Priceline and the Solo Traveler

by Gray Cargill on August 23, 2009

One of the challenges for solo travelers is the fact that whenever we travel, we’re paying twice as much for our hotel room as an individual who is traveling (and sharing a room) with someone else does.  Most hotels just don’t build rooms for solos; they’re built for double occupancy.  So one of my biggest priorities when I travel is trying to find a deal on hotel rooms.  One way to secure discounts of up to 50% off regular rates is hotel room discounters.

Discounter websites like Priceline and Hotwire have been around for years, but I’ve never tried them before.  Why?  Because once you’ve booked, you cannot cancel or get a refund; you’re stuck with what you got. When you’re bidding on hotels, you don’t know which hotel you will get.  All you can do is select the general location and star level of hotel that you want and hope for the best.  The idea of booking a hotel room “blind” freaks me out a little, especially since a coworker of mine used a hotel discounter when booking a Jamaican vacation resort for herself and her pregnant daughter and wound up getting stuck with a nudist resort!

However, the opportunity arose recently when I was planning an overnight stay in Montreal and wasn’t able to find a hotel room at the star level I wanted for under $100 using my usual sources.  With a trip to Vegas coming up soon, I didn’t want to spend too much on this weekend trip.  So I decided to try my luck with Hotwire or Priceline.  Even if I wound up hating my hotel, I reasoned, it would only be one night, and it would be fodder for my blog, right?

My first and most important research was done at a site called BetterBidding.com.  If you ever consider booking through Priceline or Hotwire, I highly recommend thoroughly reading this site first. Here, I found lots of great information to get me started in the world of online hotel bidding.  I dug down into the Canada forum and found the list of hotels available on both Hotwire and Priceline for Montreal.  Then I went into the forums to see what specific hotels and prices other travelers were getting in the star range I wanted.  The first thing I noticed was that Hotwire’s star rating is higher than Priceline’s for Montreal, and thus so were the prices for those hotels.  (For instance, the Hyatt Regency, the hotel I wound up getting, is rated 4 stars at Hotwire and 3.5 stars at Priceline.  The successful bids I saw for that hotel were $20-30 higher at Hotwire.)  I quickly decided to bid with Priceline for this trip.

The next research I did was at TripAdvisor, to get reviews of the hotels that most often turned up in the star range I was looking at.  There were some hotels in the 3 star range that did not sound all that great to me, so I decided to stick with 3.5 star and up, where pretty much all of the hotels sounded good. Then I took the plunge and began bidding, using the links from the Betterbidding.com site (as a way to thank them for their wonderful information).

I saw that other bidders had been getting successful bids for the Hyatt Regency Montreal (3.5 stars) in the $55-66 dollar range.  My first bid was $55, which was rejected.  I tried to rebid for $60 for the same zone and 4 star hotel range, but it wouldn’t let me (even though it SAID I could rebid if I just changed one thing). But because it was the same trip/same date, it wouldn’t let me bid again until 24 hours later.  24 hours later, I bid $66 and failed again.  I was a little frustrated, since I’d seen several successful bidders receive this price recently.  Then I realized they were bidding for weeknights, and I was bidding for a Saturday night.  As Homer Simpson would say: Doh.

Before my third try, I looked at the Hyatt Regency’s website to see what they were charging for Saturday night, and it was $159.  I also did some more reading about the bidding process online and realized that for the most part, the hotels were offering rooms at 50% off the prices at their websites.  So I realized I’d be lucky to get the room for anything less than $80, but I decided to take a chance and bid $75 for 3.5 star and up hotels.  This time, I was successful, and I did get the Hyatt Regency.

My room at the Hyatt Regency Montreal

My room at the Hyatt Regency Montreal

Once the taxes and fees were tacked on, the total price was $95 (which doesn’t include parking fees).  I wound up loving the Hyatt Regency, and will go into that in more detail in a separate review of the hotel.  But suffice it to say, my first experience using Priceline was a resounding success.  I got exactly the star level I wanted at the price I wanted, and the hotel was in a very convenient location in Montreal.  I could not be happier with this experiment and will be permanently adding Priceline, Hotwire and BetterBidding.com to my arsenal of travel tools for future trips.

I would advise any solo traveler who is considering using Priceline to be sure to do your research ahead of time:  Know which parts of a city you are willing to stay in and which you aren’t; go to Betterbidding.com and research the hotels that are available.  If you receive a winning bid for a hotel you weren’t expecting, check out that hotel thoroughly online before your trip.  With some preparation, you too could have the 50% off hotel room you’ve always wanted.

SoloFriendly September 12, 2009 at 7:33 pm

Welcome, Zoicca! And thank you for the link. That looks like another great resource.

SoloFriendly September 12, 2009 at 1:33 pm

Welcome, Zoicca! And thank you for the link. That looks like another great resource.

Zoicca September 5, 2009 at 2:31 pm

I love your article. I travel by myself often and use Priceline or Hotwire most of the time. Anyone using priceline or Hotwire should also check out the hotel lists at http://www.hoteldealsrevealed.com/hotelinventory

SoloFriendly September 1, 2009 at 8:41 am

Hi, Dewey! As far as I know, you can't actually stay at the casino in Montreal the way you can Vegas casinos. (I have never visited the casino in Montreal, believe it or not.) They may have some partner hotels they use, I'm not sure. I stayed at the Hyatt Regency this trip, you can see my blog post on my stay here: https://solofriendly.com/hotel-review-hyatt-rege… I liked it.

I've also stayed at the Le Saint-Sulpice, which is very expensive but nice. A few years ago, I stayed at a hotel near the Palais de Congress, and I know I liked the hotel, but I can't remember the name of it. I'd advise trying the Priceline strategy to get a good hotel at 50% off.

dewey089 September 1, 2009 at 6:50 am

Thanks for connecting on my blog and letting me in on all the good advice on this fine blog. I have been wanting to head up to the dealerless poker tables at the casino in Montreal. Any suggestions on where to stay other than the casino?

SoloFriendly August 30, 2009 at 10:16 am

Hi, Emily! Yeah, Disqus can be a little tricky that way. Austin is definitely on my list of places I'd like to travel to–my aunt and uncle were there a couple of years ago and gushed about it–so I'll definitely keep you in mind as my Austin expert. Yes, I too wish hotels would offer a small single room with a twin bed at half price. Maybe someday….

Emily August 30, 2009 at 10:04 am

Oops just realized I was logged into Disqus and it didn't post my blog URL when I commented! I'm new to the travel blogger scene – my blog is Maiden Voyage and the URL is http://maiden-voyage-travel.com. Thanks!

emgerson August 30, 2009 at 10:02 am

I didn't know about BetterBidding either! Sounds like a great resource. I know several people who have great successes with the bidding sites, and I recently had a great opportunity. My boyfriend and I got a hotel room in a very nice hotel in Dallas for just $60 on Priceline. We were there for a conference so we knew there was a risk we wouldn't be as close to it as we would like, but it ended up being in a good area and close enough.

I have also run into the same issue when traveling solo (I'm going to a conference alone soon, and I want a private room, but that makes it doubly expensive – so frustrating!). Sometimes I wish that hotels had single rooms with one twin bed.

By the way, I live in Austin and I'm the About.com Guide to Austin (Austin.About.com). Let me know if you ever have any questions! My dad actually used Priceline last time he came in and ended up getting a room at our nice downtown Omni for a steal.

SoloFriendly August 23, 2009 at 11:12 am

I hope that doesn't mean you wound up in a bad hotel? How was Austin? That's on my list of places to visit….

Betsy August 23, 2009 at 8:52 am

Never knew about betterbidding — what an incredible service. That would have really come in handy on our recent Austin trip… Thanks Gray.

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