Want a Better Hotel Rate? Website Lets Hotels Bid For Your Business

PHOTO: A new website allows other hotels to bid on your stay, even after booking.George Doyle/Getty Images
A new website allows other hotels to bid on your stay, even after booking.

With many schools on vacation for Easter and Passover in the coming weeks, families across the country will pack up their minivans or head to the airport, bound for spring break vacation destinations far and wide.

But with the price of gas seeming to go up daily, and with airfare about 7 percent higher than this time last year, moms and dads may be thinking about how to cut corners so this spring break won't break the bank.

A website called BackBid.com may be able to help – provided you're willing to change hotels.

The site, still in beta, takes advantage of lenient hotel cancellation policies (many require only 24-hour advance notice to cancel a reservation) and enables other hotels in your destination to bid for your business.

I tried BackBid.com on a hotel reservation for mid-April in New Orleans. I'm planning on staying at Hotel Monteleone (it has a rotating bar and might be haunted!) but wanted to see what kind of offers I would get from competing properties.

I received two bids for my reservation – one from Wyndham Riverfront New Orleans and one from Omni Royal Crescent Hotel. Both of these, like the Monteleone, are classified as four star by BackBid. The best deal would save me a total of $73; That's a lot of beignets.

Hotel Monteleone is at the heart of the French Quarter. The Omni is very close by (two-tenths of a mile) and the Wyndham is a bit further away, but still easily walkable (four-tenths of a mile from the Monteleone).

There are four basic steps to using BackBid:

1. Register with the site and post your existing hotel reservation.

2. Email a copy of your reservation to the site.

3. Review bids once they are delivered to the email address you provide.

4. If you decide to accept a hotel's offer, enter your credit card and personal information on BackBid. The site then gives that information to the hotel to process your reservation.

I ran into a problem when posting my hotel reservation – the website didn't recognize the hotel name. After three tries and plugging in additional information on the city and state, it was finally found. Also, the part about needing to email your hotel confirmation is not immediately clear; it was an extra step I wasn't anticipating.

The site warns you may not get bids right away because hotels are often more anxious to fill rooms at the last minute – and more willing to offer deeper discounts. I received the two bids within 24 hours of posting my reservation and my trip is several weeks away. I may receive more bids as the trip gets closer.

BackBid.com also claims that you may receive offers that aren't necessarily discounted, but rather offer an added value, such as a room upgrade or a free breakfast. The value of these additions is harder to quantify – after all, it's only a value-added if it's a value to you – but there could be nice perks.

There are plenty of other sites that allow travelers to search for great hotel deals, but they either require bidding (like Priceline) or they require you to book opaquely (book the hotel and pay before you actually know what hotel you are booking, like Hotwire.). The good thing about BackBid.com is that the traveler knows up front what the choices are and exactly how much a reservation will cost.

One downside of the site is that it only works for U.S. hotels. In addition, it is the responsibility of the traveler to cancel their existing hotel reservation if they decide to accept a bid. For this reason it is very important to know your hotel's cancellation policy and if there are any penalties associated with cancelling.

For now, I'm keeping my reservation at the Hotel Monteleone. It's my first trip to New Orleans and the location and that rotating bar are just too good to pass up. But we'll see what kind of bids BackBid sends my way in the coming weeks – if I get one that saves me gobs of money, I can always swing by the Monteleone for a drink.