Experiments with Priceline

Getting a room for just $35

The Internet has pretty much eliminated the role of travel agent. Sure, there are times when you may want someone else to hassle with figuring out the details of a trip, but if you don’t mind punching the buttons yourself, you can book your own flights, hotels, cars, and event tickets. We love Expedia for many reasons — other sites prefer others. But there’s one more option worth looking into at least once — Priceline.

Priceline, in case you’ve been in a cave for the last ten years, is a ‘reverse auction’ travel website. The airlines and hotels provide a list of secret reserve prices and you’re encouraged to bid low (but not too low) in the attempt to be right at or just above their bottom price. I’ve used it to book airplane tickets after I got my best prices elsewhere, and I got hotel space in Texas once with it. But just for fun, I thought I’d try to get a $35 room in Rhode Island.

Thirty five dollars? Well, it was possible according to their ads. So I fired up my comptuer and set to work. When you bid on a date, quality, and location, you’re not allowed to bid again, which keeps you from starting low and working up until you barely meet the minimum. But I could drop the quality of the room, widen my search area, or change the date.

No luck in Rhode Island.

No luck in nearby Connecticut.

But I hit paydirt in nearby Massacheussetts. Right at the intersection of I-95 and I-495 in the town of Mansfield. I found a room at the Holiday Inn for just $35. Plus a small fee for Priceline. Plus taxes.

What made the low rate possible that night? First, the hotel exists primarily for the business travelers that come to the huge corporate business park in Mansfield. The weekends are fairly empty except then the Tweeter Center (now the Comcast Center) or Gillette Stadium bring in the visitors, and neither had events that night. There are also several competitors like Red Roof Inn in the immediate area that are actually easier for the casual visitor to stumble across.

The Holiday Inn was listed as 3 stars — it was a good business-class hotel buried deep within an office park. The room was acceptable, not the nicest and not the worst. It had a good sized indoor pool and its own restaurant, which made it a great place to just run away from home to for a weekend.

Mansfield would make an acceptable 25-mile drive into Providence, but we were getting away from Rhode Island for the night. Mansfield also has a stop on Boston’s transit system, the” T”, which could have made it an acceptable home base for an expedition into the city just 35 miles away. And nearby Wrentham has an outlet mall, if you’re into shopping.

Mansfield, though, didn’t have much to keep us there. Foxboro and the Gillette Stadium was nearby — but the Patriots were out of town. Tweeter Center was down 495 a bit, but the concert scheduled that night had been canceled. And the only place of local interest that the Massacheussetts Visitor Center could recommend was an old country general store. We skipped that, too.

Instead, we opted for a splash in the pool and a drive in the countryside, eventually stopping to eat at Benjamin’s, a popular “date” restaurant. Benjamin’s was a great choice, we had an excellent meal of prime rib in a library setting. The music from a wedding recption filtered over to our table as we ate, and we joked about sneaking in, pretending to be friends of the groom. After dinner, we listened to live music downstairs and even took the time for a couple of dances before heading back to our room.

So, would we go to Mansfield again? Honestly, there’s not much to bring us back, except maybe the chance to get a nice hotel room for just $35. Plus taxes. And fees.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons