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Posted: 12:00 a.m. Thursday, Sept. 18, 2008

Clark's tips for using Priceline and Hotwire

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Looking for a silver lining in the slowing economy? Airlines may be parking planes in the desert and raising ticket prices, but hotels and resorts are really hurting. That's great news if you want to stay at a hotel!

Clark books 95% of the hotels he stays in through Priceline or Hotwire. With both sites, he only knows the star-level of a booking and doesn't find out the brand until after he pays non-refundable money. His latest deals on 4-star hotels have been in the $49-$59/night range. He won't even touch the 1- or 2-star hotels because both sites inflate their ratings of hotels.

If you're not comfortable with booking "blind," you can always use Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz. All 3 of those sites still offer really good fall sales and some perks like free gasoline with your stay. You'll pay more than on Priceline or Hotwire, but at least you'll know where you're staying upfront.

If you choose to go the Priceline route, check BiddingForTravel.com, which is a forum where travelers help each other and share knowledge -- including tips on how to bid multiple times a day.

For Hotwire, check BetterBidding.com for an equivalent service.

To figure out what hotel you might get on Hotwire, follow these steps: Select the dates you want to go; click on the "build a package" option for a rental car (even if you don't plan on renting one); and then they'll show you what hotels would come with the car rental. This trick will work about 80% or 90% of the time. Just remember it is non-refundable once you buy!

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