Priceline Priceline
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4 5stars

Priceline Review

Book Now with Priceline
Rating:
Bottom Line:
Geared toward travelers with some flexibility; allows users without concrete travel dates to place bids and enjoy marginally lower prices

Full Review:
Founded in 1997, Priceline has been making a respectable name for itself as one of today's most well-known travel sites. Priceline's prices are generally quite low and its flexibility with travel dates, available search filters and Name Your Own Price tool put it a step above some of its competitors.


Getting Started

Priceline's website is easy to navigate and features a search bar at the top that travelers can use to find hotels, flights, cars, vacation packages and cruises. In continuance with most other travel sites, you can enter your preferred vacation dates as well as the city, airport or point of interest you'd like to be nearby.

The site's interface is clear and concise, giving users the all the search options they need and few annoyingly extraneous features. At the top of the page, visitors can select "My Trips" where they can view the details of past trips as well as check the status of a flight they are currently waiting for or access their itinerary if they wish to print or email it. Under the "More" tab, travelers can get help, view their profile and browse through hotel guides and potential group hotel deals. They can also learn about the Priceline mobile app available for iPhone, iPad and Android users.


Price Competitiveness and Packages

There are two ways to book with Priceline: Name Your Own Price tool and traditional booking. Priceline's Name Your Own Price tool allows users to make bids on unused reservations, which may or may not result in a lower final cost. This type of buying process involves what is referred to as "opaque costs," meaning that Priceline rewards the unused inventory to the highest bidder without granting them insight to the original cost. That said, users should bid carefully.

Here's how it works: Priceline will ask you to enter the dates you'll be traveling. For hotels, you'll need to know both your check-in date as well as your check-out date, and for flights, you'll need to know when you're planning on departing and returning — you can also book one-way tickets. The second step is to select where you'd like to go, and if you're bidding on a hotel room, you'll also need to specify what district or region of that city you prefer. Finally, you'll be asked to name your own price, per night in a hotel or per round-trip plane ticket. You'll have to enter your billing information upfront, as if you are preparing to purchase that ticket. It's important to understand that you're not actually making the purchase just yet — you're only placing a bid. The idea is that customers who have placed the highest bid on these reservations can fill spots of last-minute openings. In the event that a spot does open up or remain unfilled and your bid is the highest, you'll be charged the amount you bid, plus baggage fees if they apply.


It's important to note here that frequent flyer points do not apply to the Name Your Own Price tool, and while this system may not be the best option for travelers who need to book exact dates and times far in advance, it can be a fantastic option for those with a bit more flexibility.

When it came to booking without the Name Your Own Price tool, we tested three potential trips (both domestic and International) from different airports, origins and destinations. For each of those trips, we tested three separate airlines and travel dates. In addition, we looked at the pricing for hotels and car rentals. While this was easy to compare for domestic trips, it was rather challenging for international, as not all travel sites allow you to book with the same hotels. As such, we weren't able to successfully compare the pricing for international hotels.

Booking six months in advance

Our first search was for trips six months in advance, and the prices were very low considering the cost of a ticket purchased so far in advance can be a bit pricey. We started by checking the prices for two domestic flights, each with different origins and destinations and on different airlines and were very happy with the low prices. For example, a flight from Phoenix, Arizona to Miami, Florida on Delta Airlines is offered for $369 through Priceline. That price was much lower than the highest price we found for that flight across the board. Similar cost reductions were found on a flight we searched from San Francisco, California to New York, New York on JetBlue Airlines, offered on Priceline for $375, although it should be noted that these price cuts may vary with airlines and airports.

The hotel we booked in New York, the Holiday Inn, gave us a higher rate at $269 per night, although that same price was found on most of the more well-known travel sites. Renting a compact car came out to $44 per day, which was actually more expensive in comparison to some of the other companies we tested. We concluded that booking six months prior to your departure date through Priceline offered pretty average rates for hotel reservations, but fractionally lower hotel prices are available this far ahead of time if you're willing to do some digging.

As far as booking an international flight, we chose to search the cost of a trip from Austin, Texas to Rome, Italy. When booking six months ahead, we were extremely pleased with the low price we were offered in comparison to most other sites. The flight on United Airlines topped out at $1,052. We concluded that international flight prices on Priceline were some of the lowest when booking six months ahead.



Booking six weeks in advance

The next trips we tested were about six weeks in advance. Normally, this is said to be the best time to purchase airline tickets as they'll be cheapest around that time. On average, the domestic flights we tested produced very low rates, but, as aforementioned, we found that the price point was rather inconsistent when it came to booking an international flight six weeks ahead of time. The flight we tested from San Francisco, California to New York, New York came out at $412, which was on the lower end of the overall spectrum. On the other hand, the international flight we booked from Austin, Texas to Rome, Italy was offered at $1,075, only a bit higher than the price offered while booking six months ahead of time.

Booking a hotel six weeks in advance can often pull up some pretty expensive nightly rates, but the Holiday Inn that we tested a reservation with came out to a surprisingly cheap rate of $136 per night. Renting a compact car also surpassed our expectations and gave travelers a daily rate of $20.

Booking last minute

Finally, we tested a trip that would theoretically be booked last-minute. For our purposes, we defined "last-minute" as one week before the day of departure. As a general rule of thumb, this is not recommended unless absolutely necessary as the cost is usually much higher than you would pay a few weeks or months prior to your travel dates. Priceline was no exception to that rule. We were unimpressed by the last-minute prices on both domestic and international flights on a number of airlines. In fact, Priceline's price for a last minute-flight from Phoenix to Miami was considerably higher than the cost of a ticket purchased six months in advance at $556. The international flight we tested from Austin, Texas to Rome, Italy was offered at $1,503.

The last-minute hotel reservation we made in New York was offered at a rate of $153 per night. Priceline is no exception to the general rule that hotel rooms will be cheaper at the last minute, but this price was a bit higher than we expected, considering the shockingly low rates offered when booking six weeks ahead of time. Renting a compact car close to your travel dates will cost you only $24 per day.


Search Filters and Other Features

You can sort your searches by most popular, price (low to high), and the average guest rating. You also have the option to set specific filters depending on the type of travel you're booking. For example, if you're booking a hotel, you can filter by a specific hotel name that you type in, its star rating, set a price range, check amenities you'd like to have (Free Wi-Fi, Free Parking, Pets Allowed, etc.) or the hotel area. While Priceline doesn't host a large number of search filters for flights or hotels as we found with other sites, it does offer deals for Group Travel and Last Minute Deals.


Booking Process

Booking a reservation through Priceline is a standard procedure. Travelers will enter their intended dates as well as any personal specifications they'd like to use as a filter to find the best deals on flights, hotels, cruises, rental cars and other activities. We were somewhat bothered by the number of external windows that popped up every time we made a new search, but for those who are willing to commit more time to finding the best deal, these pop-ups actually offer some pretty low rates on certain flights and hotels.

As previously mentioned, Priceline also uses its Name Your Own Price tool to allow users to place bids on tickets and reservations. After entering their travel dates and preferred star rating, if booking a hotel or flight, travelers can place their bid and wait to see if their room or seat on a flight opens up.


Rewards Program

Priceline Rewards is a program created so that members can receive special Bonus Cash rewards that can be used towards future Priceline purchases. Signing up to be a member is as easy as entering your email address and creating a password and continuing on to make at least one purchase through Priceline while you're signed in. Private Pricebreakers offer deals for rewards members, and must be earned as you go.


Customer Service

Priceline offers an extensive help and support section. Your first option is to categorize your question and search their list of Frequently Asked Questions for your answer. If you cannot find what you're looking for or would rather speak to someone directly, you have a few options. First, you can chat with a representative immediately as their phone lines are open 24/7. We were connected with someone at Priceline in about two minutes and they were able to answer our question effectively. Next, you can send an email, and Priceline gives a 12-hour window in which you'll most likely receive a response — we only had to wait about four hours. Lastly, you can call its customer service number if you have your Priceline request number on hand or write to them via snail mail if you're looking to voice a comment. When we contacted Priceline's phone lines we were put on hold for a few minutes, but then greeted by a friendly representative who was happy to help us iron out a few unclear details.



Conclusion

Priceline is our top recommendation for frequent travelers, as its premise is somewhat involved and requires a keen understanding of baseline prices on flights and hotels. Its low prices and easy-to-follow interface take some of the stress out of booking a trip, and its Name Your Own Price tool gives users the opportunity to book at some of the lowest prices around.

Book Now with Priceline | Compare to Other Travel Sites

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Service Details

Available to Book:Flights, hotels, cars, cruises and vacation packages
Best for:Travelers with enough booking experience to place relevant bids on reservations
Competitive Pricing*:
Loyalty Program:Yes
Search Filters:
Mobile App:iPhone, Android

*These ratings are based on the prices we received when testing both domestic and international trips (see Price Competitiveness and Packages section of the review for more details)

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