Priceline Puts A Fresh Spin on Booking Hotels Blindly
Priceline became famous for its booking service that won't reveal your hotel until after you pay. Today the company has rolled out Express Deals, a service that allows you to specify the amenities you want in a hotel, such as a swimming pool, separate double beds, or an on-site restaurant, before you book it blindly at a deep discount.
First, the backstory: Priceline assumes every traveler has his or her price when it comes to brand loyalty. If you're absolutely devoted to, say, Marriott, you can pay the Marriott price, knowing exactly which hotel you're booking upfront. But Priceline's blind-booking alternative may offer significant savings off the Marriott price if you're willing to make a trade-off and accept a hotel generically similar to a Marriott but not necessarily that brand.
The trouble with Name Your Own Price is that it's a roll of the dice. Priceline never guarantees that a hotel room you are bidding on will come with separate double beds, which would be a matter of importance for business travelers splitting a room. Priceline's bidding service also won't guarantee that a hotel will have a swimming pool to entertain your kids, a business center to help you stay in touch while on the road, or other specific amenities.
Now, Priceline has addressed these shortcoming with Express Deals, an alternative to bidding. The new service allows travelers to specify the amenities they're looking for in a hotel—and even in a specific room. Customers still don't know the exact hotel they're staying at until after they pay, but, similarly to Hotwire, no bidding is involved.
Here's how it works: Travelers view a webpage that lists amenities, such as a pool, gym or business center, star level of hotel, neighborhood, guest satisfaction scores on a 1-10 scale, and a rate—without knowing the name or precise location of the property. Often, travelers may choose their bedding type, such as one king or two doubles. If a customer books an Express Deals room and finds a cheaper rate any time until the day before check-in, Priceline will match that price and give the customer $25, with some conditions, of course.
Priceline's Express Deals service has its pluses and minuses.
On the plus side, it's great for families and business travelers, two types of travelers who may have specific needs in a hotel that caused them to previously hesitate from booking blindly and enjoying deep discounts off rack rates.
Plus, there's no bidding involved. Similar to Hotwire's service, you click and book without any wait. That speeds things up, making the "Express" name true to its word.
On the minus side: the range of properties is more limited. While thousands of hotels worldwide can be found through Express Deals, the inventory is less for the new service than for either Name Your Own Price or traditional booking.
The depth of discounts is also not quite as high, on average, as booking blindly through the standard Name Your Own Price service. While Priceline advertises discounts of up to 45 percent, that 45 percent is not the average discount.
MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL
Super-Mosquitoes Threaten Travelers
Wetter weather in tropical places means that travelers are being bitten by mosquitoes at the highest rates recorded in a decade. Increased rainfall in many parts of the world due to a warmer Pacific Ocean has boosted mosquito breeding. Failed control efforts are also leading to more insecticide-resistant mozzies, says the World Health Organization. We don't mean to be alarmist, though. The danger of mosquitoes should never scare you off from traveling. You merely need to be prepared. The main advice for travelers is simple: Whether you're visiting a mosquito-prone area of Florida or a cloud forest in Thailand: If you must be outdoors during dusk or nighttime in an area known to have mosquitoes, cover exposed skin and use a mosquito repellant. Only go to hotels and inns that supply Insecticide-covered nets, which studies show are effective. If you're traveling to a tropical destination, be sure to check new health information for people traveling overseas from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Find out if you should receive malaria prevention medicine before you depart. Different countries, and even various regions within countries, require different medicines. The country-by-country advice at the State Department's website is a good place to start. Travelers confused about antimalarial medicines should also check out the Malaria Hotspots website for an overview of what to expect. Don't be afraid, though. Western medicine will be able to help you if you accidentally contract a mosquito-borne illness. But the symptoms could be quite unpleasant—far more than the side effects of nausea and dizziness that can sometimes come with the preventative medicine. One tip from experts: Don't wait until you reach your destination to get medicines. Better to carry anti-malarial pills from the US, in case you do become sick. While drugs may be cheaper overseas, there's a risk they may be useless. A study in the scientific journal The Lancet published last month estimates that one out of three antimalarial drugs, particularly in the developing world, may be fake. In the future, mosquitoes may not be such a "disease vector." Scientists are hoping to genetically modify the DNA of mosquitoes so that they become, in the words of one expert, "malarial hotels: the parasites check in, but can't get back out." Dengue fever is the other main illness carried by mosquitoes. In good news, the CDC has just announced the first FDA-approved molecular test for dengue may debut this fall. It detects evidence of the virus itself, allowing travelers returning from trips abroad to be properly diagnosed when they have symptoms. In more good news, a French drug company hopes to find out this autumn if its vaccine against dengue fever is effective. A vaccine would be the first against the mosquito-borne disease, which plagues more than 100 million people each year. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Health Precautions to Consider When Traveling Are Fever Scanners at Airports Worthwhile? (8 comments) How Do You Avoid Stomach Upset on the Road?
Malaysia Airlines Tests Child-Free Areas on Flights
Starting July 1, Malaysia Airlines will become the first carrier in the world to create a child-free zone in economy class on some of its long-distance flights. No children under the age of 12, including infants, will be permitted in the airline’s 70-seat coach-class zone, which will be located on the upper deck of the airline’s new Airbus A380s. The posh airline will only allow children in the 300-seat main lower deck. By next February, expect a half-dozen A380s to offer the child-free zones on flights from Kuala Lumpur to London and Sydney, reports Australian Business Traveller. Malaysia is the first airline to ban children from any economy class section. Last year, Malaysia Airlines banned infants from first class sections of all of its long-distance flights. The concept of kid-free zones has been floated for a long time. A decade ago, The Economist proposed banning young children from sections of aircraft, arguing that kids were “a source of noise pollution.” Last year, a survey of 1,000 business travelers found that the number one complaint about air travel was misbehaving children. Malaysia’s kid-free zones arrive at a time of heightened scrutiny for parents with poorly behaved children. Earlier this month, Alaska Airlines kicked a family off a plane because their three-year old child refused to fasten his seatbelt before take-off, as MSNBC reported. In April, United Airlines stopped allowing families with small children to get their seats before general boarding. It now requires parents to lug their child seats and baby carriages along with the rest of the crowd, following a policy started by US Airways and American Airlines. Many parents resent the animus that they feel other travelers direct towards them, given that they often have no choice but to fly and to do the best jobs they can as parents in a difficult situation. For example, about 30,000 parents have signed a petition to ask United to reverse its policy and once again give families with children boarding priority. What are your thoughts? Are families getting the shaft again? Or is Malaysia Airlines smart to segregate children on flights? Plus, if you have any stories either way, of well behaved children on flights or poorly behaved children, let us know. Does "child-free" equal "parent hating" in your eyes? MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Senator Steps In So You Can Sit With Your Kids On The Plane (28 comments) 15 More Places Every Kid Should See Before 15 (800 likes) 10 Best Budget Friendly All-Inclusive Resorts
Hawaiian Airlines Launches Non-Stop Service From JFK
Great news for travelers in the Tri–State area: You can now fly non-stop to Honolulu, Hawaii, from John F. Kennedy International Airport. Not only that, Hawaiian Airlines is offering prices starting at $699 round–trip if you book by Jun. 18 and travel between Aug. 21 and Nov. 14. Most trips to Hawaii from the east coast involve a layover in California, but this new service goes all 9.5 hours straight to Honolulu. The once daily flight leaves JFK at 10 a.m., arriving in Honolulu at 3 p.m., while flights heading in the opposite direction leave Honolulu at 3:05 p.m., arriving at JFK the next morning at 6:55 a.m. The airline is also partnering with JetBlue and allowing flyers up and down the east coast to book flights on one itinerary via JFK from gateways like Boston, Buffalo, N.Y., Burlington, V.T., Charlotte, N.C., and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (as well as many others). The new partnership also means JetBlue and Hawaiian Airlines passengers can earn frequent flyer miles by flying each other's airlines. If you happen to be in New York City this month, Hawaiian Airlines is hosting a series of performances outside Grand Central Station every Thursday evening from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. featuring performances by Hawaiian musicians and hula dancers. On June 21, San Francisco hula troupe NÄ Lei Hulu I Ka WÄ“kiu will perform, and The Brothers Cazimero will wrap things up with traditional Hawaiian music on June 28th. Pau Hana drink and appetizer specials are provided by Pershing Square Central Café while you watch. For those of you who won't be here to see the action in person, here's a peek of the opening day hula performance that took place at JFK on June 5th: If you miss out on the flight deal, browse the Hawaii travel deals on our website for great travel packages. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Walking on a Hawaii Volcano 13 Things You Didn't Know About Hawaii 10 Islands to See Before You Die
Jet Blue Debuts New Game Show
All that random trivia you've picked up from years of traveling is about to pay off. From Monday, June 18, to Friday, June 22, Jet Blue Getaways will be running five 15–minute online game shows a day for travel buffs. All you need to enter is a Skype account and a webcam. Contestants will be asked general travel trivia as well as questions about Jet Blue destinations. Winners will receive a three–night vacation package (including flight and hotel) to places like the Turks & Caicos, Bermuda, and Las Vegas. Think you have what it takes? Sign up on the Get Away With It site, and good luck! MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL Airlines Set Records for Being On-Time and Losing Fewer Bags Survey Says Flyers Still Unsatisfied How Important Is In-Flight Entertainment to You?