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Hotel Cost Saving Strategy


save money on hotels

We haven’t traveled much in the past few years because baby RB40 wasn’t really a great traveler, but now that he’s getting a bit older we can start to travel once again.

We decided that our first big trip would be to drive down to California to visit family and friends, with an overnight stop along the way.  Hotels can be a big cost on a trip and you never know how nice the hotel will be. You can stay at the Four Seasons and be sure that your room will be great, but many of us do not have that kind of budget. Alternatively, you can use various travel websites to book a hotel room. I used Priceline regularly when we traveled more and it is still a great way to get a nice hotel room for a good price.


Priceline strategy

On Priceline, you can place a blind bid on a hotel in a specific area. You can specify the star level of the hotel room, but you can’t see what hotels are available. Fortunately, we have the internet and we can find out beforehand what hotels are available in a particular area. I use the betterbidding.com forum to see what hotels are available in an area and what price people have been paying on those rooms.

For example, as part of our trip down to California, we wanted to stay in the Ashland or Medford area in Oregon to take an overnight break. I checked the forum and I found that someone had bid successfully for a room at the Red Lion Hotel in Medford with $45. Once I knew the Red Lion Hotel could be had for $45 + $8 service fee, I had my bottom line pricing. I then went to Trip Advisor to see what people thought of the hotel. The reviews were mixed. Some people really liked it and some didn’t think much of it. I figured for $53, it’s gotta be better than Motel 6 and took a chance. I tried $40 first with Ashland as the area, but that was unsuccessful so I added Medford and increased the bid to $45 and was successful.

So we got there around 4pm and checked in. The plan was to go up and make sure the room was acceptable first before bringing all our stuff in. If it didn’t meet our standard, we’d request a different room. The room we got was actually pretty nice and overlooked the pool. The weird thing was that there was a duffle bag on the bed. Mrs. RB40 called the front desk and the house keeping came over to pick it up. Of course, an hour later a guy came by and tried to get in our room. Apparently, they checked him into this room before us. Anyway, we were settled in so he left to find his bag. Oops sorry… Other than that I was quite happy with the room.

All in all, it worked out pretty well. We drove to Ashland to hang out and to find an interesting place to eat. Ashland is a lot nicer than Medford and if we were staying a few days instead of just one, I would have sprung for a room there so we can explore more. We’re just passing through so Medford was fine.

How about you? Do you have a strategy to reduce hotel costs? At first I was just going to find a roadside motel, but my friend in Eugene said it might be graduation weekend. So I went back to my old Priceline strategy. This worked quite well for international travel too. I got some nice rooms in Bangkok this way.


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{ 26 comments… add one }
  • Roshawn @ Watson Inc June 20, 2012, 5:38 am

    To be honest, my wife typically handles this. She likes searching for deals. I will have to forward her this link 🙂

    • retirebyforty June 20, 2012, 9:06 pm

      I hope this helps!

  • Daisy @ Add Vodka June 20, 2012, 7:15 am

    I’ve heard about the ability to pay for hotels through bidding, but have never done it. I guess I should bookmark this for next time – hotels are expensive !!

    • retirebyforty June 20, 2012, 9:07 pm

      Priceline is pretty good, but the problem is you have no idea how much you should bid. The forum really helps.

  • I read about priceline all of the time but never consider using it. I think I am going to have to check it out next time I need a hotel… even though I can’t remember the last time I had to pay for one myself!

    • retirebyforty June 20, 2012, 9:07 pm

      I hope this helps. 🙂

  • Jeff @ Sustainable Life Blog June 20, 2012, 9:28 am

    interesting thoughts joe – i’ve never heard of better bidding but it could get me interested in priceline again. Last time I used it, they put me in an area nowhere near where I said I wanted to be, and I had to argue with them to get out of the contract – I was not happy and resolved never to use that service again.

    • retirebyforty June 20, 2012, 9:08 pm

      Sorry to hear that! There are a few sites that can show you the hotels and that really helped out tremendously.

  • Michelle June 20, 2012, 10:18 am

    I placed a bid on a hotel for my Kauai vacation. It worked out well. We paid around $135 a night instead of $250+ a night.

    • retirebyforty June 20, 2012, 9:09 pm


  • krantcents June 20, 2012, 10:43 am

    Almost all my hotel stays are overseas. I usually use hotwire.com and check out the choices on Tripadvisor, and other travel sites. Luckily, I usually only need it for one or two nights because I am joining a cruise.

    • retirebyforty June 20, 2012, 9:11 pm

      Oversea works too. I used Hotwire once in a while too, but I think Priceline is a bit better. Not sure though.

  • Michelle June 20, 2012, 10:45 am

    A girlfriend was just telling me about her success with Priceline. I mean, obviously, I’d heard of Priceline before, but I didn’t know it was where you bid for your price! How cool is that?! Sorry, I don’t have any better tips for saving on hotels, but we’d like to take a short trip this Summer with the kids, so I’m going to stay tuned to see if anyone else knows great ways to nab hotel savings!

    • retirebyforty June 20, 2012, 9:12 pm

      The forums really help because it can show you what hotels are available. We have had good luck with it in the past. It’s tough to bid if you have no idea at all what hotels are available. We usually bid the highest stars available. Have a fun trip.

  • jim June 20, 2012, 10:47 am

    I’ve used Betterbidding before and it worked pretty well. I’ve never used priceline with success since my bids always get rejected, but I use Hotwire instead and it works fine.

    Another tactic I’ve heard of but haven’t used myself is to make a reservation yourself at a hotel you prefer in advance. Then within a week or so of your travel time check the rates on hotwire / priceline and then call the hotel you want and see if they’ll match the hotwire/priceline rates. If they won’t match you cancel the reservation and use hotwire/priceline, if they do match then you get the hotel you want for the cheap price.

    • retirebyforty June 20, 2012, 9:13 pm

      That’s a pretty good idea. I’ll have to try that. It’s a bit more work, but if you have time, why not!

  • Mr. Everyday Dollar June 20, 2012, 11:02 am

    I love to use Priceline’s Name Your Own Price! I will use it when 1) I know I want to stay in a certain area within a city 2) I require a certain star level and 3) I don’t care what hotel I am placed at. Sometimes I have to be at a certain hotel, for instance for a wedding, but besides that I always use Name Your Own Price.

    Like you mentioned, using betterbidding.com is very useful to get an idea of the prices for a particular zone, star level, and date(s) for a city.

    Additionally, by working the ‘free re-bid’ zones you can start bidding at a low price and incrementally raise your bid prices while continuing to target your preferred zone and star level. I plan on doing a posting on it soon because it’s so great!

    Never paying rack rate,
    Mr. Everyday Dollar

    • retirebyforty June 20, 2012, 9:15 pm

      We usually don’t care what hotels we stay at so it works well for us. The only problem is 4 stars doesn’t mean much anymore. It’s good to see what hotels are available.

  • JW @ AllThingsFinance June 20, 2012, 11:25 am

    Very good and timely advice. My fiance just asked me yesterday how to get the best rate on a hotel. The only site I’ve used in the past is Kayak.com. I will definitely try this method now.

    • retirebyforty June 20, 2012, 9:16 pm

      We use Kayak for international flights. Not really sure why though, maybe it’s just habit from years ago.

  • Chase Miller June 23, 2012, 9:10 pm

    I’ve never tried Priceline…it always seemed scary to not know what hotel you might get. I’m heading over to look at BEtter Bidding. Thanks for the tip!

    • retirebyforty June 26, 2012, 7:35 am

      Priceline is good for the 3-4 stars hotels so you can be sure to get an acceptable room. You’re welcome!

  • DaveL June 24, 2012, 8:47 am

    This is awesome and im glad it worked out for you! I was curious to know if you have every used the “name your own price” feature on Priceline for airfare?

    I had been thinking about trying back when I was in college and flying between Florida and New York but was too scared to try it :p I dont know how I feel about giving them the decision to determine when I fly out, when I fly back etc.

    Any success stories with this?

    • retirebyforty June 26, 2012, 7:37 am

      I haven’t tried the airfare yet. I think there are a lot less room to move with the airfare. I usually use travelocity, expedia, or the airline’s site.

  • Aloysa June 25, 2012, 3:55 pm

    Aaahhh… a bag on a bed and you didn’t even look inside to see if it is stuffed with millions and meth? 🙂 I personally don’t like priceline because of the blind bidding. I need to pick and choose location, I want to know where I am staying before I bid. I usel Lonely Planet forums and ask people where they usually stay. So far worked great. 🙂

    • retirebyforty June 26, 2012, 7:42 am

      Oops I forgot to look.:) That’s why I like the forums. It shows you what hotels are available and I only choose 3 or 4* options.

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