Booking a hotel on Priceline is just like the ladies’ hosiery department. You can choose the opaque, the semi opaque, or the sheer.
My strategy is to check all three options to inform my bidding.
Here’s an example of a trip I just booked to Lehi, Utah. Lehi is about 40 minutes south of Salt Lake City, in the Utah Valley.
Hotel choices in Lehi are somewhat mundane: there is a Days Inn, a Motel 6, a Super 8, and a Best Western. Within about 8 miles there is also a Holiday Inn, a Hampton Inn, and a new Marriott Springhill Suites.
Chain hotels are not really my thing — I prefer to stay someplace with a little character. For this trip, though, location is the most important factor.
I want to try for the mid-range Best Western or perhaps one of the newer hotels.
On Priceline’s transparent site, the Best Western is rated 2.5 stars and is going for $68/night.
On Priceline’s semi-opaque site, known as “Express Deals” there is a 2.5 star hotel that is probably the Best Western for $55/night. Express deals are semi-opaque because they include information on the hotel’s amenities such as a swimming pool and free breakfast. You also an specify if you prefer a room with one or two beds.
On Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” opaque site, I bid $40 for a 3* star hotel. My bid is rejected. I can retry my bid right away if I modify it by adding a 2.5 star hotel. With this bid I can win a hotel rated 2.5 or 3 stars. My bid of $43 is accepted by the Best Western Timpanganos Inn. With Priceline, there is a $5 per night fee added by the booking service, plus taxes. So the actual rate is $48/night plus tax. Reservations are prepaid and nonrefundable.
Rates will vary considerably depending on occupancy. In this zone, weekend rates are generally less costly than weekday rates.
Perhaps a reader can comment on whether Priceline also tacks on a fee for their opaque and semi-opaque reservation sites.