Back in Tech Bit 24 I mentioned Priceline as a low cost option for hotels, the negative being you don't know the name of the hotel until you "win."
I had recommended using two websites, http://www.biddingfortravel.com and/or http://www.betterbidding.com/, which are forums where the members post their winning deals. Finding the relevant data is a bit of a challenge.
I always felt there should be a better way to record winning bids, perhaps something like TripIt where you would forward your email confirmation.
A recent thread on FlyerTalk (Tech Bit 27) led me to http://www.biddingtraveler.com/.
I used it on a trip to Chicago coming up in February and it did a great job, snagging me a 3 ½ star hotel for $38 per night.
The process is neat because it is clearly capturing a lot of bidding data during each user’s session. I have to presume, that the more data the site gets, the more intelligent it will be able to be about bidding suggestions.
On the home page you input your destination, check-in and check-out dates. That leads to a map that looks like the Priceline hotel bidding page, but with different results. On the map showing zones, at the exact locations, are the hotels that have been won, their star rating and range of winning bids. Selecting a star level (and zones) shows recent losing and winning bids. Using that information you select the zones you are willing stay in, the minimum star level you want, and a minimum and maximum bid range (the site makes suggestions based on its history).
At that point if you are using Internet Explorer, you have the option of using an autobid feature (it uses an active X plug in, so you can’t have high security enabled). It asks for some of the information you would enter into Priceline then takes over.
Or you can do it manually, which is the only option I got using Google Chrome. It opens Priceline in a frame (there’s a biddingtraveler.com bar above the regular priceline.com web page). Each step of the way the bar tells you what to enter into Priceline.
What really differentiates Bidding Traveler is its clever use of “rebids.” Anyone who has gotten into Priceline bidding knows that you can get an instant second (or third or fourth) chance to bid if you add a zone that doesn’t have any hotels with the star rating you are trying for. Bidding Traveler takes the concept up a notch, mixing and matching zones in ways I would never have thought of, but giving many more rebids in a single session. For my Chicago trip, I was given up to 7 tries, how many you get will be determined by your star choice and the zones available. Obviously the more tries, the smaller increments you can change your bid by, and the lower cost room you’ll end up with.
I didn't know about the IE autobidding option since from the home page all I saw was the simple let's get started. Perhaps a link to some help page somewhere would be useful.
It would be nice to see how many bidders' data points are being used for each zone, and, as the number rises, perhaps for each star level. The site can't help if somewhere obscure doesn't have any data to aid in bidding, versus somewhere common like Las Vegas where it might get several hundred (hopefully thousand) winning bids to draw from.
This is a site that will only get better as more people discover it and use it. It is a perfect example of the wisdom of crowds. I hope if you use Priceline, you’ll start using www.biddingtraveler.com.
Priceline bidding isn't always the lowest cost option. Sometimes I get a better deal on Priceline, sometimes on Hotwire and sometimes a regular site like Hotels.com. It pays to shop around.