How do online travel auction sites work?


Online travel auction site - Luxury Link
Our guide to online travel auction sites will help you find legitimate auction sites to bid on travel.    Use our auction tips for bidding on travel and hotel rooms online.

What’s an online travel auction site, and are they legitimate?

There are quite a few online travel auction sites that have come out in recent years.   These auction sites allow you to bid on hotel rooms, vacations, and sometimes even cruises.   According to travel auction site Luxury Link, you can save up to 65% off the retail travel cost by using their service.   Due to the huge amount of savings that you can get, many people are wary to bid and fear that travel auctions are scams.   It is not that legitimate online travel auction sites are scams, it’s just that they do have restrictions and fees that you need to be aware of before you start bidding. That being said, there are scammers out there.   To find out if an online auction site is legit, do a little research.   Any travel auction site worth its weight should be registered with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).   You can also read customer reviews of auction sites to get a real feel for the business and how they treat their customers.

Where can I bid on hotel rooms?

LuxuryLink.com travel auctions are primarily for bidding on luxury resort and hotel room stays.    Additionally, Luxury Link auctions off select cruises, but these are rare.   Auctions are generally between 3 to 14 nights.   Thousands of hotel auctions are taking place right now, and several have current bids under $500 for 2+ nights for 2 people.   In addition to their regular hotel room auctions, Luxury Link offers a daily “Mystery” travel auction with a $1 starting bid.   Know that the bidding escalates quickly and does not stay at $1 for very long.   A vague destination is disclosed, but the hotels name is a “mystery” and may not be what you bargained for.    Nonetheless, you can sometimes snag cheap luxury hotel deals by bidding on these $1 mystery auctions.   To save even more, Luxury Link will give you $100 off your first reservation if you use coupon code LUXLINK100 (which may expire any time).

What if I have a large group or family?

FamilyGetaway.com is a new website, by Luxury Link, that auctions off hotel deals for families, even large ones.  Simply plug in the number of kids in your family to view hotel auctions that will accommodate your entire family.  You can bid on deals for families in popular vacation spots such as Disneyland and Florida.  It’s owned and operated by the same guys over at LuxuryLink.com.   FamilyGetaway.com has their own coupon code: FG100, which will save you $100 off your first reservation (may expire at any time).

Where can I bid on airfare?

I’ll note that SkyAuction.com (Sky Auction) has airfare-only auctions that do not include a hotel stay.  However, I notice that they currently have an unfavorable BBB rating.   To bid on airfare, there are also what I call pseudo auction sites, like Priceline and Hotwire.

With Hotwire you don’t actually bid at all… so it’s not really a travel auction.  It’s still worth mentioning that Hotwire claims to sell last-minite unsold seats, which they call Hotwire Hot Rates.   These Hot Rates disclose the fare price prior to booking, but the airline’s name is hidden until after purchase.  These flights are not refundable, but they can be great deals on par with auctions.

Priceline claims that you can save up to 40%* off lowest published airfare prices when you choose your own price.   Bidding on Priceline is extremely simple.  You just enter in the price you are willing to pay for your flight, without taxes or fees.   The exact airline and flight times are disclosed only after your “bid” is accepted (and that is, if your bid is accepted).   All “Name Your Own Price” sales are final, but Priceline’s best price guarantee helps to protect you.   Priceline’s “Name Your Own Price” guarantees that if you notify them of an exact flight that’s cheaper within 24 hours, you get a 100% refund and a $50 coupon off a vacation package booking*.    Each of these sites have their own policies, fees and penalties that you need to be aware of before bidding, which takes us to….

What do I need to be cautious of on online travel auction sites?

First and foremost, there will be restrictions on when you may travel and blackout dates apply.  You can win an auction, but if your desired travel dates are not available you will be forced to choose new travel dates.   Even if your desired travel dates are not “blacked out”, your travel is still subject to availability.  On top of that, travel auctions are typically not refundable.   I really recommend that you only bid on a travel auction if your dates are very flexible, otherwise you may find yourself winning a trip that you cannot take.   You must be willing to read through the policies on the travel auction site prior to bidding, because every site is different.

Do you have tips to begin bidding for travel online?

As every auction site is different and the type of auction may vary, these are just some general auction bidding tips to get you started:

1.     Search for travel auctions in which the bidding is set to expire in less than 24 hours. You can do this by filtering the search results by “ending time”.   These last minute auctions are close to closing and give you a better idea of the real price you may pay in the end.

2.    Scroll down and see if you are interested in any of these last minute auctions. If so, pull up the full details. Make note of blackout dates, travel dates, full name of hotel, and any added perks that you get with your reservation.   Many of Luxury Link’s auctions give you extra perks such as massages, free dinners, tax included, ect. .   Of course, you will want to choose an auction that will give you at least an hour or so to move on to step three…

3.    Visit the hotels own website (make sure you are on the hotels corporate booking site, and not an agency site), and see how much it would cost to book this exact deal directly with them.   Trust me; you don’t want to skip this step. Usually the price is less on Luxury Link, but you need to double-check.   Make note of how much the extras (perks) that Luxury Link is giving you cost in addition to the hotel rate, and weigh the difference.   I mean, if Luxury Link’s price is the same as the hotel but I also get a free massage with Luxury Link, then I’m going with them.

4.    If the price is right, it’s time to watch.   And… wait.   Don’t bid right away, because you do not want to alert other auction bidders that someone else is in.   There are many different theories on how long you should wait, in my personal opinion you should wait until the last 30 minutes to bid.   This will give you just enough time to re-bid if necessary, but it’s not so long that you can’t watch the auction closely.

Do you have some online travel auction tips of your own?  Post them in the comments below.

Quick LinksPriceline, Hotwire, Luxury Link, Family Getaway, Sky Auction.

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