Frugal Travel: Tips on Using Priceline and Hotwire for Cheap Hotels

Travel is pretty much the only thing that the Money Misfit household spends money on when it comes to non-essential expenses. We don’t drink alcohol, we don’t regularly dine out at restaurants, we don’t go to the movie theater on weekends, we don’t smoke and we don’t buy things for ourselves regularly.

Other than the occasional coffee out, travel is where our extra expenses fall. But – we only travel when we can still manage to pay down a little extra on debt. Sure, we could pay off even more with the travel money, but I suspect if we were that miserable then the debt payoff would stop as a result of the misery.

Fortunately, travel is something that can be done on the cheap if you are smart about it.

Instead of traveling just for the sake of traveling, I try to wait for deals. And I look for low cost hotels via Priceline and Hotwire.

Now, this can be a bit risky since you have to pay in advance and can end up at a real dump. A few years ago, I ended up getting a great deal on a hotel that was having a pretty serious bedbug problem. I found out about before my arrival, couldn’t get a refund and had to pay for another hotel.

However, I’ve gotten 4 and 5-star hotels for under $50, so it is not all bad.

My biggest tip for using Priceline and Hotwire for hotels on the cheap is the Better Bidding forum.

Not only can you use the site to see other’s successful bids (so that you don’t over pay) but you can also usually sleuth out which hotel you might be getting offered with your bid. I find this most helpful with Hotwire, but have used it with Priceline with good results as well.

All you have to do is compare the amenities to decipher the probable hotel.

And, the rule of thumb seems to be if you can decipher the hotel on Hotwire, then that same hotel is likely on Priceline.

Then, just bid on Priceline at a price lower than you see on Hotwire. Doing this results in a pretty good chance of knowing exactly which hotel you are getting at a low price. Sometimes, though, you can only narrow it down to two different hotels.

For the best results at not ending up in a dump, stick with 4-star and higher hotels. It is only when I have bid on a hotel room at a lower star rate that I have had a bad experience.

Image By Raleigh Muns (Raleigh Muns) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

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