One thing holding back many would-be travelers is the ever-rising cost of travel. While domestic flight prices may be down in 2023, the cost of just about everything else keeps going up! That’s why booking vacations through travel consolidation and third party travel sites is looking more appealing than ever.
Most people are familiar with travel consolidator websites – if you’ve been reading our site, you’ve probably run into reviews of our favorites. These services provide easy flight, car rental, and hotel comparisons, making it easier for you to find the best deals for your travels.
With sites like these, the prices offered can be competitive or noticeably lower than if the consumer deals directly with the travel service provider. Why? Well, much of the difference has to do with volume. If a consolidator can move more transactions, discounts kick in.
One of the most popular consolidator sites is Priceline, known for its Express Deals program, which can save you upwards of 60 percent on flights, hotels, and rental cars. But are these deals legit? Can you really plan cheap vacations with Express Deals?
What We Cover
- What are Priceline Express Deals?
- How do Priceline Express Deals Work?
- How to use Priceline Express Deals
- 1. Select Flights, Hotel, or Car Search to See Your Options
- 2. Filter Through Search Results
- 3. Pick Your Best Deal
- 4. Confirm Submission and Book Your Flight!
- 5. Seat Selection
- 6. Additional Savings
- How Good of a Deal Are Priceline Express Deals Flights?
- Pros and Cons of Priceline Express Deals Flights
- Other Ways to Find Cheap Flights
- Final Thoughts
- What are Priceline Express Deals?
- Are flights booked through Priceline Express Deals refundable?
What are Priceline Express Deals?
Priceline has been one of the industry’s biggest consolidators for years. Priceline first came about by offering a name-your-own price system on airline tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, and other vacation packages for customers.
Priceline Express Deals on flights, cars, and hotels work similarly to their original “name-your-own-price” system. Express Deals appear in the search results a customer receives when searching for a travel option.
The price and extra savings could reach as much as 60 percent lower than retail flight and hotel rates. However, the consumer has to accept the risk of not knowing specifics, like where the hotel is or when they might be flying.
The other catch is that the discounted flight and hotel bookings are non-refundable. That means money is paid upfront without any ability to change your mind later. It’s not how everyone likes to travel, but for those who do, the savings are pretty enticing.
How do Priceline Express Deals Work?
Those who take the time to understand the Priceline search engine (or have used alternative travel search engines) can get pretty good at figuring out the exact flight or hotel involved in any particular Express Deal. This is an advantage when hunting down extreme savings on various trips, especially for those who travel a lot, whether for business or pleasure.
It’s harder to determine the car company, but at major airports, they’re all close to the same, anyway. Priceline will share which rental car companies you may be booking with, making it easy to avoid any particular ones you do not like.
And, while there is some work involved, the savings usually outweigh any energy spent. The selection of Express Deals is varied and ranges depending on the time of year and destination. From what we’ve seen, it doesn’t fall into the trap of being a bait and switch. These attractive offerings rarely end up being subpar properties or bad locations.
When searching for deals on hotels or flights, Priceline emphasizes the immediate area, the retail price, the amount of discount involved, and the best price guarantee. You just don’t see the actual name of the hotel or rental car company, or the exact flight details up front in a Priceline Express Deal.
How to use Priceline Express Deals
Here’s how the Express Deal works and how you can make the most of it when booking flights:
1. Select Flights, Hotel, or Car Search to See Your Options
The first step is simply to do a search for the exact flight desired and the travel dates for the trip being planned. It helps to simultaneously do a bit of research on other travel sites so you have a good idea of what you might be paying and who you might be working with for any given Express Deal.
With a little digging on other sites, you should be able to figure out which are the viable flight options, hotels involved, or rental car companies available.
2. Filter Through Search Results
Priceline is designed to help you book hotels and compare flights with lots of different criteria to specific destinations, so take advantage of those features when working on a Priceline Express Deal.
Departing flight, return flight, and Express Deal flight choices are all over the site, which gives you an idea of what the normal price would be for a given location in general and then the Priceline value.
The second step is to look at the Priceline Express Deals for the same destination. Culling through a few of the choices, some top candidates are going to become apparent, especially by price, along with the benefits offered by description. Priceline VIP members get even better choices.
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3. Pick Your Best Deal
Big cities are typically glutted with copious hotel options and flight choices, so identifying the full details of your journey may be pretty much impossible without a keen eye or knowledge of exact departure times and hotels. This is where the risk commitment comes in because one has to make the big leap to commit financially for the Express Deal to work.
Also, keep in mind that even if you can positively identify an airline, flight, or hotel, you’ll still have no indication of what seat or room you’ll get. Discounted reservations, by their nature of cost, tend to be less desirable than, say, the aisle seat or top-floor balcony room with a view. But, if you just need a place to fly or sleep comfortably, the savings more than outweigh a bit of inconvenience.
Now, with the Express Deal nailed down in the search criteria, bring up both tabs or windows with Priceline and any outside options you’ve researched, and compare the results. You should be able to find matches between the two, one with the names and one without – and see the savings.
This method doesn’t always work perfectly, and I’d only really recommend it if you’re a frequent traveler or really trying to save the pennies. But it can really trim down the field quite a bit, and those who are used to doing a bit of guesswork can come to a reasonable conclusion about what Priceline is offering.
4. Confirm Submission and Book Your Flight!
Now, all that’s left is to enter your essential details and book your vacation. Booking through Priceline is easy and secure. Consider using one of our preferred travel credit cards to earn rewards to save on future trips!
5. Seat Selection
Once your flight is revealed, you can choose your seat and decide if you want to upgrade. With seat selection, there’s more to it than where you want to sit on the plane.
Whenever I book flights through third-party websites, I’ll go to the airline’s app after my ticket is confirmed. It makes it easier to choose seats and oftentimes I have miles or status options to choose better seats than the third-party sites offer.
See Related: Ways to Book the Cheapest First Class Flights
6. Additional Savings
Now look for additional discounts to add to the Express Deal booking. If you thought the Express Deal was the only savings possible, think again!
Priceline actively works with trusted airlines and hotel chains for specific partnership discounts that steer dedicated business to them and reward customers with additional savings added to the Express Deal value through promo codes and their Bundle & Save combination offers.
For instance, with one promo code that I found on top of an Express Deal, a booking I was testing received an extra 10 percent discount! Partner deals can also combine specific services, like an airline with a hotel or a rental car partner. Those can save another 5 to 10 percent.
How Good of a Deal Are Priceline Express Deals Flights?
Priceline Express Deals offer highly discounted booking options, mainly for flying with big names like United or American Airlines, as well as chain hotels and major rental car companies. These savings can be as much as 60 percent lower than a flight booking in regular searches or other consolidator sites like Booking.com (both sites owned by Booking Holdings Group), or even directly from the airlines or hotel booking site itself.
Nonetheless, a consolidator booking can negate the ability to collect hotel loyalty points. That said, Priceline does offer its own VIP and loyalty program that can net you further rewards and discounts if you keep using them.
See Related: Best Travel Sites for Packages and Vacation Deals
Pros and Cons of Priceline Express Deals Flights
The undeniable pros of Priceline Express Deals are the savings. Being able to save more than half the total normal cost of travel expenses is simply massive. Solo and business travelers, along with digital nomads, can really benefit from these savings.
If you sign up for Priceline email notices and their mailing list. These include additional bonuses and deals that can add further savings. Plus, the Priceline VIP program includes extra discounts on Express Deals, coupons you can tack on, and premium customer service.
The cons mostly revolve around not really knowing what you’re going to get for that low price tag. Are there ways around the price ambiguity in the Express Deal? Sort of, but it requires a degree of legwork on your end.
You can play with the Priceline search engines in addition to another online travel agency if you like. At best, you can guess where and what your hotel will be like, or if your car rental place is so far from the airport, you need to rent a car to get there. But even with the deepest research, it’s still just a guess; there’s still plenty of room for mistakes and being wrong.
Non-refundable flights are also a blow if you have to cancel your trip, though some flight delays and cancelations by the airline are still protected by DOT law. That’s why shopping around for a good travel insurance plan is smart. We like to compare plans on TravelInsurance.com.
Other Ways to Find Cheap Flights
Priceline is a proven platform to help you save big on travel. But there are plenty of other choices where you can find a great deal.
Do some digital window shopping to protect your wallet or help figure out what you’re getting an Express Deal. Popular sites include:
Express Deals aren’t a perfect match for everyone, but they are worth it to check prices, at least to see if it’s a viable option. The Priceline offering, even as a VIP platinum or VIP gold member, might not work for everyone. Travelers should always check for a lower price before spending thousands of dollars on travel unnecessarily.
Committing to hidden car or hotel deals might scare away some who aren’t sure about booking a hotel stay unseen. But let’s be honest; how often does a hotel room look exactly like the photo provided in an online booking process, anyway?
The savings you get from Priceline Express Deals are undeniable, and while they may not be the first choice specifically for vacations, I wouldn’t rule them out. If you’re a hardcore traveler, business traveler, digital nomad on the move, or looking to plan a full itinerary of somewhere like Europe, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, or the U.S. on a shoestring budget – you gotta consider the Express Deal option.
What are Priceline Express Deals?
Priceline Express deals involve heavily discounted flights, car rentals, and hotel savings.
Frequently, airlines and hotels are low on reservations. Having cash flow, filled seats, and rooms more times out of the year is better than having vacancies.
So even if the price charged is discounted, maintaining cash flow return still pays the bills and avoids the operation working at a loss when rooms are otherwise empty. Priceline Express Deals finds the best flight and hotel deals and bundles them with things like car rentals for huge savings.
Are flights booked through Priceline Express Deals refundable?
Unfortunately, no. The commitment to an Express Deal is non-refundable; there is no free cancellation. Add trip protection to a Priceline purchase if you’re worried about a change.