Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Hotel Discount Website Secret

I recently discovered a secret when it comes to the travel discount websites. They’re no discount, really. Let me explain why. A hotel might go for $89 on Orbitz, Travelocity or numerous other sites. Good deal when the price is normally $115 a night.

As some of you’ve discovered when you click on the button and try to reserve the room for a desired night, the price might change. You’ve made the mistake of wanting a room on a weekend, or worse yet, a holiday weekend. The $89 jumps to, surprise, $115. The discount sites do not add taxes and associated fees that can be sizable in resort areas. So even now, that discount room is back to regular price, and then some.

My daughter works in the hotel industry for a major corporation; she gave me insights about website discounters. People assume their reservation happens immediately as they type in their credit card number. Not so, a third party at the website has to contact the hotel to make the actual reservation. This doesn’t always happen in an expedient manner resulting in no reservation. The disappointed traveler usually takes their anger on the desk clerk. The wrong number of nights, rooms, even hotels, especially when there is more than one Marriott or Holiday Inn in a city happen when a third party makes the reservation.

Your best bet is to contact the hotel yourself. Mention the $89 room special, most hotels will match the price or even offer a better deal. In the end, the hotel gets $89. If you go through a discount site, they may only earn $50. Direct booking benefits them.

If something goes wrong. Your reservation never occurred, you need to cancel it, or you want your money back, you have to go through the web discounter. Good luck with that! My cancelled flight I booked with a web discount site is a case in point. Drove to the airport, expecting to fly out on my vacation, but had to stay overnight nearby to avoid the long drive home.  The airlines told me if I booked with them directly they’d put me on the next direct flight. Since I booked with a website discounter that I’d have to work it out with them.

This involved a series of phone calls. Most of the time I listened to a recorded message before disconnection. Finally, I reached someone in a call center who insisted I fill out a travel insurance, which I did.

As for flying, my only instructions were to arrive early the next day and try to fly stand by. Ironically, the website service kept calling me and telling me my luggage was ready for pickup in Atlanta. Pretty weird, since I hadn’t even boarded a plane.

More than a year later, I received my reply from the travel insurance company. Despite all my documentation, they refused my claim deciding that losing a vacation day, flying standby, driving back and forth to the airport repeatedly, and staying at a nearby hostelry was not a hardship.

I book all flights direct now. As for hotels, I book direct too. Most hotels have loyalty programs; you can’t use points earned with discount websites. I recently redeemed a free night at the Marriott. It was totally free, no hidden charges. As a loyalty member, by going to the members reward site I receive a bigger discount than the public on room rates.

As for the discount travel websites, I do use them to read reviews, check out area attractions, and flight prices. After doing that, I often use the name of the place I want to go and Google it. I found several discounts that way on our recent trip to San Diego. Once there, I ask locals about good places to go or discounts. They’re able to tell me, which restaurants offer two for one specials, or the best beach to visit.

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