Archive for February, 2009

Traveling with Priceline

A friend of mine asked me recently for tips on how to use Priceline. I’m a big fan of using their name-your-price service for hotels for personal travel. The advantage? I can save a LOT of money. The disadvantage? I don’t get to choose the hotel or room type, and only loosely get to choose the geographic area. I’m a bit of a control freak so that can be a challenge.

Note that there are two areas of Priceline – the full rate travel section which functions like Travelocity or Expedia, and the name-your-own-price bidding section. The site will often redirect you to the full rate section so keep track of which part of the site you’re on.

Basic Priceline: How does it work? You select a city, a zone within the city, and a class of hotel and submit a bid, naming your own price. You don’t get to choose the hotel in advance – if your bid is accepted you find out the hotel you got upon acceptance. You provide your credit card when bidding, it books when the system accepts your bid, and there are no changes and no cancellations.

This is to the hotel’s benefit because they can sell their unused inventory of rooms based upon expected occupancy. And it’s the user’s benefit because you can save a good deal of money.

There are sites that help with Priceline bidding strategy – the one I use is Bidding for Travel. The site can help with determining good bidding prices, hotels that typically come up on Priceline in a given city, and ways to rebid again within Priceline’s rules if your initial offer is declined.

Free Rebidding: When you bid on Priceline, if your bid fails, you typically have to wait 24 hours before Priceline will allow you to submit another price. However, Priceline will allow you to instantly resubmit another bid, if you loosen your requirements, for example, if you lower your star-level requirement or if you add extra regions to your bid.

Free rebidding is a technique that frequent Priceline users have developed to get the best price possible. Free rebidding strategy depends on the fact that not all Priceline “regions” contain the same distribution of hotels.

For instance, when bidding on a hotel in Seattle, Priceline will let you specify regions including Downtown/Pike Place, Seattle Center, Renton or Southcenter/Seatac. However, of these regions, only Downtown/Pike Place has a 4-star hotel affiliated with Priceline (You can check this manually on Priceline’s website or look at the lists on Bidding for Travel, but the latter is not authoritative.

A free rebid is when you add a region to your bid which is guaranteed not to change which hotels you are actually bidding on. For instance. To illustrate: Your initial bid is $75/night for a 4-star hotel in Downtown/Pike Place. You will be able to get a free rebid by adding Seattle Center to your list of acceptable regions. Since Priceline has no 4-star hotels in Seattle Center, this bid is functionally equivalent to your original bid – but Priceline will allow you to instantly submit this bid, since you have “loosened” your regional requirements.

Following this line of reasoning, and doing some research on the Bidding For Travel website, you should be put together a series of free rebids for a 4-star hotel in Seattle, such as this:

  • $75/night for a 4* hotel in Downtown/Pike Place
  • $80/night for a 4* hotel in Downtown/Pike Place or Seattle Center
  • $85/night for a 4* hotel in Downtown/Pike Place or Seattle Center or Renton
  • $90/night for a 4* hotel in Downtown/Pike Place or Seattle Center or Renton or Southcenter/Seatac

This series lets you try a sequence of bids in a row on the same region, hopefully getting you a bid that comes as close as possible to the “minimum acceptable” price that Priceline will accept. If $90 doesn’t work, you can wait 24 hours, and try again starting at $95. Of course, you can adapt the above strategy to 4-star hotels in any region by researching available hotels in that region.

Suggested Price: Priceline will often display a “suggested price” on hotels in the area you’re bidding. Disregard that – it’s usually far greater than the bid price that might be accepted. Research recently accepted bids on Bidding for Travel, or look up hotel rates on a full price travel site and start at 33-50% of the listed rate.

Priceline has also been known to very occasionally respond with a counteroffer. You don’t have to accept it – it may still not be the lowest price you can get. Many users have reported success with logging back in and using another free rebid that only increases the amount by 50-75% of the increase suggested in Priceline’s counteroffer.

Good luck – and happy traveling!

Posted on Thursday, February 26th, 2009 by Jeri
Under: travel | 1 Comment »

All that Glitters

A couple of days ago, we were talking on Twitter about the falling Dow and what we wish we’d done with our money. At the same time, my most recent issue of Jewelry Artist had an interesting article on the soaring price of gold and silver and its impact on the jewelry industry.

Many years ago, long before the dot com boom, I invested in growth funds that were heavily oriented toward tech stocks. They did not fare well, and in fact, the market as a whole faltered in 2002-2003, but then recovered. Now, of course, it’s falling again.

It made me think: what if I’d invested that same amount in gold, instead? I ran an analysis – $2,500 in in 29 shares of an index fund (using VFINX) against $2,500 in 9 ounces of gold. Giving both markets the benefit of the doubt, I bought in at the start of 1998, picked the highest price point each year, and the most recent price point in 2009 for this table.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, February 18th, 2009 by Jeri
Under: money | 6 Comments »

Alien vs. Predator vs. Bleah

My son is watching – not on purpose, just channel surfed and landed there – Alien vs. Predator II: Requiem on cable.

I’m carefully ignoring it, surfing the web and listening to Iron and Wine on headphones as I gave up on the franchise after Alien II.

Still, I catch glimpses of the movie out of the corner of my eye, and I do not get it. What’s the point? Gore, more gore, gruesome gore, slimy aliens doing icky things, and even more gore. And does not a single person have the sense to turn on a light switch? The whole film is shot so darkly that it’s almost painful to watch it.

I enjoy action movies, occasionally gory movies, even gruesome bits when it serves the story. I just watched Taken with the awesome Liam Neeson and enjoyed it very much. The bottom line is that there actually has to be a plot.

I must be getting old. Darned kids! Get off my lawn.

Posted on Sunday, February 15th, 2009 by Jeri
Under: entertainment, movies | 13 Comments »

25 Random Things

There is a note going around Facebook which asks folks to identify 25 random things about themselves. I’m swiping it for my blog, since I need post material. Feel free to use it yourself, if you choose.

1. I was born in Rangoon, Burma, which is now Yangon, Myanmar, but only lived there for two years.
2. I won the junior high school spelling bee in 6th, 7th and 8th grades.
3. My dad taught me to flyfish when I was twelve, and I still love it.
4. I earned the exalted rank of Girl Scout First Class, and my award was signed by former President Jimmy Carter.
5. In high school I was an editor on the school paper and a flag-twirler in the color-guard.
6. I graduated from high school at 16 and started college at 17, which required that my parents sign permission and medical care releases with my dorm and the student health clinic.
7. I was baptized in my college swimming pool. This was anticlimactic since I spent 4 hours a day in that same water on the college swim team, and worked there as a lifeguard.
8. I was in Army ROTC in college, and wanted nothing more than to follow in my dad *and* mom’s footsteps and become a military officer, but at 19% body fat (athletic range) I was 15 pounds over the Army’s acceptable weight.
9. I ski-bummed for a quarter in college in Big Sky, Montana, until I blew out my knee.
10. My college major was in technical writing, but after working in the field for two years I realized I detested doing it for a living.
11. I lived in the UK – RAF Mildenhall – for two years, teaching at the Department of Defense junior high while my ex-husband was stationed there.
12. I taught business school for four years for a for-profit vocational college that eventually went under. My children will never attend a for-profit college.
13. Both of my children arrived weeks later than their anticipated delivery date. Things have not changed.
14. I met my husband on the Internet; I was a science fiction chat host. He was a Star Trek fan but I overlooked that and got to know him anyway.
15. I snow-machined up the Yukon river in -35° weather at sunrise. It was a business trip.
16. I drive a $%&#@%! minivan, which I swore I never would and don’t like much – but it has room in the back for two 6’3″ teen boys.
17. I don’t drink, dance or gamble, but it’s hardly for religious reasons. (Migraines, lack of coordination, and just not fun for me)
18. I am a compulsive and rapid reader, at about 100 paperback pph. My preference is science fiction, but will read fantasy, mystery, literature, biography, non-fiction, etc.
19. I love to metalsmith, work with beads & wire and make jewelry & metal art. I don’t wear a lot of jewelry though, I just enjoy the creative process and the end result.
20. I have a mild and much improved phobia of worms, which means I garden with gloves on.
21. I am a pimp, certified and everything. (A PMP is a certified project management professional but they nickname us “pimps”.)
22. I dislike watching television and especially detest having it constantly on in the background. It’s a distraction I can’t filter out. I pick an occasional (geeky) show and watch tape-delayed so I can fast-forward through the ads.
23. While I am technically savvy and reasonably knowledgeable, troubleshooting makes me crazy and cranky; it’s a very good thing I did not choose that career path.
24. Someday after I finish paying for the teen boy squad’s college I’m going to go back to school and earn an MFA in metal arts.
25. I’m a member of a super-secret organization called the UCF. We’re dedicated to international espionage, debunking bad science, creative writing and comment-hijacking.

Posted on Wednesday, February 4th, 2009 by Jeri
Under: blog meme | 1 Comment »