As I mentioned a while back, there's something about those mystery auction travel sites that basically freaks me out. Would you really offer $amount to stay in some random hotel in some part of town you don't know? Worse yet, would you pay $offer to take mystery flights, perhaps at weird times or with unpleasantly long layovers, only to arrive at an airport somewhere only vaguely near the place you're trying to get to?
Dan's got a rugby match in Vancouver in two weeks. Far from being the discount paradise you'd imagine, Canada is actually kind of expensive to visit these days. OK, it's actually not more expensive than Seattle, but it definitely costs more than I remember it used to. Anyhow, this means that I couldn't find a decent hotel room for anything less than US$85 - and that $85 is for a semi-scuzzy Holiday Inn Express a few miles east of downtown. I've stayed there before; it's not bad, and the free breakfast is good, but it can take a long time to drive out there late at night, AND you get to go through Van's equivalent of Skid Row: block after block of decrepit hotels complete with the down and out hanging around soliciting for drugs and sex. Yeeeesh.
The one other time I tried Priceline, I did so using the following strategy:
1. When you bid for a hotel, you may choose three things: general part of town, hotel class, and price.
2. If your bid is not accepted, you can't just up your bid and try again. Instead, you have to add an additional part of town or hotel class.
3. Therefore, one strategy that works to re-bid is to add a part of town that doesn't actually have a hotel in the class you want.
That time, we didn't get a four star hotel in LA at any reasonably cheap price. So, we wound up in the Valley, way out in Woodland Hills, in a very nice hotel room [a Hilton, I think] for about $60 a night with taxes, thanks to Hotwire.com. Unlike Priceline, it's easy to figure out what hotel you're buying on Hotwire; all you do is launch another browser [thank you, Mozilla!] and price a package that include airfare to the same destination. That vacation package will give you the name of the included hotel, and then you can match the amenities icons to the hotel info you get if you search for a hotel by itself. Easy!
This time, the strategy worked the first time around, and we wound up with a room at the Hyatt Regency Vancouver.
If I had booked it at Hyatt's Web site, it would have cost US $293.36 for the room including taxes. Ouch.
If I had booked it at Expedia, it would have cost US $315.43 including taxes. Double ouch.
At Priceline, the room cost us US $89.74, including taxes.
I think we got a good deal.
Still, I don't like the whole feeling of paying money for something that you can't know what it us until you've bought it.