The priceline.com is right

by Charlie Leocha on March 5, 2002

Last week I began a series about my favorite Web travel sites. I started with AutoEurope, which provides what I consider the best international (Europe, Australia and a smattering of others) automobile rentals. This week, I focus on Priceline.com.

Priceline.com came into the Internet travel space with a bang. William Shatner became the unmistakable spokesman for Priceline and the Web site’s impact was immediate on the travel scene.

Since those heady times the Starship Priceline crash landed along with many other dotcoms but this company managed to hang on to its corporate life, regroup, refocus and come back strongly in the travel market.

Priceline, basically, returned to its roots. It shed name-your-own-price for gasoline and groceries and refocused on travel and a few other profitable niches. Today the company is doing very well selling airline tickets, hotel rooms and rental cars. It also has much smaller sections of the site that now deal with cruise lines, cars, mortgages and telephone service.

But the major focus and most of the Internet traffic has been clearly on the travel business side of the company. The site is easy to navigate and easy to use. Checking your bids is simple and in my experience, when you use it to its potential, Priceline delivers just what it promises. The lowest prices a traveler can get, especially at the last minute.

In a past column, I noted that I would not normally select Priceline for airline travel because the time of travel is not specified more than within a 24-hour period. However, it does work extremely well when you know the flights are limited or when traveling transatlantic where virtually all flights leave in the evening and arrive in Europe in the morning.

If price is your bottom line, Priceline can’t be beat. I have known friends and families who have saved a bundle of money using Priceline. I have never heard a complaint from anyone who used the site

My favorite bargains come from the hotel side of the site. Here Priceline excels. The geographical limits of city regions within which users can select hotels are small. You won’t end up in New Haven when you have a meeting in Hartford.

The geography selections even segment larger cities such as Miami, Fort Lauderdale, New York, Dallas, Chicago into smaller segments that allows travelers to find lodging right where they need it.

The car rental side of the site works the same way and provides rock-bottom prices. But make sure you are getting a bargain. First check directly with car rental company and have them go through all the discounts – USAA, AAA, AARP, Government, Costco, BJ’s, Sam’s, etc. Only after you factor in all the discounts to which you may be entitled, can you bid on an even lower price.

Before I make any bids for airline tickets, rental cars or hotels, I spend some time cruising through several other hotel, rental car or airline travel sites, then I check with Hotwire.com, then I use Priceline to undercut any of the prices I have found elsewhere. My experience has been that the bids, if they are not ridiculous, find a taker and you end up with far more quality than you thought possible.

Give it a try.

Starship Priceline is flying again. In fact it was just announced that Captain Kirk is coming back to become, once again, the spokesman for Priceline.com.

I have not had a chance to delve into the newly launched cruise section of Priceline. That will be a future column.

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