First of all...Happy 4th of July everyone!! (So, I'm a day early.)
This may seem like an odd post coming from a travel agent, but my financial background runs long and deep. Traveling (and traveling nicely) does not have to be as expensive as one may think.
Using Hotwire, Priceline, or Last Minute Travel can really pay off once one can "figure out" how it all works. I have been known to cross reference other websites such as Trip Advisor or Better Bidding. I would say that I find Trip Advisor works best for Hotwire and that Better Bidding works best for Priceline. Last Minute Travel can sometimes be extremely easy as they sometimes post photos of the interior of the hotels. It is easy to cross reference between any of the other travel websites as they usually post the same stock photos. The majority of the time when booking on any of the three websites I am 99% sure what hotel will be revealed.
The first time that I recall making a purchase when I was 99% certain of where I would be staying was in July 2005. We were heading to Fort Lauderdale for a week. I really wish I remembered what we paid (as nothing shows up in the history on the LMT website). The hotel was the Sheraton Yankee Trader. The hotel was beachfront, we could even see the ocean from our room!
Now on to more specific examples from Hotwire (Thank you, Hotwire, for having the winning history!)...
July 2004 - Miami Beach, FL
Sixty Sixty Resort and Hotel (at the time was a Holiday Inn), 3 Stars, $50 per night.
According to TA - Awful reviews, would not recommend!! In 2004, it was nice.
May 2005 - Salt Lake City, UT
Marriott City Center, 4 Stars, $49 per night. Retail is over $200 per night.
I loved it there! Actually wanted to stay there the last time I was in town. Priceline did not agree.
June 2008 - Myrtle Beach, SC
Sheraton Convention Center, 4 Stars, $89 per night. Retail is over $200 per night.
$89 is not a bad deal for booking a same day, Friday night, summer time stay in Myrtle Beach.
May 2009 - Honolulu, Hawai'i
Hilton Hawaiian Village, 4 Stars, $102 per night. Retail starts around $200 per night.
Again, another favorite!! Great location, we could walk pretty much anywhere. Plus, there was a bus stop right out front.
May 2010 - West Yellowstone, MT
Holiday Inn Sunspree Resort, 3 Stars, $89 per night. Retail is over $200 per night.
The hotel was ok. No real complaints, my guess is that the high retail is due to the proximity of the hotel to the west entrance to Yellowstone National Park. I would be willing to stay there again.
May 2010 - Teton Village, WY
Snake River Lodge and Spa, 4 Stars, $49 per night. Retail is around $300 per night.
Probably my absolute favorite! I already want to visit again, but prefer the $49 price tag.
May 2011 - Myrtle Beach, SC
Embassy Suites, 3.5 Star, $111. Retail is over $200 per night.
Not bad for a holiday weekend. I would definitely stay there again.
Now on to booking with Priceline. We have had decent luck using them as well.
May 2010 - Salt Lake City, UT
Little America Salt Lake City, 3.5 Star, $56 per night. Retail for tower rooms is near $200 per night.
Honestly, the hotel was older but extremely clean. I would stay there again. Our room was huge, and well, really pink! Very easy walk to Temple Square.
March 2011 - San Juan, Puerto Rico
Intercontinental San Juan Resort and Casino, 4 Star, $115 per night. Retail starts at just over $200 per night.
We were upgraded to the club level which required a key card in order to even enter the wing. The room was nice. The pool and beach were great! I would not ever pay retail to stay here, but we would definitely be willing to stay here again. Our sitting area overlooked the pool.
March 2011 - San Juan, Puerto Rico
Sheraton Old San Juan Hotel, 3.5 Stars, $83 per night. Retail is around $150, but much higher the night before cruise ship turn around.
Convenient!!! We had terrible neighbors (LOUD!). The hotel was clean, the walls were paper thin. Location, location, location would bring us back. Our room overlooked the cruise ship docks.
Now, the real reason I decided to write this entire post took place last night. Our only "missing piece" for our upcoming Yellowstone trip was a rental car. Rental cars in Jackson, WY are expensive. I decided to play around for a few minutes not really expecting any results. I looked on Hotwire, and the economy cars were running about $35 per day. I pulled up the Priceline website and selected that I would like a standard car. $15 per day...Rejected! (Again, as I expected.) The next page brought up where I could try for a different size car or just increase my bid. Standard, please, for $20. No high hopes, I am just seeing the limits. What?? Accepted!!! I blurted out that we now had a rental car, and off we went for our evening walk around the neighborhood. Upon returning home, I glanced at my email in order to foward the confirmation to My Trips on Kayak. (If you have not used My Trips before, it is great! It creates an intinerary with all the flight, hotel, and rental car information in one place.) Our total price for the week long rental came to just under $200. Retail for the exact same rental is around $705--a savings of 72%! I am especially glad that I do not have to explain to my husband why we must spend $700 to rent a car for a week.
Savings with Priceline and Hotwire can be paired with getting paid to shop online from Ebates. Cash back for Priceline ranges from 1% to 4.5% depending on what services are purchased. Hotwire's cash back rate is 2%. I am not a huge online shopper, but I have earned $51 since I joined in August 2010.
It's true, we finally made a decision. We're headed back to Yellowstone for our next vacation.
Our last vacation was in March. We took an amazing Southern Caribbean cruise with Royal Caribbean out of San Juan. Now typically, it's not unusual for me to have my vacations planned out a year or so in advance. (Planned out can be read destination picked with a pretty good idea of exactly what I would like to do.) This year was different. January had arrived. My friends and co-workers knew that I was headed to the Caribbean in March, but then what? I was clueless. I had ideas...my top three at the beginning of the year were Australia, Moorea, and Eduador. My husband shot down Ecuador right off the bat. (Though I would still LOVE to go at some point.) Ecuador got replaced with a Mediterranean cruise out of Venice with our friends from London. Moorea fell off the radar. My husband suggested the Grand Canyon. He was a small child the last time he visited, and I've only seen it from 30,000 feet several times. What about coastal Oregon? I checked airfare to Venice. Wow, what happened to airfare to Europe since we went to Rome last summer? The cost for one ticket was what we paid for two last year. Ok, that's out.
I decided in April to take a step towards something people have been saying I should do for years. I selected a host agency and became a travel agent. While looking through the thousands upon thousands of pictures we have taken over the past seven years, it hit me. Yellowstone would be perfect!
I asked my husband for his thoughts, and we locked in on pricing the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. We knew we wanted to stay in a vacation rental for the week instead of a hotel. The general area around Yellowstone had much more to choose from though getting there was going to be a little more expensive. We started thinking of how rushed our three days in the park last year were. A whole week? SOLD!
We found a great rental on Henry's Lake in Idaho (about 15 minutes from Yellowstone's West Entrance). It's also not very far from sites like Quake Lake or Virginia City in Montana. Earthquake Lake was formed by a landslide that occured from the 1959 Hegben Lake Earthquake. Virginia City was a gold mining town in the 1860s.
Now the wait begins...(and yes, we are counting the days...)
Looking for a good deal for a last minute 4th of July vacation? My mom just booked the Hilton Daytona Beach Resort/Ocean Walk Village for around $100 a night on Priceline. If you're looking for a cruise, check out our Last Minute Cruises website.
For as long as I can remember I have been obsessed with maps, globes, and wanting to see the world. Now I'm trying to make all of those childhood dreams into a reality.