Let them come to you. That's the mantra a budget conscious traveler can take these days, thanks to two innovative web sites.
BIDDING FOR YOUR BED
On the hotel side of things, BackBid.com solicits bids on consumers' behalf. After a would-be guest confidentially posts the details of an upcoming stay (the hotel they prefer and the rate they're quoted), BackBid.com attracts counter offers from competitors.
"You'll receive bids right to your e-mail inbox," said BackBid.com co-founder Chris Patridge. "The average consumer right now is saving $140 per trip."
When the behind-the-scenes bidding war doesn't focus on your nightly rate, Patridge says competing hotels pony up amenities, such as free breakfast, free parking, or room upgrades.
"We even have some that have dinner packages, even show tickets," he said.
BackBid offers consumers one significant advantage over rival sites: Priceline.com and Hotwire.com hide the name of a hotel until after it is pre-paid in full. Patridge said every BackBid.com bid includes the hotel name – and there's no commitment, since it's just a price quote.
SAIL AWAY AUCTION
The numbers are undeniable: cruises are the best vacation value -- period.
But those who shop around will quickly discover prices vary among travel agents.
That's where CruiseCompete.com steps in. When prospective passengers tell CruiseCompete which sailing they're pondering, it solicits bids from travel agents nationwide.
"You just sit back and wait for the agents to come to you," said CruiseCompete.com's Bob Levinstein.
Unlike airline fares, which generally do not change from one agency to the next, cruise fares can vary wildly. And the differences can be stark.
"You can save hundreds, even thousands," Levinstein said, by choosing the right travel agent. Levinstein said CruiseCompete.com has delivered 11 million quotes to consumers.
When agents can't compete on price, Levinstein said they will try to outdo one another on amenities such as free insurance, cabin upgrades, or credits to the passenger's onboard spending account.
"Frankly, that's a good as cash," he said.
Levinstein said it's vitally important that cruise passengers shop around before they book a vacation at sea.
"It's as big investment, you want to get it right," he said.