1. Go to Priceline and find the "Name Your Own Price" section. Type in the city you're interested in, then click on "Bid Now." Right now, you're not actually bidding on anything. You just want to see the different zones for that city to decide where exactly you want to stay. The bigger the city, the more zones it is divided into. So for example, Dallas has 17 zones! By looking at the map, you can figure out which of these zones you would be okay staying in. Jot these down on a piece of paper.
2. Next, go to Bidding for Travel. This place is the key to Priceline bidding! It's a website where people let you know what offers they bid on Priceline, whether it was accepted or not, and what hotel they ended up in. This is your key to knowing how much to bid and what hotel you are going to get.
Click on the city and state you are interested in.
The top post on the page for your city and state will say "Hotels List for ____." (I'm currently looking at Hotels List for Dallas, Texas). Click on this. This shows you what hotels are offered by Priceline in each zone for each star level. This is what is so helpful! For example, most places we've stayed at, I've only bid on three or four star hotels. But when we went to San Antonio, I saw a 2.5 star hotel in a good zone was definitely nice enough for what we wanted. So you can easily see all the choices that Priceline will give you. I usually go to the hotel's websites to check them out if I'm not familiar with them.
3. Once you've gotten an idea about what zones and star level (i.e. 2, 2.5, 3, or 4 star hotels) you want to pick, it's time to look through the message boards. Look and see what prices have been accepted for the zone/stars you're interested in, and what hotels people have been getting recently. Usually, there are 3 or 4 hotels for each star level, but it seems like Priceline usually gives them out in clusters or alternates between two. You can usually get a very good idea of what hotel you'd get if you bid on a specific zone at a specific star level, and even better you can get a great idea of how much to bid!
4. Once you have your zones, star level, and bid figured out, go back to Priceline! Bid and see what happens. You do have to enter your credit card information to bid, but nothing gets charged unless your bid is accepted. If it gets accepted, great! If not, you either need to expand your zone search or raise your bid.
Here is the thing - normally, Priceline will only let you bid once per day. But if you follow these instructions, you can bid many more times in a row. I can't explain it nearly as well as the Bidding for Travel FAQ, so if this is something you're interested in, click here and scroll down to Question 9. (The FAQ also answers lots of other questions you might have, so I recommend checking it out anyway even if you don't need to re-bid the same day.)
5. Once you got your bid accepted, Priceline will immediately tell you what hotel you're staying at and give you the confirmation sheet. I definitely recommend printing out the confirmation sheet and bringing it with you to the hotel, just in case you have any problems. But you're done! You now have a hotel!
Don't get discouraged if your offer doesn't get accepted right away. It seems like some hotels release some rooms to Priceline way in advance, and then they release even more much closer to the date. I have bid the exact same price on a room and been rejected one week and then accepted a week later.
Please ask me if you have any questions! But I promise, this is so simple and you will end up getting hotel rooms so much cheaper than the retail price. Good luck!