Almost a year ago, I wrote a depressed post about Priceline and the companies that seemed to be in its market space (Hotwire, Last Minute Travel, Hotel Tonight), concluding that none of them offered useful services to travelers with pets. Thanks to reader Adrianne, I now know that the situation has improved.
Mind you, “Name Your Own Price” is still not an option for travelers with pets, since the bidding pages do not include any opportunity to narrow your focus to pet-friendly hotels (you can only choose your neighborhood and star level). The same is true for the site’s “Last Minute Deals” feature (which may just be the new name for Name Your Own Price).
In fact, Priceline’s new pet travel booking site, ilovedogfriendly.com, does not include a Name Your Own Price feature. (When I wrote to the PR rep asking specifically about that feature, I was told “As we feel that its better for pet parents to book a vacation based on their dog’s needs, we do not offer the name your own price tool. As you mentioned in your post, pet policies vary from hotel to hotel, so our systems works with the traditional price method of booking.” It’s a deft answer, but given Priceline’s resources, and given its need to distinguish itself from an array of existing similar services, I think a better approach would have been to develop a booking system that allows pet owners to choose a hotel that suits their needs and allows them to take advantage of Priceline’s best-known feature. The sad fact is, though, that I do not run the zoo.)
Adrianne’s note told me that Priceline now has “the Express Deals. It’s similar to the Name Your Own Price option and I have noticed pricewise it’s pretty close to what I would have bid in the past. It shows the area of town, star level of the hotel, and tells you the amenities and if they allow pets. Just like the Name Your Own Price you don’t know what hotel you get until you pay.”
And indeed, I confirmed that the site’s Express Deals feature (“up to 50% off”) can be used by travelers with pets. When you’ve told Priceline your city and travel dates, you’re sent (after a one-two punch from William Shatner) to a page where you can refine your results by, among other things, clicking on “Amenities” and then “Pets Allowed.”
If you have a tricky pet situation (e.g., large pet, multiple pets, non-dog pet, pet subject to breed bans), you’re still not going to be able to use this service satisfactorily, because you won’t know the listed hotels’ precise pet policies. However, if you are a traveler with an easy pet (i.e., one small dog), you’re in good shape. If a hotel takes any pets, it will take yours.
That’s progress, and I appreciate it. But I look forward to the day when Priceline (or a competitor) dedicates some funding to a tool that will make bargains available to all travelers with pets.