Priceline’s Name Your Own Price bidding system was once the most novel way to find a discounted hotel room online, but a slew of innovative new booking websites and apps make it easier than ever to prevent buyer’s remorse. The seven-month-old website BackBid turns the Name Your Own Price approach on its head: instead of guests bidding on hotel rooms, hotels bid on guests. After you submit your existing hotel reservation and travel preferences to BackBid, the site invites hotels in the same area to make you offers for less expensive rooms or upgraded ones at the same price. (A five-star hotel was recently offered in place of a three-star property in Washington, D.C.) As long as you have a refundable reservation, you can cancel and book the new room.
Smarter Travel Media’s new Tingo website requires even less work. Book a room on the site (which uses Expedia inventory), and it starts monitoring the reservation on your behalf. If the price drops at any time, Tingo will automatically cancel your reservation and rebook you at the better rate. Best-price assurances are available on other online travel agents, but most either make you do the work (you have to cancel and rebook yourself, or you have to provide evidence of the lower rate) or will only match the price when another guest books the exact type of room for the same dates. Tingo has simplified the process considerably. Finally, deals still abound for last-minute bookings. HotelTonight—which posts cut-rate, same-night deals at noon each day—recently launched an enhanced iPad app with 360-degree photos of featured properties. Now available for hotels in more than 30 cities across the country, the service is gaining traction. Even so, it couldn’t help us with a recent attempt to book a room during the busy South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas; HotelTonight hasn’t launched there yet. But we did find several great deals on Kayak. Sometimes, a good, old-fashioned human search is still the best approach—at least for now.