Priceline: Time for a Math Lesson

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Welcome once again to the land of Priceline Express deals! Today I have a slightly different slant: no specific deals to share, but I’d like to offer a math lesson to help you navigate one aspect of Express Deals that I’ve found can be confusing. So, settle in with your favorite pencil and/or spreadsheet.

In previous posts we’ve provided the basics on how to use Hotel Canary to help identify hidden resorts on Priceline Express. While Hotel Canary is a great tool, it can have its limitations. (For example, lately I have noticed that it has trouble telling apart Animal Kingdom Lodge and Beach Club Villas.)

I think part of the issue is that in addition to using location, star, and guest ratings, it also tries to use the percent off amounts listed in deals to help solidify the guess it displays.

That makes complete sense — I have done the same thing by hand since I started looking into the whole process.

But the problem is: YOU CAN’T SPELL PRICELINE WITHOUT LIE. NOR WITHOUT PRCN. AND AN ADDITIONAL IE.

Well, that’s a little dramatic, but in fact, you can’t necessarily trust the numbers Priceline shows – the whole premise of Express Deals is based on hidden resorts which they don’t necessarily want to compete with “regular” bookings.

So, they change things up using slightly randomized mandatory fee amounts and other fuzzy math. And maybe hypnosis. But, don’t get me wrong — even if Priceline is fibbing to you, you definitely want to do the math on their listings just to be sure you are in the ballpark.

Think of these numbers as sorta kinda clues. They won’t often pinpoint anything for you, but they can help as additional evidence.

For some deals the hidden hotel is just obvious, like the recent Animal Kingdom Villa – Jambo House deals. If you saw a 4.5-star resort in Bonnet Creek that had NO guest rating, it had to be a Jambo Villa!
(Priceline Take Note: *waves hands* You didn’t seeeee anything here….)

On other deals you may need to take into account all of the variables to give you enough confidence to make a best guesstimate. One of those variables is the percent off listed.

As an example, let’s take a look at a deal that is out there now.
OK, sure: $46 is about 48% off the crossed out $88. Gotcha.
But, what exactly is that $88? Full price for this particular hotel? A double owls emoji?

Hey look! There’s a little information symbol at the top of the deal listing… let’s click on it.
We learn this that percentage is compared to a 3-star hotel “in the same area on the same dates.” That seems less specific than I had originally assumed. To me this note is saying they are comparing the deal price to a theoretical average resort with the same rating. Umm, OK, I guess.

Let’s see how this percent off plays out as we continue on.

If you click through to the booking page and wake up the mighty Hotel Canary, it suggests the following possibilities.

“Very Likely” sounds promising! I like Very. Very is my favorite!
(Sadly, in this case I strongly suspect it isn’t very.)

I’ve assumed these amounts are what Hotel Canary thinks these resorts are going for over on “regular” Priceline. How do they compare to that original full price? Let’s see.

To remind you, we’re talking about a $46 deal at 48% off – so we’d expect to see the regular Priceline rate for the winning resort to be somewhere near $88.

In the table below, the numbers in red are those Hotel Canary resort rates. The bottom line is the difference between that rate and the $88 we expect.

First, I think it is relatively safe to assume the much higher rate listed for Art of Animation likely takes it out of the running.

Using these round numbers, it looks like the Pop regular price is about $10 more than the expected rate, while All-Star Sports is about $13 less. Hmm, kind of a toss-up? I think at this point I’d have a reasonable amount of confidence the deal is for one of these two resorts. But, I’d like to be confident it is ONE resort.

After all of my recent intrepid deal watching, I recall there have been a LOT of All-Star Sports deals lately. In fact, I’ve seen so many Sports deals I think I pulled a muscle in my mouse-clicking finger. I’d be willing to bet my bottom deeply discounted dollar that the Express Deal we are looking at is really Sports. So, let’s take this one step further and see if we can narrow things down. Are those “regular” Priceline prices reported by Hotel Canary’s pop-up box accurate for this particular resort?

There are a couple of ways to find that out. You could click each resort in the Hotel Canary popup. That will open a new browser tab with a booking page for each. Here’s the booking page for Sports.

So, looks like the rate Hotel Canary showed us matches this amount. But you may notice something lower on the page: there is a date picker with no dates selected. It appears this $75 price is a bit generic! Let’s add the dates of the deal we are looking at, then click Update.

When I do this for each resort, I get some fairly different rates than those generic ones.

Another way to get these prices is to just surf over to the regular Priceline search and enter the same dates. Here are the “regular” resort prices pulled from that the long list of results.

Let’s plug those more specific prices into the table we used above and see what we get.
Well, now. Using these new date-specific rates, we can see the regular Priceline price for Pop is now $16 off from the $88 listed on the Express Deal, while All-Star Sports is only $1 off. Looks to me like we can make a much better case for this deal being All-Star Sports, no?

This is not a perfect assessment, so don’t take this info as the exact answer. But it definitely pays to look for the real Priceline rates for resorts so you can compare rates for the exact dates in question. Priceline’s math can be fuzzy, but it is not entirely made up.

If you stuck with me this far, I commend you. I shall you reward you with some related quick tips:

Tip 1: Search for deals on groups of dates surrounding your booking.

Aside from using Hotel Canary and doing the math as we’ve discussed, this simple technique can be a great help when you are trying to decipher a resort deal.

Look at the surrounding deals that are similar to the one you are working on: same ratings, location, and similar prices. You may have no intention of moving your trip around, but if Hotel Canary seems to be suggesting the same resort multiple times on those other days, that little bit of intelligence gathering could solidify your guess for you.

Tip 2: Some Express Deal will limit the possibilities for you!

Be a steely-eyed deal eagle. Or some other such metaphorical winged creature.
Take a look at this map Priceline offered on another deal:

It has a hint right there telling you it is one of the four resorts marked!

If you hover over each pin, it even tells you the resort names. Now, I have only see this hint for non-Disney resorts so far, but if you are looking for off-site resorts as well this could be helpful.

Tip 3: Treat some hints with suspicion.

Hey, in the previous tip you just told me Priceline is your hintformation (pun alert) pal! What gives? Well, In that tip they are specifically stating it “will be one of these hotels.”

However, on booking pages, they often throw you a sneaky curve ball.
Here they are telling you “someone recently got the Wyndham Grand Orlando Resort” – nice! Thanks Mr. Priceline! But notice, they aren’t telling you someone booking this particular deal got it.

In fact, after doing a little digging on this deal I am fairly sure it is really Animal Kingdom Lodge.

Both of those resorts have similar ratings, but among other factors that tell them apart, the Wyndham also has a mandatory fee – and there isn’t one on this booking page.

So, my advice on that booking page “Book Soon!” information: ignore them. My unscientific assessment is that for Disney resort deals at least, they just don’t help.

As I’ve said before in previous posts, there’s some homework to be done when trying to decipher Priceline Express Deals. While there may be no guarantees a particular guess will be correct, you can often book with a good deal of confidence.

Or you could ignore all of these tips and make peace with the benevolence of the Gods of Priceline and just click book. Your choice.

Have you noticed any tips you’d like to share with us? Leave them in the comments below.

John Tierney

Security. Genealogy. Dad. Husband. Securigenealodadsband. Also: Disney fan who likes deals. and numbers. and churros. You can find his tweeter @JJT and his Instagram is @johnjtierney

9 thoughts on “Priceline: Time for a Math Lesson

  • January 14, 2019 at 12:00 pm
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    Thank you for sharing this; not something I’d ever have stumbled upon myself.

    If there are no hint pins, does that mean a WDW resort is possible?

    Reply
    • January 14, 2019 at 12:26 pm
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      Hi Heather, I’ve only noticed those pins on some deals recently so there may be some variation on how they present them at different times.

      But, I haven’t seen any of those hint pins for possible Disney resorts at all. At this time I would not take a lack of hint pins as a clue it might be a Disney resort.

      Stronger clues: Almost all Disney resorts have *only* 3 amenities on Express Deals: Free Internet, Swimming Pool, Restaurant.

      Exceptions are Animal Kingdom Villas – Jambo House also has Airport Shuttle and Fitness Center, while Saratoga Springs had at least one listing the other day that only had Free Internet and Swimming Pool.

      Also, all Disney resorts are in either Bonnet Creek or Disney Springs. While there are non-Disney resorts in those locations as well, if a deal only has the 3 amenities, it is a pretty good chance it is Disney. Be sure to check Hotel Canary and Betterbidding for more guesses that will help you make a decision.

      Reply
  • January 15, 2019 at 3:02 pm
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    Seems all the Animal Kingdom Jambo hotels got taken/removed for September dates. Finally got clearance to take off then and they removed it like they knew I was about to pounce…

    How often do the deals rotate? Do these periodically come back or once gone, likely out of luck?

    Reply
    • January 15, 2019 at 3:23 pm
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      Hi Tyler, First off: Argh! in sympathy to the timing of the missing deals.

      It is difficult to make any guesses with Priceline’s tactics. Even after spending months watching things, the only thing I can count on is to be surprised by them.

      But, I do think there is at least some reason for hope: Those Animal Kingdom Villa Jambo deals have come and gone twice now. Earlier this week all of the Disney resort deals went away again, (even those in the current month) and I wasn’t even seeing them in results.

      Today when running some random searches I noticed that in the current month I saw some likely Disney resorts appear, but got the dreaded “Sorry! …no Longer available” page. I then checked further out in August & September and AKV Jambo once again appeared in results, but also with the same “Sorry!” page when clicked.

      One possibly related fact is that it looked like Priceline pushed out some interface changes at the same time these deals went away.

      So, fingers crossed: it could be the deals are all still queued up and waiting for someone to flip the switch again.
      We could also just see a new group of deals appear – but it might just take a little patience before they show up.

      Reply
      • January 15, 2019 at 4:05 pm
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        Thanks for the response! Hopefully they come back soon. Do have the backup plan of using a Sun & Fun deal for a resort if nothing pops up before March rolls around. I’ll be on the lookout for that Jambo deal til then!

        Reply
  • January 16, 2019 at 9:07 am
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    Was able to snag Jambo House 9/7-9/15 for 165 a night. Was trying for later in the month but saving $200 and knowing the deal is there made it worth grabbing. Didn’t see the others appear so didn’t want to miss out once more.

    Thanks for all the info! Really helped out!

    Reply
    • January 16, 2019 at 9:19 am
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      Hey, that’s great! $165 is for Jambo Villas is pretty nice.

      I just took a peek over there in your time frame and at first wasn’t seeing any of the Jambo Villas show up for single days.

      But when I ran searches for multiple days they appeared – so once again Internet peoples reading this: Play around with your dates. Change up start and/or end dates and refresh the page when you get results and Priceline Express might offer up some deals you didn’t see before.

      Reply
  • January 16, 2019 at 12:47 pm
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    The other way to quickly figure out the hotel is the number of reviews–in your example the only resort with ~300 reviews is the All Stars, so it’s an easy guess.

    Reply
    • January 16, 2019 at 3:51 pm
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      Mel, Thanks for the info! That is one variable I hadn’t looked at myself yet.

      Taking a peek at a random day, that’s sure a nice additional data point to use in comparisons.

      Only down side is that while the number of reviews for the hidden resort are shown in the deal boxes on the initial results page, it doesn’t show you that number for an additional deals that pop up after you click one. (Disney resorts often show up in those additional deals.)

      Still, another arrow in the quiver is good to have!

      Reply

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