Monday, August 8, 2011

Great Hotels Using Priceline!

*Please note this is only my opinion and experiences using Priceline.

Priceline is one of the best travel deals out there. With a little research you can save hundreds of dollars and never stay in a "cheap" hotel again! Now Priceline is not for everyone. You have to be somewhat flexible and need to do your research but you can truly get a 4 star hotel for a 2 star price. Below I will explain the best tips and tricks I know to bid successfully. First I will discuss the pros and cons of bidding.

I do not recommend it if you have a specific location in mind. Usually the Priceline map breaks down into areas of around 5 miles. Each city is different though so make sure you study the map closely.

Also, if you need specific bed requests. Priceline will not guarantee 2 doubles or 1 king. For families I know this is an issue for fear of only having 1 bed. In my experiences we have only had one issue with this when we where unable to have a room with a king like requested. Keep in mind, worst case scenario you could ask for a trundle which usually cost $10 in most hotels. I just call the hotel directly the day before arrival and ask. Some hotels will go ahead and take my request and others make you wait until check in.

 Priceline reservations are usually the lowest category room in the hotel. On occasion we will be upgraded but it's unlikely. However I would still rather stay in the lowest room of a 4 star than the best of a 2 star but that's just me.

I save a lot of money. Usually I average about 50-70% off the nightly rate.

I am able to experience nice hotels without the concern of high cost.

How to get the best deal-

First open two tabs on your browser. One for priceline and one for On Priceline input your information as if you were just booking through them, not bidding. This allows you to see roughly what hotels and star level they are working with. Keep in mind they do have a clause in the fine print that says when bidding the hotel does not have to be one that has a nightly rate but I have never seen that happen. Then I go to betterbidding and type in the city. Do not put the state too just city name. It will pop up with a forum of bidders who have made successful bids in that city using both priceline and hotwire. This is a great tool to not only see how much people are winning the hotel for but also to see which hotels are frequently appearing.

Second go back to priceline and choose a star category and location. VERY IMPORTANT if there is a hotel in that category that you do not want to stay in do not bid. Change your criteria or don't use priceline. I can not tell you how important this is. Even if there are 14 other hotels in that category and only 1 you would hate the odds are that is the one you will get. Remember priceline is nonrefundable so you need to be wise in your bidding. I can say a couple of times this happened to me where there was one I didn't like so I bid very low. Of course I got that hotel but I was ok with it because I knew I paid so little that it was a good choice.

Third, know the tricks. Priceline will only let you do the same bid once every 24 hours so if you try again you need to either add a location or a star level. Research before about where the star levels are. For example when looking at Sacramento it is broken down to 6 areas. Only 2 have a 4 star hotel. This means that I can keep my 4 stars but add new areas to bid again since I know there aren't any other 4 stars in those places. Also keep in mind that whatever star level you choose the higher levels will be chosen automatically. If you choose 3 star, 4 will also be chosen so always start at the highest and then work your way down if necessary.

Fourth don't worry if your first bid is not accepted. Sometimes it will take me days before mine gets accepted because I am trying to get the lowest possible price so I am only going up maybe $3 each time.

Fifth the bigger the city the better the chances. The more hotels in that city increases your odds of getting a good deal. If you are looking at a small town with only a couple hotels Priceline usually isn't much help.

Hotwire- I don't use hotwire because I find that I can get something on Priceline for less. Also, I think Hotwire rates there hotels higher than they actually are. On average they say their hotels are 1/2-1 star higher than any other site would say. I feel like its more of a gamble but I do know lots of people who use it and are happy with it.

My averages on Priceline
3 star $61
3 1/2 star $65
4 star $74

Sheraton- $65

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Flying with Infant on Lap.

So my daughter will have been on more planes before she is 18 months old than I had been on when I was 18 years old. We have learned a few tricks that make the flight easier. Of course every child's temperament is different and therefore every flight experience is different but here are some general tips to help.

First, try to pick you seats as close to the front as possible. They allows family's to board early but getting off the plane can be the cause of a lot of anxiety. After a long flight your cranky child just needs to get off and the closer to the front you are the quicker the process.

Don't worry to much about the other travelers around you. Usually if anyone is looking at us when we first board with the look that says "geez this is going to be a long flight" I usually apologise in advance and then try to keep her entertained. Most people are not bothered at all and have had similar experiences with their own children. Just be prepared with snacks, bottles or toys.

MOST IMPORTANT! After many flights I would be so frustrated when I would see empty seats and I asked the attendant before boarding if there was an extra seat for my child and they said no. I have learned a few tricks. Your best possible chance of actually getting the extra seat is booking yourself and spouse in the aisle and window seat. Leaving the middle open lowers the chances that someone will choose that seat. If the plane is full, obviously its not going to happen but in that case just politely ask the middle seat person if they would mind having the window. I have never met anyone who would rather sit wedged in between two people with their baby. They will probably be thanking you and also will be much happier they are sitting next to you and your adorable child. Now the trick here is that when you ask for an empty seat for you child, the attendant can only move an aisle seat to another aisle or a window to another window but a middle seat can be moved anywhere. That allows your chances of having the person in the seat next to you moved much higher! Of course if you are on Southwest its a free for all but on the other airlines this can mean the difference between space and an enjoyable flight or a cramped seat and many apologies.

Try to befriend the flight attendant. They can made your journey so much more enjoyable.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Have a travel question or need tips? Let me know and I will do my best to help!

Tips for Cruises

1. Sign up for the "membership". Most cruise lines have a program to reward you the more times you sail with them. From what I have heard Royal Caribbean's has the most perks. We are part of their Crown and Anchor Society and it's great. They give us a coupon book for onboard purchases and a free gift plus much more. The more cruises the better it is. Definitely worth signing up for.
2. Check cruise rates daily (VERY IMPORTANT). When you book through a cruise line the prices change constantly but if you due your due diligence it can be very rewarding. Just check daily and if the price drops below what you paid call immediately and they will refund you the difference. On one cruise we took I thought we already had the best possible price then it dropped for about 4 hours a week later. I called and we saved around $90. Well, worth a call. This will not happen if you book through a third party. I have heard horror stories from people booking through websites promising great deals. Usually they scam you because they don't charge all of the port fees and then when you check in you are charged.
3. Remember to factor in flights with cost. Sometimes you can find a super cheap cruise but  it leaves out of a port thats extremely expensive to fly into. When finding the best price cruise use both the flight cost and cruise cost. When booking our next vacation it was the same cost to do a 7 night Caribbean as a 5 night because of the airfare costing more to get to the 5 night location.
4. Room Location- We have always stayed in an interior room. We don't mind it and are rarely in our room. I can't picture myself staring out a window all day and there are so many perfect spots on the ships to go find a lounge chair and stare at the water. I would however love to try a balcony next. It would be great with kids so you could have a moment of respite while they are sleeping and just leave the door open. Financially this has not been an option and be prepared that they usually cost at least 50% more. If you are on the bottom floor beware! We were in "steerage" once and above the anchor that dropped at 4am. It was loud. We got the cruise for so cheap we really couldn't complain but still annoying.
5. Enjoy!!!!!!! Try foods you normally wouldn't, participate in fun things and remember you will never see these people again. Have fun!!!!

I am very displeased that I have to edit section 2 after booking our cruise with Carnival. There policy is different and they only award credit to those who purchased at early saver rate. For any other rate they will "upgrade" you if possible but I wouldn't hold your breath. They upgrade they offered me when they dropped the price $100 was a room worse than the one I had and told me it would be best to not upgrade. They claim Royal Caribbean is changing their policy too but I would double check before booking.

My thought's on Cruises!!!!!!!

I can not say enough how much I love cruises! I can not think of a better vacation to do as little or as much as you want. Also being budget friendly there isn't anything I can think of for less. Maybe I love them so much because I am big on customer service and on a cruise I give them an A+. I also love that it is prepaid. You know what you are spending and it makes it so much more relaxing. I don't need to think "should I order the steak?" Yes, I should because there isn't going to be a bill. It seems like every vacation always has it's hidden cost but at least with a cruise you know what your getting.

Discount for Disney World Resort

So when I was trying to plan a vacation to Walt Disney World I kept hitting the same road block.... shuttle service from airport to hotel. No other hotel except the WDW resorts offered complimentary shuttle service and the airport was not close. I figured it would cost about $100 round trip for the 2 adults and baby. This was very irritating because the hotels near WDW were very cheap but I was considering staying at WDW instead. The shuttle they offer is free for guests staying at any of their resorts and has the perk of picking up your luggage and delivering it to the hotel. What I finally came up with was the cheapest and easiest plan for our family would be book 1 night at WDW at the beginning of the trip and another separate stay for the last night. That way we could use there shuttle service and the perks of staying there but then stay somewhere cheaper the rest of the nights.  Now on to my next problem.....there are no discounts to WDW Resorts. No one can offer it to you cheaper than just booking through Disney. I found this to be a challenge as I will rarely EVER pay a regular published nightly rate. So after a lot of reasearch and digging I found the only solution. Book through an internet sight like Expedia or Travelocity and use a promo code that allows a discount off any hotel stay. Currently in California there is one on Expedia and I believe for 10% off a hotel booking. I am not sure if this works everywhere but I did a google search for "promo codes" and I found a few websites with different codes for 5-10% off hotels. This is honestly as good as it will get for a WDW Resort. Even booking through another site you will still get the shuttle service and other perks. Hope this helps! Have a great vacation!

My Blog

So I finally decided to start a blog to share some of my "secrets" to traveling on a budget. I love to go on vacation and my husband and I try to at least once a year. Now that we have a toddler it now has become even more important to us and there are even more costs!!!! I have spent so much time researching the cheapest and easiest way to travel and wanted to share some of my ideas. I hope this helps you plan you next vacation!