How to Score Luxury Hotel Rooms for Less

PHOTO: Priceline is a great site to get luxury hotel rooms for discounted prices.
Caroline von Tuempling/Getty Images

Whether you're a procrastinator arranging a last-minute spring break or a planner meticulously mapping out a summer vacation, I've got some hotel booking news that will make your day. The magazine Consumers' Checkbook has been studying online travel booking services and says it has figured out THE strategy for scoring rock bottom rates on luxury hotel rooms. The answer? Priceline.

But you can't just blindly go to the site and pull this off. There's a technique to it. Checkbook's editors have spent years experimenting and now say they're ready to reveal their "system." And I'm ready to reveal what they've revealed!

"These deals aren't flukes," Checkbook said. "We regularly shop for hotel rooms in dozens of major US cities at different times of the year and almost always get steeply discounted rates from Priceline." One example: Checkbook scored a room at the stylish Edgewater in Seattle for $77 on Priceline, when the hotel's own site was advertising the same room for $143.

How? First off, you need to use the "Name Your Own Price" feature, NOT Priceline's standard hotel booking tool where you pull up a city, see a list of available hotels and book one, just like Expedia or Travelocity. With the "Name Your Price" option, it's a little nerve wracking because you don't get to choose your hotel. You make an offer and Priceline chooses for you.

Here are the steps to turn that into a great pick --not "ick."

1. Resolve to bid on only 4 and 5 star hotels, so you know wherever you end up will be pretty nice.

2. Go to Priceline's "Name Your Own Price" area and look at the neighborhoods or "geographic zones" in each city. Note whether each has any 4 or 5 star options.

3. Choose which neighborhood (that HAS 4 and 5 star options) you prefer.

4. Make an opening bid of $60 ($70 for expensive cities like New york) for 4 and 5 star hotels in that area. Checkbook found that's about the lowest rate Priceline will accept for high-end hotel rooms.

5. Ignore the obnoxious warnings that your bid is probably too low and wait to see if it's accepted. If so, yay!

6. If not, here's a little trick: normally Priceline doesn't let you bid again for 24 hours. BUT if you add another geographic zone to your search, you can! So add a second neighborhood --and this is key-- one that does NOT have any 4 or 5 star hotels in it. Increase your bid by $5. Since your search is still limited to only 4 and 5 star hotels, Priceline will search your original target destination again, not the added destination. Get it?

7. STILL no luck? Repeat the process again, adding ANOTHER zone that has no 4 or 5 star hotels. Add another $5. And so on. In this way, $5 at a time, you will finally identify the very lowest rate you can get for a room. Good luck!

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