An Illustration: Priceline vs. Travelzoo

Aqua Palms & Spa pool, Waikiki.

I was fascinated to see that Travelzoo’s top three hotel deals in Hawaii feature two hotels that my husband and I stayed in on our recent trip. The third is a direct competitor, very close to another hotel we stayed in.

This is not so surprising as it might seem. We reserved all three hotels through Priceline’s blind bidding, and the hotels offering the best deals through Priceline are likely to be offering discounts elsewhere.

In each case, we paid less through Priceline than the deals featured on Travelzoo or the hotel’s website. But bidding through Priceline has its own uncertainties. You can never be sure of what hotel you’ll get — just the quality rating and area. And you have to pay in advance, with no refunds.

So we paid $60 per night for the Aqua Palms & Spa in Waikiki, compared to the $69 deal promoted on Travelzoo. The Travelzoo deal included an IHOP breakfast that ours rate did not.

We paid $82 a night for the Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort & Spa, compared to $149 via Travelzoo.

We paid $90 a night (plus $15 a night for parking) at the Hapuna Beach Prince resort on the Big Island of Hawaii, a competitor to the nearby Waikoloa Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, promoted on Travelzoo at $169 (plus $20 resort fee).

You can take two lessons from this, I suppose. One would be that Priceline’s name-your-own-price blind bidding feature will usually but not always yield a considerably lower rate than the best published rate. Another would be that if you’re uncomfortable with the uncertainties that attend blind bidding, you may still be able to find a good deal at the same hotels.

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