What are your must-have hotel freebies? Priceline introduces feature to help you find them

By Beth J. Harpaz, AP
Thursday, September 16, 2010

Priceline introduces feature for hotel freebies

NEW YORK — What’s your must-have hotel freebie? Free breakfast? Free parking? Or maybe you’ll pass up the garage and make-your-own waffles for a room upgrade or spa credit.

Whatever you’re looking for, Priceline.com has introduced a new feature that makes it easier to find the hotel freebie of your dreams at www.priceline.com/freebies.

“Increasingly freebies are becoming a staple for hotels of almost any star level to differentiate themselves, especially in this economy,” said Priceline spokesman Brian Ek. “What we’re finding is that consumers are looking for freebies and they value them, in some cases as much or more than a really good rate.”

Priceline has listed hotels with freebies before, but until now, “there wasn’t a way to conveniently see who was offering what in a macro sense. You could not easily compare,” Ek said.

The new feature assembles freebies “in a searchable way, so that a visitor to the site could mine our hotel database to see what’s available.”

Most consumers will probably search by location. Type your destination into the white box next to “find my deal” on the Priceline.com/freebies page. Enter Atlanta, for example, click “free breakfast,” and 20 choices pop up with details on the offers. Click on the “see dates” feature on the right for a calendar.

You can also filter results by a particular freebie. “If you wanted to take a golf vacation, for example, you’re probably flexible in terms of where you want to go,” Ek said. Clicking on the “golf credit” box brings up hotels in Tucson, Ariz., Hawaii and Chesapeake Bay, Md., each offering free golf with a stay.

The new Priceline feature has a total of 10 freebies to choose from: free breakfast, free parking, golf credit, spa credit, room upgrade, resort credit, kids stay free, free nights, hotel extras and instant discount.

The instant discount lists additional dollars off standard rates for stays on certain dates. “You would see this elsewhere on the site, but in the freebies section, all of the hotels offering date-specific discounts are assembled for easy comparing,” Ek explained.

Hotel extras include children’s activity kits, complimentary drinks, coupons for stores, casino credits, or credits or coupons toward food.

For my family, free breakfast is the must-have in every hotel we stay in. And while it does save bucks, it’s actually more about convenience. It’s the most efficient way for us to get what we want in the morning without a lot of fuss, allowing us to quickly get out of the hotel and on our way to the day’s activities. We don’t have to waste time hunting down a restaurant in an unfamiliar city, and even the simplest lobby buffets tend to provide something for everyone. One of my kids wolfs down two bowls of cereal; the other prefers to sleep in a bit and grab a bagel to go.

For other travelers, getting a freebie can be a risk-free way to try something. Maybe you wouldn’t pay for a children’s activity kit, but if you have kids and you’re choosing between two hotels with similar rates, you might as well book the one with the kit. Or maybe you’ve never been to a spa, but a free massage might be a fun way to try one.

“It is just a really simple feature, very intuitive and it’s very easy to pick a hotel that’s going to give you not only a good deal but added value for whatever matters most to you,” said Ek.

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