Q: I am travelling on a budget and have heard you can book hotel rooms at half the price on websites like Priceline.com and Hotwire.com, but how do they work? – Jennifer Edmond, Edmonton, AB
A: These are commercial websites that offer travellers major discounts on various travel-related services like accommodations, airline tickets, car rentals, etc. Sometimes you can get accommodations for less than half the price. However, it’s important to remember that they are also providing a service to hotels as both Priceline.com and hotwire.com book hotel rooms that are unsold and need to be filled. It’s a bit of a gamble, but if sticking to a budget is an influencing factor for your trip, it’s one that may pay off in the end.
Both Priceline and Hotwire allow you to choose the area and star-rating of your choice, though Priceline also offers a “Name Your Own Price” option. Hotwire, on the other hand, will show you prices for a variety of hotels, as well as what amenities are available at each one.
How it works: For Hotwire, the method is pretty straight forward, you choose the level of quality (star ratings) and area you’d like to stay in, and once you’ve clicked on one you think will work, it will also show you what amenities are offered. For Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” option, you place a bid based on what you’d like to pay per night on a hotel. You are also able to choose a specified area in the city you’ll be staying in, as well as a star-rating. Generally you should bid between 45 and 55 per cent less than the average price in that area. It also has a list that shows users the average price of hotel rooms.
Next, you will need to provide credit card information to make your bid count. Your bid may or may not be accepted–if it isn’t, you may have to wait 24 hours to bid again. Doing your homework will help you to place a bid that is more likely to be accepted.
The benefits of booking hotel rooms on these sites is that you are going to get a room that fits your budget. The downside is that you have to book before you know where you are staying. With both of these websites you cannot see the name of the hotel you are booking until it has been paid for.
Other online sites that provide hotels at a discounted price are expedia.com and hotels.ca. Both of these sites allow you to see which hotel you are booking before you pay for it, but the discount is a lot less, ranging from 10 – 30 per cent off. Booking closer to the date of travelling is going to drive the prices of hotels down, so if you are willing to wait then you may get a room at a lower price.