Tips From Priceline Pros

Kip Tips

Tips From Priceline Pros

Here's how to get a good deal on a four-star hotel.

With the Fourth of July approaching, you might be thinking about a weekend getaway -- if it can fit into your budget, that is. My husband, kids and I are big fans of short trips to nearby cities. Luckily, we live in an area where several large cities worth visiting are about a 4-hour drive away (which eliminates the need for pricey airline tickets). And we keep hotel costs under control by using Priceline.

I know what you're thinking: Isn't it risky to use Priceline because you don't know what hotel you're getting until your credit card is charged and the deal is done?

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Not really. You just have to know how to work the system. My husband frequently uses Priceline and always manages to score at least 35% to 40% off nice hotels in good parts of major cities. Kiplinger Editorial Director Kevin McCormally also is an avid Priceline user, especially when booking rental cars. He recently scored a full-size rental car for a week in Palm Beach, Fla., for $243 through Priceline, which said the lowest published rate on that vehicle was $590.

To be clear, they use Priceline's "Name Your Own Deal" service when booking at least three-star, but primarily four-star accommodations. If you opt for a lower rating, the price might be right but the hotel could be a dump. When naming your own price at Priceline, you can select an area of town where you want to stay and pick a star level. You do not get a list of hotels from which to choose -- you get the hotel that accepts your bid.


Here are their strategies:

Do some research first

-- Visit Yahoo! Travel to identify desirable neighborhoods in big cities.

-- Check the Web sites of hotels in those neighborhoods to see what the going rates are (don't rely solely on prices published at travel sites, such as or Expedia).

-- Learn about winning Priceline bids for hotels in the city you plan to visit at, a message board that also has answers to frequently asked questions about Priceline.


Ensure a winning bid

-- Use the "Name Your Own Price" tool at, not the site's general hotel search.

-- Determine which areas have four-star hotels -- and those that do not. Click on one area at a time and scroll down to step 2 to see whether four-star hotels are available there.

-- Select only ONE area that has a four-star rating and enter the lowest bid you think might be accepted (the minimum for four star is $40). If your bid is rejected, you'll be allowed to bid again as long as you change at least one of your search criteria.

-- Increase your bid slightly and add an area where you know there are no four-star hotels. You can continue doing this until you run out of areas to select.

The drawback to using Priceline is that it only guarantees a room with double occupancy, so you'll likely get a king-sized bed. If you're traveling with children, you might have to pay extra once you get to your hotel to get a room with two double beds.

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