Thursday, December 26, 2013

Traveling on a Budget: Why you should never buy a hotel early.

Where you'd probably stay
if the price was cheap enough
You're an explorer of the natural world. You adhere to the Journey is the Adventure mantra, and you always keep your LEFT expenses low. You don't want to spend all your time in the hotel, you want to spend your time on the adventure!

So why would you want to spend more money on a hotel you're just going to be in for 8 hours?

Buying a hotel early nails down where you're going to be at a particular moment, and that's not what you want. Breaking down a vacation into a time line is the fast track to reminding you of why you hated your family vacations as a kid. Just passed by a local festival? Sorry, gotta get to the next state by tonight. Are you tired of driving? Too bad, still have 6 hours to drive.

If you book a hotel at the last minute (literally) you're free to stop when you want. This frees your mind from the stress of travel and switches to enjoying what's around you.

This is one of the important backbones to the Traveling is the Journey lifestyle. You have to free yourself from any possible stressfull and constricting factors. That way, your travel is fluid, and more able to adapt to changing conditions and new information.



Let me sell you on why you should use instead. Sadly, I don't work for Priceline, it would be a dream if I did (hint hint Priceline).

Say we assume a 2.5 star or less hotel prices change very little, we can therefore assume we're guaranteed a certain price. That price is somewhere between $40-$50 for a motel 6 or Super 8. These lower star hotels basically never sell out, and are usually in any respectable town along your way.

Priceline lets you name your own price for a region. If you know you're guaranteed a hotel for $40-50, why not try and see if you can get something cheaper. As you're, of course, adhering to the Journey is the Adventure mantra, you have the power.

Start by selecting an area somewhere in the next couple hours infront of you. Go to the Express Deals section of Priceline.You're checking out what regions have the cheapest hotels and what the lowest price hotel. Whatever the cheapest hotel price is we'll start our bidding at half of it.

Head on over to the Name your own Price section, choose 2.5 or 3 stars, and bid a little less than half the price of the lowest hotel you found earlier. Choose the region that seemed to contain the cheapest hotels and press bid. Most likely your first bid will fail, especially if it's anywhere from $20-25. But thats ok, we're starting at your baseline.

Every time you fail a bid Priceline requires that you either add a region or add a lesser rated hotel to your search. Normally you could resubmit the same bid as long as you changed one of the above things, but as we're guessing we're probably at the cheapest region we have to up the bid. Go ahead and add a different region that's still along your route and up your bid $3-5. Continue like this till you strike gold.

By feeling around like this you can usually hit a good price, if you get within $3-5 of the lowest hotel price you found earlier you can either: 1. Start over in an area near the current one. 2. Give up and just choose that cheap hotel you found earlier. Or 3. Just navigate to the nearest super 8's/motel 6's your find and hope they're cheaper (they're probably the same).

If you start worrying, just remember, it doesn't matter if you never find a hotel on Priceline, there's always plan B and plan C

**Pro-tip: Learn the expensive parts of town and use them as an extra bidding oppurtunity. It doesn't matter that they may be out of your way, you get another bidding chance, and they weren't going to accept you anyway. If they do, it's probably worth the couple extra bucks in gas to stay in a 4 star hotel for the night**

For more data points, check out This site is a forum for success stories, sorted by particular cities. Just remember, just because last week someone found a particular price, doesn't mean this week you can get the same one.

I've found some really good deals including a $25 hotel room just a block from the beach in South Padre Island! Not booking a hotel till an hour before can really stress out a person that's not used to a lack of planning. Once you get going and win a couple of bids you'll realize it's a win win for you.
Plus it's incredibly exciting when you do book a great deal.

Well maybe you should buy one early, occasionally...

Conventions, because you know, maybe you're kind of into that.
Booking at the last minute can sometimes go terrible wrong. For one, sometimes really large events happen to be going on in the town you're hoping to stay in. If you're in San Diego during Comic Con, good luck. New Orleans during Mardi Gras, might want to just start walking across town it will be faster. These events are rare, but be cognizant of the possibility if hotel prices are much higher than you expected.

Vegas is an entirely different beast that we'll cover later. So for now, I'll just warn you to stay away from pricelining in vegas.

These tips are mainly for travelers passing through or for a single day where location doesn't matter.  If you're main destination is a city and you're spending more than one night it might be beneficial to book early. It goes double if you're infact going to Comic Con, book that early and probably like yesterday.
One last thing. You need to remember most hotels are more expensive on the weekends. To counter this, I try to book a hotel only on the weekdays and switch to cheaper accommodations like camping or sleeping in my car on the weekend. Spacing hotels out like this is a great trick for keeping sanity and stay on budget. We'll discuss the topic in depth in the future.

That's it for now, good luck, and happy bidding!


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