If you’ve ever participated an auction before, you’ve probably experienced bidding fever or auction fever. For me, the term reminds me of eBay.
There’s one minute left and I’m ahead. Some jerk bids $2.98 higher; now there are 40 seconds left on the clock…do I bid $1.02 more than he did? I did tell myself earlier that was my highest and last bid…but it’s only $4 more! What’s $4, really? I can barely buy a cup of coffee with $4. Besides, it would still be a lot lower than the retail price. Should I? Should I? Omigod 10 seconds left! 9, 8, 7…*bids in panic*
Priceline bidding fever
An auction for hotel rooms can cause a similar intensity. Thankfully there’s no countdown timer on Priceline, so there’s more room to breathe.
Whether the auction is on eBay or Priceline, the rule of the game is the same: set your limit before you bid and know when to back down.
In this post, you’ll follow me as I make several bids on Priceline. If you know nothing about Priceline auctions at this point, you may want to click here to read a quick introduction before we go on.
What’s the highest you should bid on Priceline?
It depends on where you’re going, when you’re going, which hotel you’re bidding on, how many rooms you need, what kind of facilities you need and many other factors.
The only question you need to answer, though, is this: how much does your alternative cost?
This alternative can be anything. It can be another hotel, it can be AirBnB, it can even be the cost of treating CouchSurfing hosts to a meal.
For my trip to Seattle earlier this month, my alternative was AirBnB. I found a nice private room in a house that cost a little over $70 per night. It was a little out of the way, but public transport was easy and the host had many positive reviews. Plus, there were two cats and a dog in the house! *squee*
Based on this information, I decided that I would pay up to $90 for hotels in the Downtown Seattle area (to account for the higher transport cost).
What’s the lowest you should bid on Priceline?
Now, this one is easier.
You want to make sure that you’re not overbidding and overpaying for your hotel room.
There are a few resources to help you determine how much to bid:
- There are bound to be Priceline customers on TripAdvisor. If you search for “Priceline (city name)” on TripAdvisor, you should find some hotels that have been booked through Priceline auctions in the past.
- BiddingTraveler gives you guidelines on how much to bid by showing you the last few winning Priceline bids made through the website. BiddingTraveler can also handle your Priceline bids for you. I prefer to check the prices there and bid on Priceline myself, though. I feel like I have more control that way. Plus, it means I only have to give my credit card details to Priceline.
- Go through forums that discuss Priceline bidding: BiddingforTravel and BetterBidding.
I find Bidding Traveler to be more straightforward and user-friendly. The other two websites are forums, which require some intensive browsing to find relevant information. (It’s also possible to let Bidding Traveler do the entire bidding process for you, but I prefer having the control of doing it manually.)
Additionally, Priceline also offers its own data of Real Winning Hotel Bids. You have two options:
- Simply enter your destination, dates and number of rooms, then Priceline shows you some recent winning bids for the hotels in that city.
- Sign up for the bid alerts to get an email every time someone wins a bid in your destination city.
To determine my lowest bid, I usually check Bidding Traveler first, then verify the prices on the other websites.
My lowest Priceline bids
Here’s how I handled my first few Priceline bids for this trip:
1. Ideally, I wanted to stay in the “Downtown – Pike Place – Retail District – Convention Center” area in a 3.5* hotel. I entered these details into Bidding Traveler and it suggested that I start bidding at $65.
It didn’t seem promising that bids twice that amount were rejected recently. Additionally, my other resources showed that the bids that were accepted recently were higher than my maximum bid limit of $90. Perhaps it was because my stay was in the middle of summer or perhaps there was an event in town.
Regardless, there was no harm in trying. I was already planning to make a blog post out of it ;) and I could always choose my AirBnB option.
So I went over to Priceline to place my first bid using the Name Your Own Price feature.
I entered my dates, area and minimum star rating, then bid the $65 suggested by Bidding Traveler.
Priceline calculated the taxes and fees, then allowed me to review the bid. I entered my credit card details and waited for about 30 seconds as Priceline searched its database.
In the end, Priceline told me there were no matching hotels. I was asked to try bidding again or book an Express Deal instead.
To make another bid within a 24-hour period, I had to change at least one of my criteria: dates, area or star rating.
2. So I checked Bidding Traveler again to see how much to bid for a 3* hotel in the same area and it suggested $63.
I lowered my star level to 3* and stuck with my $65 bid, but Priceline rejected it again.
3. I didn’t want to lower my star level further, so I had to add another area where I wouldn’t mind staying.
Instead of simply adding the second area, I changed my search to only include one area, which was the new area “Downtown – Seattle Center – Space Needle”. I excluded my first area, which was “Downtown – Pike Place – Retail District – Convention Center”. (I’ll explain why later in #4.)
At this point, my first area had been grayed out by Priceline, so I couldn’t uncheck it. To do this, I had to close the browser tab and reopen Priceline in a new tab.
I went through everything from the start, keeping my star level at 3* and choosing only the new “Downtown – Seattle Center – Space Needle” area. Bidding Traveler suggested starting at $60…
…so I did that and got rejected again.
4. I decided to increase my bid for a 3* hotel in the second area to $65.
Priceline wouldn’t allow me to do this without changing my criteria, so I added the “Downtown – Pike Place – Retail District – Convention Center” area back. In effect, I was searching both areas at once. I kept my star level at 3* and increased my bid to $65. Because I hadn’t searched this combination of areas before, Priceline allowed me to bid again. (This is why I searched each area separately before.)
However, Priceline rejected me again.
Note that up until this point, my bidding history looked like this:
I didn’t want to add any more areas or lower my star level further, nor did I want to change my dates, so this should’ve been where my bids ran out. But I had a few tricks up my sleeve.
How I bid multiple times per day on Priceline
I briefly explained this method in this post. (Under the “Advanced Strategy” subheading.)
Basically, I wanted to increase my bid by $5 at a time until I either get a match or hit my maximum bid limit. This was not something I could do in a straightforward way because Priceline would only allow me to rebid if I changed my criteria. I didn’t want to change my criteria; only my bid price. So I would have to wait for 24 hours before submitting another bid.
But there’s one way for me to bid multiple times per day, thanks to a loophole in the system:
- Priceline assigns hotels by their star levels. If I bid on 3* hotels, for example, Priceline can only assign me hotels rated 3* or above. (Priceline can also give me 4* or 5* hotels; but never 1*, 2* or even 2.5* hotels.)
- Still assuming that I want a 3* hotel, if I choose an area that only has 1* and 2* hotels, then Priceline can’t assign me hotels in this particular area. Such an area is called a safe zone.
- If I choose two areas — my actual target area and a safe zone — Priceline can’t assign me a hotel in the safe zone because there can’t be any hotel in there that matches my required star level. Priceline can only give me a hotel in my actual target area, even though I choose both areas.
- As demonstrated before, Priceline lets me bid again and again as long as I use a new combination of areas — even if I have already bid on those same areas separately.
- Therefore, I can bid many times per day by using safe zones.
Basically, the way to bid multiple times per day on Priceline is to identify the safe zones and plan the combination of areas to maximize the number of bids I get.
Check out this bidding matrix:
- Bid combinations for area A (target) + area B (safe)
- Bid combinations for area A (target) + area B (safe) + area C (safe)
- Bid combinations for area A (target) + area B (safe) + area C (safe) + area D (safe)
As you can see, the more safe areas you have, the more bids you get per day.
If this sounds complex, please bear with me. I’ll show you how it works in practice and hopefully it’ll all become clearer.
Priceline bidding matrix in practice
Firstly, I identified the safe zones in Seattle. Because I wanted a hotel with 3 stars or more, my safe zones would be the areas that only had hotels with 2.5 stars or fewer.
Or Seattle North:
Pay attention to how the star levels that are not available in these areas are greyed out. Because I wanted at least a 3-star hotel, these areas are safe zones for me. Whether an area is a safe zone or not depends on your minimum star level.
When you look for safe zones, make sure that you only choose one area at a time. Uncheck all zones, then check only the one you want to investigate. After studying all areas one by one, I found four safe zones in Seattle: Newcastle, Des Moines, Kent and Seattle North.
And this was how I proceeded with my bids:
I started with Pike Place and Space Needle, which were my two target areas. Then I carefully added the four safe zones into the mix so I could keep bidding again and again without waiting the required 24 hours. (In reality, I only went up to $90, but I completed the matrix to illustrate how it works.)
In the end, even my highest bid of $90 was rejected by Priceline, so I decided to stick to my initial plan and stopped bidding. I went with my AirBnB option and had a great time there.
It wasn’t easy to stop bidding. When you do it in $5 increments, it’s tempting to keep going up and up. That’s why it’s essential to have a bidding limit and a back-up plan before you start bidding.
For more tips, check out this older post on Priceline.
To try your hand at hotel room bidding, visit Priceline
Image: Modified from an image by Porto Bay Hotels & Resorts (CC BY 2.0 License).