Priceline and Hotwire Hotel Bidding Tips | Book Early or Book Late?

I got an email this week from Jerry.  He asked:

Is it cheaper to wait until closer to your travel date to bid on a room?  Or is it about the same if you do it months in advance.

Opaque Websites: Book Early or Late

I had some hunches and assumptions before writing this post, but I figured that I should do a little research before answering based on a hunch.  However, as I’ve researched I’ve found other peoples hunches, but nothing definitive, so I think I’ll stick to my hunch.

Know your Personality Before Booking Hotels on Price line or Hotwire

I’m a person who likes to have vacations planned out far in advance.  Even if I could get a $150 hotel for $75 three months in advance and that same hotel 2 days in advance for $65, I’d rather have the same hotel for $10 per night more and know three months early that I’ve got a place.  It also makes other vacation planning easier.

For that reason, I usually book early. 

That’s why I only have hunches about booking late.

In fact, I’ve only tried to book late on Priceline once.  I didn’t get a good deal.

Assumptions Why Booking Early is Best:

  1. There is more inventory available.  This would be especially true if you were traveling during a peak season.  Let’s say you are going to Florida in the summer.  I suspect the closer you get to summer there will be less rooms available.  When there is more available, you’re likely to get better prices.
  2. Hotwire (specifically) and probably Priceline don’t constantly adjust their prices.  I assumed this, and that seems to be the same thing that “thereuare” says on the BetterBidding Forum.  There might be a peak rate and off peak rate, but it’s not like hotels are calling Hotwire and asking them to change the rates because they have less rooms on a certain date.  I think that is too much hands-on work.  I suspect hotels set and forget their rates. 

Hotel Bidding Tips if Bidding Early:

  • Take advantage of your time with Priceline by using ridiculously low prices.  Find a Hotwire price and start with 40% off that rate.  Slowly increase your rate.
  • You cannot change your dates, so be sure you have a firm travel date before ever booking your hotel.

Assumptions Why Booking Late is Best:

  1. TX-Traveler makes a point that when people are having conventions, they hold a larger number of rooms until 2-3 weeks before the event.  Again, this is not so much an issue of price as it is availability unless Priceline and Hotwire rates are continually in flux.
  2. Avoid the 100% cancellation guarantee.  If you are a person who pays for the cancellation guarantee, you can avoid that cost by booking 1-2 days in advance when you are less likely to cancel your reservation.

Hotel Bidding Tips if Bidding Late:

  • Always make a reservation with a fully refundable room.  This way, if you have trouble getting a hotel at the last minute, you’ll at least have a back up plan.  Be sure to put a notice in your calendar to be sure you don’t forget to make a cancellation.

Conclusion | Book Hotwire and Priceline Hotels Early or Late

It completely depends on the location, the season, and the availability.  It’s anybody’s guess.  In the end, I’m going to keep booking early because there is no consistent pattern that says one is better than the other. But I like knowing where I’ll be staying.  That has a value for me.

Anyone else have thoughts or experiences on the topic?

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