WICHITA, Kan. If you're thinking of planning a spring break trip or summer vacation - don't book anything yet! You might be overpaying by hundreds of dollars.
You've probably heard of Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz and many other price comparison websites. Those are a good place to start when it comes to travel savings, especially if want to bundle your costs for multiple things like a flight, hotel and rental car. But if you just need a hotel, you don't have to book using the company's website or by calling the hotel because you could end up paying hundreds more than you have to. How much more? Eyewitness News reporter Emily Griffin set out to show you.
For example, say you want to go to St. Louis for Arch Madness in March. Emily decided to look for a 4-star hotel in the downtown area. One of the first hotels to come up in a Google search was the Westin. Using the Westin's website, a singe room was going for about $179 per night, which means it would cost about $415 to stay two nights.
Now, for a cheaper alternative.
Start by going to a bidding website like Priceline.com. Priceline is a website that let's you compare prices of hotels, flights and it can let you bundle those prices. But instead of bundling, scroll down to where it says "for deeper discounts name your own price". Click on hotels and then it's going to ask you where to you want to go and your check-in and check-out dates.
At this point, it will pull up a map with several zones. Find the area you want to stay in and click that zone.
Clicking a zone will illuminate your next step, which will show you which star-rated hotels are located in that zone. Priceline doesn't tell you the name of the hotels in those zones or which one you're bidding on. It only shows you what star-rating it is and what area it's in.
After you select your star-rating, scroll down and enter the price you want to pay for a hotel room. But how do you know what price to bid? This is where anther website comes in handy, BetterBidding.com.
BetterBidding.com lists which hotels people have bid on, where they are, and how much people ended up paying for those rooms. To find that information, just click on the Winning Bids board, go to Hotels, click Priceline and then find the state you're searching for hotels in.
It will show you a list of hotels and the prices people have paid. Since Emily was searching in Missouri, one of the top hotels it pulled up on our list was the Westin, the 4-star hotel in downtown St. Louis. That listing showed a person only paid $51 for a room there in January.
That will help give you a better idea of where to start your bidding numbers because now you know someone has paid only $51 for a room at a 4-star hotel in downtown St. Louis.
Now it's time to enter your first bid on Priceline. For our example, Emily started her first bid at $50. Then preview your order, enter your credit card information and submit your bid.
Her first bid was rejected. If that happens, the price is too low. Normally, Priceline will only let you bid in the same spot once every 24 hours, however, there is a way around that.
Open a new Priceline page and essentially start over. Go back to zone map and now, click each zone one at a time to find areas that don't have any 4-star hotels. Here's the secret: add one of those zones with no 4-star hotels to your bidding area and it will let you bid again. But because there are no 4-star hotels in that added zone, you're still guaranteeing you'll end up in the area you really want to be in. Then just up your bid by a small amount, like five dollars, and then try again.
Each time a bid is rejected, just start the process over. Add one more zone without a 4-star hotel and up your bid by five dollars.
During Emily's example trial run, it took nine tries before her bid of $90 was accepted.
The total charges for the winning bid for one room for two nights came out to $221.58, which Priceline says saved her 45 percent.
To compare, she went to the website of the hotel that accepted the winning bid. On that hotel's website, it would have cost about $509 for one room, for two nights, which is more than double the Priceline bid.
It is important to know, if you use the bidding option on Priceline you don't get a bed choice or get to choose the location of that room, in case you're looking for one with a view. However, you can add another day to your stay, before or after.