Bidding for travel on sites like Priceline and Hotwire can save you a lot of money. It is somewhat of a gamble yet there are opportunities to do very well. This is a big and fast growing travel marketplace in which hotels with excess inventory meet up with potential guests.
We’ve written frequently about the benefits of using these “opaque” booking sites. Before bidding I always check user reported bid results on Better Bidding, Bidding for Travel, and Hotwire Revealed.
Caution when bidding: surprise fees and more.
You won’t know for sure what hotel you will be staying at until your bid is accepted. Payment is processed immediately and there are no refunds.
I recently bid on a 2 ½ star hotel, because I liked the hotel choices indicated in Bidding for Travel. Instead, Priceline upgraded me to a 3 star hotel. At first I thought I scored a better deal until I saw their “surprise fees.”
This is perhaps one of the sneakiest and most difficult to manage aspects of the opaque booking sites. It’s a way that hotels recoup some of the lost income that results from their using these websites to shed vacancies.
Some fees and issues to be concerned about.
- Parking. My 2.5 star hotels had free parking. The 3 star hotel I received instead had a $16 day parking fee. Gotcha.
- Resort fees. These sneaky fees can amount to quite a lot of money, especially here in Hawaii.
- Worst room in the house. In my recent stay, I got a room in the furthest wing of the hotel. You can expect that when a hotel is getting the low rate you pay, less the 30 percent it pays to Priceline or Hotwire.
- Wrong bedding. You cannot at this time indicate whether you need one bed or two beds, or the size thereof. While you can make a request directly to the property, don’t expect it to be honored.
More about each site.
The bid amount per day does not include taxes and fees. Priceline does offer a price match guarantee. Hotel amenities aren’t shown until after you pay. If your bid is not accepted, you’ll need to change your bid parameters (dates, number of stars, location), wait 24 hours, or sign in with a different name and login ID.
Hotwire lists hotels based on location and number of stars, including what area they are in and the property’s amenities. That, in conjunction with Hotwire Revealed, Better Bidding, or doing your own research, can indicate which hotel you are likely to receive.
As with Priceline, taxes and fees are not included in the price first indicated.
Another, albeit small player in the Hawaii auction market, SkyAuction names the hotel you are bidding on before you pay. You compete against others in a live auction. There is a $20 processing fee. There are many other “hidden” fees that are listed, including upgrades, and surcharges for various dates.
When a new bid is submitted in the last five minutes of the auction, another five minutes is added, up to a maximum of an hour.
I’ve tried using SkyAuction, but have never won an auction. If you have, please let us know what you thought.
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