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How to Save Even MORE on Hotel Rooms

by J. Money on Thursday, March 15, 2012

hotel california neon sign

(Guest Post by Jacob)

During the past few years, the topic of ‘hotels’ has been discussed several times on Budgets Are Sexy. First, J asked whether or not he’d be able to live in a hotel and provided several pros and cons of this type of living. Then, Fabulously Broke chimed in with a great guest post on her actual experiences living in a hotel, and how it fits her lifestyle as a freelance consultant, only to be outdone by a 71-year old describing why he feels hotel living is better than a nursing home (J$: True story! It’s an awesome read :)). Needless to say, there has been some interesting discussions!

As such, I thought it might be useful for everyone if I shared a strategy I have been using to land killer deals on quality hotel rooms. This strategy involves a combination of using both the Priceline Negotiator “Name Your Price” tool, and Hotwire.

How Do Priceline “Name Your Price” and Hotwire Work?

I realize that many of you reading this have most likely already used Priceline or Hotwire (or both), and therefore are very familiar with how they work and the functionality offered. However, I wanted to briefly review them for a bit to ensure that everyone is indeed on the same page.

At a high level, Priceline’s Name Your Price tool and the Hotwire site connects hotel room finders with nightly rates that are deeply discounted from the normal rates published by the same hotels. Hotwire/Priceline is able to offer these cheaper rates because these hotels contract the two companies to fill hotel vacancies that would otherwise go unsold. The benefit of obtaining these rates, however, can come at a cost – depending on how specific your preferences for hotels are.

In order to take advantage of these discount sites’ rates, you are only allowed to specify the following preferences:

  • The geographical area where you want to stay. A metropolitan area is usually separated into different sections that are about 5 miles in diameter. You must choose one or more of these for where you want your hotel to be located. (Hint: By expanding the geographical search area, you can often find even better discounts off the hotel rooms)
  • The star level of your hotel. This ranges from 1 star Economy class motels to 4-star Luxury hotels.
  • You cannot select the *specific hotel* you’d like to stay in.

My Strategy for Getting Even Better Deals with PriceLine and Hotwire:

As the name implies, Priceline’s Name Your Price tool gives you the option to actually specify the price you’d like to pay for a room. This is the main difference between Hotwire and the Priceline Negotiator. It’s a truly genius idea on their part, since it engages customers more and empowers them with the ability to receive lower prices than Hotwire. For this reason, I like to make my final deals with Priceline’s Name Your Price tool instead of Hotwire.

However, the biggest problem I had when originally using Priceline was deciding on *what* price to actually offer when choosing my hotel.

After electing a geographical sub-area, along with a hotel star class, Priceline then gives you the “median” retail price of the hotel rates in the specified category. Now maybe I’m just overly skeptical, but I personally don’t trust those quotes at all! I would much rather do my own research on what a good market price is, than take their word for it. Additionally, the whole point of using Priceline’s Negotiator tool is to get a deep discount to begin with, not pay retail price for a hotel room?

As such, I would often start out with a very low price and incrementally increase it as necessary. However, this ended up taking a lot of time and required me to input my credit card information again and again every time I had to increase the price (since Priceline rejects your offer if it is below their undisclosed required pricing minimums).

It soon became clear that a more reliable procedure was needed. After some trial and error, I came up with the below process that has worked incredibly well for me during this past year – maybe it will help you a lot too?

  1. Go to Hotwire.com.
  2. Enter your preferred hotel dates, star level, and geographic area in order to find out the price that Hotwire is offering the room you’re currently looking for.
  3. Next, go to Priceline’s Name Your Price Negotiator interface.
  4. Specify the same hotel dates, star level, and geographic area you input into Hotwire’s system.
  5. When it asks you to name your price, enter a price that is 70% of the price quoted by Hotwire (a 30% discount).
  6. Click enter to see if your offer is accepted.

A Current Example of the Strategy

Overall, the strategy is pretty straight-forward and simple. I thought it would help, though, if I showed you a quick example of how putting this strategy to work goes. Thus, below is how I would apply this strategy for obtaining a 3-star hotel room in the Arlington, Virginia locale of the DC suburbs, from April 16th to April 18th, 2012.

  1. Go to Hotwire.com.
  2. Enter your preferred hotel dates, star level, and geographic area in order to find out the price that Hotwire is offering for the hotel room you’re looking for.
    • The price being charged by Hotwire for this type of hotel is $177 per room per night.
  3. Next, go to Priceline’s Name Your Price Negotiator interface.
  4. Specify the same hotel dates, star level, and geographic area you input in to Hotwire’s system.
    • For a 3 star hotel during the specified dates in Arlington, Virginia, Priceline is “suggesting” to use $270 as the “median” retail price for this type of hotel. However, it’s important to note that this is a RETAIL price, and not the price that you’re looking to obtain via the deep discount.
  5. When it asks you to name your price, enter a price that is 70% of the price quoted by Hotwire.
    • 70% of the $177 per room per night quoted by Hotwire = $123.90. This is the price I would enter in to the Priceline Negotiator system.
  6. Click enter to see if your offer is accepted.

My Experience With the Strategy

As I mentioned previously, I’ve had pretty good success using this strategy to get low-priced hotel rooms over the past year. While I definitely won’t make any claims about the method being “flawless,” it has indeed saved me a lot of money.

Listed below are some of the prices I’ve landed recently, compared to the “discount” Travelocity prices of similar rooms. Both hotels were located in the Richmond, Virginia area – a great place to find cheap hotels, by the way!

  • Crowne Plaza Hotel – Downtown – $70 per room per night is what I paid from Priceline.
    • $118 per room per night quoted from Travelocity.
  • Best Western Plus – $37 per room per night is what I paid from Priceline.
    • $59 per room per night quoted from Travelocity.
    • Shown below is a picture of the hotel room I had in the Best Western Plus. Not too shabby – complete with a microwave and flat screen TV! You’ll have to excuse the clothes on the beds, though. I was frantically getting ready to run a half marathon in the morning and had to wake up at 4:00 AM :)
      messy hotel room

Coincidentally, both of the prices obtained from Priceline were right around 60% of the prices quoted by Travelocity. So there may be a pattern there as well, but that would have to be the subject of a separate investigation.

And that’s how I save on all my hotel rooms! Have any of you experienced similar results with these places? Do you use any other sites you find to be even better? If so, share your experiences below! That way we can all learn from them.

——————–
Jacob blogs at My Personal Finance Journey, where he also runs a monthly 10% income giveaway, with 5% going to blog readers and 5% going to the charity selected by the Grand Prize winner.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: I absolutely LOVE this “get a cheaper rate by going blind” route w/ hotels. My personal tool of choice is Expedia, whicyh offers something very similar, and every time I give it a shot I’m always presently surprised! Next time I’m gonna try THIS one out though and see what happens :))

(Hotel photo by kevin dooley)


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{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Frugal Fries March 15, 2012 at 6:46 am

This a great tip–I almost never stay in hotels (mainly because of price), but if I can get a room for ~$37, that’s really not too shabby at all.

Of course, you could always couch surf for free, but that takes a special kind of person.

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2 Alyssa March 15, 2012 at 9:24 am

Great advice!

However, can you please fix this part in the article to say “of” instead of “off.” It’s confusing otherwise:

“When it asks you to name your price, enter a price that is 70% off the price quoted by Hotwire (a 30% discount).”

If it were 70% off the price, then it would be a 70% discount. You meant 70% OF the price :)

Again, great advice and something I’ll have to try next time!

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3 Michelle March 15, 2012 at 9:26 am

Wow good to know! I’m going to attempt at Priceline within the next week and these are all great tips.

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4 J. Money March 15, 2012 at 9:49 am

@Frugal Fries – I’m only good couch surfing with friends or distant relatives of friends ;) But I think I could change if I needed to.
@Alyssa – Good catch! I went back and edited that first “off” to be “of” – 70% off would be one hell of a discount! Haha…
@Michelle – Let us know what you end up saving!

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5 Brian March 15, 2012 at 10:03 am

Don’t forget there are websites that do a pretty good job of decoding what hotels hotwire is showing you to give you an idea.

Personally I don’t use the opaque travel sites as much as I used to since you can’t collect the points for staying there. I know I pay a little bit more, but I have redeemed many a point for free travel (and to some really class hotels). Also you can earn yourself a little bit of status with a hotel chain and that can have some nice perks aswell!

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6 Carrie - Careful Cents March 15, 2012 at 10:22 am

I too prefer using Expedia (I love getting the points for traveling) and I’ve never used Hotwire or Priceline. However, I’ve always been really curious how they work. This is an excellent write up, and I definitely be using it a resource when I book my next set of travel plans. Thanks Jacob and J$.

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7 LB March 15, 2012 at 10:47 am

I will definitely have to try some of those ideas out! For NY all I was going to do was find an area I wanted to stay in and then walk around and negotiate prices. My hubby didn’t want to walk around (only flight we got was into Newark and travel time was going on 8 hours by the time we hit queens) so he found a hotel online that was deaply discounted because City was shutting the water off on Monday and we checked in on a Sunday! No worries because I will definitely be trying my negotiation skills next trip (Chicago)!

Unless I pick up and move to NY like I want to now :)

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8 ON March 15, 2012 at 11:46 am

I use betterbidding.com to decode what the hotwire hotels might be before booking. They use the hotel star ratings & the amenities listed to compare from past customer bookings. Everytime I have booked a hotel through hotwire betterbidding was spot on with the hotel outcome. Check it out!

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9 ImpulseSave March 15, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Thanks for the tips! It’s great how you use the two sites together to get a great rate. Do you have similar strategies for getting deals on plane tickets? I know those “deals” sites operate differently, but just curious if you’ve figured out a hack there, too.

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10 Riley March 15, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Jesus man… looks like a tornado hit your hotel room. Were you gearing up to summit Everest or just blogging?

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11 Kaye March 15, 2012 at 12:52 pm

What’s awesome about this post – this is EXACTLY what I did this week with a room for some friends coming to town to be tourists. Well, I didn’t go with the 70% amount, but I did get it quoted on hotwire and then underbid it on priceline. Same result.

WOOT!

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12 Steve @ Canadian Personal Finance March 15, 2012 at 12:53 pm

I am a big priceline fan.

Always use in conjunction with ebates so I actually get a little cash back.

I would like to try this for plane tickets.

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13 The Frugallery March 15, 2012 at 1:32 pm

I would also add to get preferred cards from the hotels you stay at. They often email you special offers and give you reward points for extras stays. I have a half dozen of these because I don’t like getting locked in to one chain. This way I can go with the best deal and still get the rewards!

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14 Bryan at Pinch that Penny! March 15, 2012 at 2:18 pm

I frequently use Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” service, but I generally just put in 50% of the rate Priceline states (the only real issue I’ve had with this was getting a hotel room in NYC in December — even using NYOP, I paid probably close to 95% of what Priceline listed). I’ll give a shot at comparing prices with Hotwire next time, as it seems like it might help me get even lower rates. Thanks for the tip!

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15 Tanner March 15, 2012 at 2:31 pm

Something else to consider… if you have friends or family that work for major hotel chains, see if they can extend the “friends/family discount”, which is usually not that far off from the employee discount. As an employee of a major hotel chain, we get upwards 70% discount off regular price. This really comes in handy when you end up staying for $75 in a hotel that normally costs $300+.

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16 Angella March 15, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Thanks for the tips! I’ve never had much luck getting a deal on a hotel room, but I’ve never compared the quotes between sites, good idea. We generally find it cheaper to rent a house or condo if we’re on vacation, depending on the length of stay. Now if only there were more airfare deals!!

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17 GB March 15, 2012 at 3:56 pm

This is great! I’m actually trying to book a hotel up in the Sonoma/Napa area today, so I’ll test it out and let you know for your research :)

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18 Marius March 15, 2012 at 6:15 pm

@Angella , please let me know what is the best way to rent a condo or one bed room apartment . I am trying to find one for 2 months period in Houston.
Thank you for your help.

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19 Joe @ Retire By 40 March 15, 2012 at 7:20 pm

We haven’t traveled for a couple of years so I’m a bit out of date on the latest technology.
I like Priceline because we can pick 4 * hotels and keep it under $80/night back then.
I used another site that show how much people are paying for their hotel rooms on Priceline. I forgot the exact address, but it’s a forum where people post the price they are successful with.
That give me a pretty good idea of what to offer on Priceline.
ps. If I make that mess in a hotel room. Mrs. RB40 would throw a fit.

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20 Brent Pittman March 15, 2012 at 8:04 pm

We’ve pricelined a good few hotels for local stay-cations. Of course most hotels in downtown areas charge for parking. Check the reviews on Yelp and they usually tell you where to park for free or cheap and avoid the $20 a night parking fees. Yeah for free!

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21 Angella March 15, 2012 at 10:56 pm

@Marius – I’ve had a lot of success with using VRBO.com for rentals (I rented a condo with a private pool for $360 for 8 days in Florida, a hotel would have been over $1200). For monthly rentals you may have better luck looking into executive suites at hotels and apartment complexes, they generally rent per week or per month, best bet would be to call around. Good luck. :)

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22 Economically Humble March 15, 2012 at 11:49 pm

I use Kayak and then call the hotel directly when I want a deal on a specific hotel. This usually works in a good rate… I’ll have to give this technique a call.

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23 Maggie@SquarePennies March 16, 2012 at 12:34 am

I used to make our reservations, usually through Priceline, the night before. Now I make them right before we want to check in. We just go to a nearby McDonald’s (they almost all have wifi) and make the reservation from the parking lot. (Since we eat at Mickey D’s fairly often on road trips we don’t feel bad about this.) I don’t know if we get a better price since it’s late in the day, but we’ve gotten good prices.

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24 Jacob @ My Personal Finance Journey March 16, 2012 at 7:47 am

Hi everyone! Thanks for reading my guest post, and big props to J Money for allowing me to write for him!

@ Frugal Fries – The $37 hotel room was pretty nice for the money! I was very surprised. However, Richmond (the city where I got the room) is a pretty inexpensive hotel market.

@ Alyssa and J – Thanks for catching and fixing up the of/off typo. That does change the meaning of that paragraph quite a bit! haha

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25 J. Money March 16, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Glad you all enjoyed this! Thanks again, Jacob — way to work the system :)

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26 Tabitha (a.k.a. Penny) March 16, 2012 at 1:14 pm

Thanks! I made sure to load this to my buffer so I could share it with my readers.

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27 MoneySmartGuides March 16, 2012 at 1:49 pm

I’m definitely going to try this out. I used the same technique as you did before. I would low-ball the hotel on Priceline, then increase my price a little, over and over. It gets annoying having to enter the information every time. I’m headed to DC next month and still need to book my room. That will be the first test for this!!

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28 H.D. March 16, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Priceline permutations allow you to really find out the minimum bid that is accepted. When used in conjunction with research on each zone, you can have a decent idea of where you’ll end up staying too, or at least narrow it down to a few properties. This beats the 70%, eyeball, or guessing techniques. This is a real strategy, not an estimation.

http://biddingfortravel.yuku.com/topic/615/Use-PERMUTATIONS-to-maximize-free-rebids#.T2OHwIrMCkQ

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29 enahlerra March 17, 2012 at 12:49 am

I used to make our reservations, usually through Priceline, the night before. Now I make them right before we want to check in.

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30 Melissa @ Little House in the Valley March 17, 2012 at 9:47 pm

We have started staying at VRBOs (vacation rentals by owner) to avoid the high hotel cost, but I am going to try this strategy and see how much we can save. Thanks for the tips.

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31 Young Professional Finances March 17, 2012 at 10:58 pm

Great tips! I looked at Priceline but then got confused so I stopped using it. I’ll have to check it out now.

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32 Jacob @ My Personal Finance Journey March 18, 2012 at 4:30 pm

@ Brian – That’s cool that there are sites out there that tell you what hotels Hotwire is showing. Can you share the specific URL’s or names of those? I’d love to check it out!

@ Carrie w/ Careful Cents – Glad you enjoyed the article! How long does it take you to accumulate enough points to get some free stays at hotels using Expedia? For me, I haven’t pursued that avenue since I travel fairly infrequently and it would take me FOREVER to tally up enough.

@ LB – Thanks for reading. Using these travel sites like Priceline and Hotwire, it definitely saves a lot of time over physically walking to each hotel to negotiate. Plus, William Shatner as the Priceline Negotiator characteris is just AWESOME! haha “Beam me up Scotty!”

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33 Jacob @ My Personal Finance Journey March 18, 2012 at 4:39 pm

@ Impulse Save – Unfortunately, I don’t have as “slick” of a hack for getting low prices for plane travel (at least not yet). My sister, who is a pretty avid plane traveler, tells me that the airlines have set up the system such that their websites actually give the lowest price (lower than Travelocity, Expedia, etc). Therefore, what I usually do is go to Kayak.com to compare prices in general and scheduling, and then I proceed to the actual airline websites to make the purchase, for the reason mentioned in the previous sentence. Good question though!

@ Riley – haha – I definitely have to apologize about the look of the room. I got in late to the hotel and had to get up at 4 am to start a half marathon. Not up mt. everest, but the race did go pretty well! When I took the picture, I actually wasn’t even thinking that it would turn in to a blog post! :)

@ Kaye – Glad you found this strategy to be effective. I wouldn’t be surprised if many people are already doing this on a subconscious level. However, I figured putting it in to a post would help spread the idea and get some good discussion going!

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34 Jacob @ My Personal Finance Journey March 18, 2012 at 4:48 pm

@ Pinch that Penny – I would bet that if you’re using 50% of the price that Priceline quotes, you’re probably saving about the same as using the 70% Hotwire price strategy mentioned above. Not too shabby at all!

@ Tanner – Thanks for sharing the friends/family discount idea. I had a good friend in high school whose family owned an Accor hotel. He often mentioned that he could get us a good discount at other hotels, but nothing ever materialized from it.

@ GB – I look forward to hearing what sort of success you have with this method for your Napa trip.

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35 Jacob @ My Personal Finance Journey March 18, 2012 at 4:54 pm

@ Retire by 40 – haha – Thankfully, I was flying solo that night at the hotel without the girlfriend. She would have thrown a fit as well with it’s state! :)

@ Brent – Great tip about the parking. On a recent trip to NYC/Manhattan, my girlfriend insisted on bringing a car, and we paid $45 per night for parking! Yikes!

@ Money Smart Guides – Good luck on booking the reservation for the DC trip! I hope you have success applying this method!

@ Little House in the Valley – I also use VRBO whenever I am wanting to book a condo for more extended vacation (multiple day trips). However, for just a night or two, I find that just getting a single hotel room saves on the cleaning fees, etc that are associated with condo properties.

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36 Azra, ReadyForZero March 19, 2012 at 2:50 pm

Loved this article, the tip seems so obvious once you’ve read the post but I’ve never even thought about! I bet you could do the same for airline bookings as well..I smell an experiment coming up! I’ve been using Airbnb more recently to save $ on hotels + have a more unique experience during my travels. Have you tried it?

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37 Jacob @ My Personal Finance Journey March 20, 2012 at 11:55 am

@ Azra – Thanks for reading! As I mentioned to Impulse Save above, I haven’t tried to use a combination of discount sites to find better prices on airlines since my sister told me that the airlines set it up so that their website offer the lowest prices. However, it sounds like a worthy idea, and I look forward to seeing what you find out! :)

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