NYC on the cheap
- Decide in which part of the city you want to stay. New York is generally divided up by areas: Downtown (near Wall Street and the financial district), Midtown South (generally south of Penn Station and the Empire State Building), Midtown East (between Penn and Central park, and east of 7th or 8th avenue), Midtown West (between Penn and Central park, and west of 7th or 8th avenue), Uptown East (the east side of Central Park), and Uptown West (the west side of Central Park). Some travel sites have a special “zone” for Times Square, since so many visitors want to stay close to Broadway theatres and Times Square. Times square is located generally on the southwest edge of what most sites call “Midtown East”. It's a central location easily accessible by taxi, subway or bus.
- Now, search Travelocity, Expedia and HOTELS.COM to see what the going rates are for your timeframe and area of the city. I've found that the best discounts are on 3 and 4 star hotels, so look primarily at those. Remember that star ratings are subjective, so you'll want to read visitor comments on the sites to gauge the accuracy of the star ratings.
- Now that you have a rough idea of the going rates, log on to Hotwire to learn a bit more. You'll need to create an account, and Hotwire is a little funny because they quote rates without telling you the Hotel names. BUT, it's quite useful when you're researching a bid for Priceline! When you hit Hotwire, you'll get about 10 quotes for hotels in the area you request. Look closely at the star ratings (Hotwire is pretty accurate) and the prices. Look for the “Customer Favorites”, which are typically excellent hotels in good locations. I generally look for the lowest-priced 4-star hotel that Hotwire lists. For example, today they listed a 4-star hotel in Midtown East for $105.
- Now, go to Priceline. You'll need to set up an account here, too, but it's worth it. Select the city and dates for your stay, then move on to the details of the bid. You'll need to specify the area of the city, the star rating, and your bid for the room. I generally knock $10-20 off the best rate I've found on Hotwire, and go up one star rating. So, for today's bid, I offered $99/night for a 5-star hotel. Always start at the top (in terms of star ratings) and work your way down…you may get a surprise and end up in a great hotel for less than you expected!
- In all likelihood, you won't get the 5-star you're looking for at the rate you bid. That's fine. Now try a 4-star for a little bit less. Today, for example, I bid $89/night for a 4-star (which is unusual…typically I bid around $99/night for a 4-star and get it).
- You probably don't want to waste your time with anything less than a 3-star.
- If you're unable to get the rate you want, you've got two options: (1) If you have time to wait 3 days, then put it on a back burner and come back to Priceline in a few days when you can re-bid on the same reservation. (2) If you can't wait, then Hotwire is usually your next best bet.
Hope that helps!