, patented, copyrighted (am I usually this obnoxious??) RLB TACTICAL approach... Ridiculously Low Bidding, that is...

It helps of course, to know the event dates way, way in advance.... and to have a son for whom you have a full confidence in his athletic abilities (in order to qualify to compete at those meets!)

RLB has me going for 4* first, but I often lapse into the 3* arena rather quickly (usually ending up 25-50ish% less than 4*- based on actual posted "wins")- with which I have almost always been perfectly happy!

But, seriously, I think that nearly every "win" I have, has beaten (or lately, equaled) the lowest reported win posted, using one or the other strategy... :)

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As a general rule, do you get your best deals on hotels by looking early or late? I know with Priceline it can go both ways.

Several months ago, I started looking for relatively low-cost places for my upcoming Italian trip, which is mostly during the high season between Christmas (Dec. 25) and Ephiphany (Jan. 6). I had booked everything by three months ago. I didn't use Priceline for any of these, due to the inadequate zone maps. At that time, it seemed like I had a wealth of choices from various sites. I made what I think are the best decisions. Since then I regularly check a whole bunch of booking sites, just in case it's possible to get a better deal for a better place. Most recently I'm finally being able to see the rates at http://www.ratestogo.com . But there don't seem to be any new, better deals showing up. Several very good deals that I saw a few months ago have disappeared. And several places which had budget-level rates a few months ago, have doubled their prices or more. This doesn't matter to me, given my previous bookings, -but if I were looking right now for two weeks hence, I'd have few options. (And I am checking laterooms.com and lastminute.com also, as well as other sites.)

For Priceline, it's hard to discern any pattern. If there just is no inventory, then bidding a long time ahead won't get you anything. But I have a suspicion that hotels might only use Priceline or Hotwire up to a certain booking threshold level. So if a certain number of rooms are booked for a certain date, they just don't put anymore up for bid. Yet, I know in at least a few cases, inventory is not made available until the last minute. Still, as a general rule, I think the bird in the hand rule works pretty well.

However you book hotels, directly or otherwise, when do you tend to find that you get your best deals?

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I've had the best luck bidding on beach properties in advance. I'll watch when the hotels I'm looking for start to come up, then shoot for my future dates. I saw Laguna Cliffs come up in September at $50 (after high season), and just to see, I bid $50-Dana Point for 7/4/05 (4th of July, but it's on a Monday), and got it! That's the biggest day in DP- huge firework show off the harbor- and the Marriott is the best place to view. Those rooms go for over $300/night. I went back to try another room- no go. So you may be right about a certain number of rooms available- once gone, that's it.

It seems some hotels load rooms in the system well in advance, others only at the last minute. I don't think it hurts to try ahead of time if your dates are set, though.

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In the past my experience has been on PriceLine that I am more likely to have my bid picked up by a 4-star hotel if I bid at the last minute, like the day before. This is certainly not scientific because I've only done it a handful of times, and really only in the Washington, D.C. (Crystal City) area.

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I don't think it's possible to "game" the "earlier or later" aspect of priceline, since each situation is different. A better rule of thumb is to bid early when your plan are VERY firm (you'll get more rebidding opportunities, and the "peace of mind" that comes from having secured the needed accomodations). But if your plans might change, wait for the last minute, given that with priceline you're stuck with paying for what you "win"!

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My 2 cents:

one of the biggest cons of PL is non-refundable, non-changeable nature of reservations.

Lets say you want to goto Orlando and successfully bid 3 months in advance, but then find out 1 week before ur departure that there's a Hurricane coming... :)

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Although no guarantees they will be as accomodating in the future, in the past Priceline has been very good about refunding in instances such as the above (hurricanes, NYC power failure, etc).


Please use this HOTWIRE and these PRICELINE LINKS: HOTELS, CAR RENTALS, and AIRFARE to begin your travel purchases

Check and Research Hotel Rates at: MAPS and HOTELS.com (now with WALKSCORE!)

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What does the Insurance that PL offers cover? Would it cover the cost of the "non-refundable" room should there be an accident or illness (by either the traveler or the traveller's family) that prevented travel?

Also, is there a market for rooms that have been won & paid for, if :) travel can't take place?

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What does the Insurance that PL offers cover?  Would it cover the cost of the "non-refundable" room should there be an accident or illness (by either the traveler or the traveller's family) that prevented travel?

Also,  is there a market for rooms that have been won & paid for, if :)  travel can't take place?

Anyone?

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I haven't researched the "insurance" question myself (I self-insure, meaning I figure that over time, I'll save more money by occassionally not showing up than paying for insurance every time), but it would be interesting to learn more.

As far as transferability goes, I believe the priceline rules say you can't transfer them, so there's no resale market (just like with airline tickets these days).

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Since insurance clauses are technical in nature (ie- pre-existing conditions, changes in prescriptions, etc), i would recommend viewing what is covered directly at priceline's website. Use their HELP link (top right of their home page), then select the product you're looking for (ie- hotels) and then type 'insurance' in the search box.


Please use this HOTWIRE and these PRICELINE LINKS: HOTELS, CAR RENTALS, and AIRFARE to begin your travel purchases

Check and Research Hotel Rates at: MAPS and HOTELS.com (now with WALKSCORE!)

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Well, as a real world example, I tend to try to book my priceline hotels a month or two in advane (usually after I buy my non-refundable airline tickets, so I "know" I'm going!). At least 90% of the time, I can pretty much find what I want in that time frame. Occassionally, I book further out -- usually for busier holiday times when I have to book further out to get the best airfares -- and I'm usually (but not always) successful with priceline on those, too. I sometimes book within 2 weeks of my stay, and those usually work, too. I haven't noticed a pattern of which is cheaper.

However, this past weekend, I realized I need to be in Northern New Jersey in 7 days. I saw that the "best" priceline deal in that area -- the 3 star Jersey City Hyatt -- had gone for $46. I bid there and was rejected, and then had to settle for a far less satisfactory airport 3 star. Now there is a "special event" in NYC that weekend (the Christo Central Park thing), and that may have something to do with it -- maybe the hotel didn't realize there would be extra demand -- but in this case waiting until nearly the last minute was not the best thing to do.

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A recurring theme on this and other boards is,

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Pirate,

Thanks for reporting your small study! :) I was having trouble this week for 2 separate stays in Waikiki for Jan. After looking for a reasonable, cancellable reservation, finding some places already not available, I can see why I need to win a bid soon, or settle for what I have to pay for a regular reservation! I am new to Priceline, but think I have the bidding and rebidding nearly figured out. Unfortunately, after reading about wins for cheaper bids, I can see that that will never be figured out! :) And I was thinking I was bidding too soon. I will certainly get back to bidding as soon as I am allowed!

I am finding that peak times in resort type areas are harder to bid on than other cities! I've had success in Ft. Lauderdale (not at the beach!), Vancouver, BC and in Cal., but Waikiki is proving to be a challenge!

I appreciate the advice here!

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Any ideas which day of week is better for bidding? When are hotels most likely to release inventory? Monday morning, midweek, Friday evening? Any guesses or experiece?

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I'm sure practices are going to vary. I was reading recently, though, that hotel managers are commonly using a type of yield management that requires them to set prices once per day.

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Empirically, yes, the prices are determined by supply and demand. There is no strategy or rule of thumb that will always work to ensure a lower price. Priceline and Hotwire work with the hotel demand managers to fix prices based on current hotel market conditions. You will not be able to always get it right unless you have the same data that the demand managers have and you can beat them to the punch.

Thats why when a convention is in town, priceline and hotwire prices go up as the date gets closer and more bookings come in. Conversely, after a hurricane threat in Mexico, I was able to score a room for $60/night in late August (still peak travel season) at a 5 star resort. This was because all the prior bookings were canceled and room inventory was high.

So the real answer is be vigilant and aware of what is going on in the area and try to stay one step ahead of the demand managers.

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