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.
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.