Travelocity. Orbitz. Priceline. We’ve all heard of them, and likely booked through them, but what makes one booking site better than another? The majority of the time hotel prices vary little to none between different booking sites. So does it matter what site you use? While the short answer may be no, tough competition between sites has resulted in perks for travelers. If you’re not earning a bonus for booking your hotel, you’re missing out. Below are our favorite sites to book through.
I know what you’re thinking. Groupon offers deals at subpar hotels to increase their traffic. While this may be partially true, there is more to the story. Groupon recently partnered with Expedia to create a new section of Groupon Getaways where you can book a number of rooms at market price.
Why would you book through Groupon if you’re going to pay the same rate as any other travel site? Groupon offers 5% of you hotel cost back in “Groupon Bucks”. In other words, you get 5% as a Groupon gift card to use on future purchases. So if I spend $600 on 3 nights in a hotel, I’d get $30 in Groupon Bucks.
If you don’t travel very often (or you just love instant gratification, like I do) Groupon is a great option to get a return now, instead of waiting to hit a reward through other programs like Hotels.com’s Welcome Rewards. So scroll past all those hotels offering Groupons you wouldn’t stay in, and check out the Market Price section.
Hotels.com (Welcome Rewards)
Hotels.com offers a program where when you book 10 nights at a qualifying hotel (almost all hotels are qualifying) you get a night free. The catch, your free night is valued at the average of the cost of the 10 nights you previously booked. In other words, you can’t book 10 nights at Days Inn then cash in your free night at the Ritz.
While this is essentially a better deal than Groupon (you are basically getting 10% of you hotel cost toward the cost of a future room), if you don’t book a room through Hotels.com within a year from your last stay, you will lose the nights you have built up. So if you are not a regular traveler, a site with instant rewards is a much safer bet.
Relatively new to the scene, RocketMiles let you earn frequent flyer miles for booking your hotel through them. You can earn thousands of miles from booking a room through them, the earn rate varying between hotel chain, room price, and selected airline miles. For example, a 2 night stay at the $120 Holiday Inn in San Diego will earn me 2,000 Rapid Rewards points (Southwest), while staying at the Hard Rock will earn me 6,000 points. If you like to use airline miles, it is definitely worth checking this one out.
If you’re in to getting a great deal, be sure to check out thesuitest.com, which will let you know what you should be paying for a given room. The site surveys the price of the room over time and tells you the fair rate, any recent changes, and how much you’d be saving on any certain day. It will also let you know if trends suggest the price may decrease in the coming days. A great tool for booking rooms far in advance! You may want to book through another site after checking the value of rooms at the Suitest since they don’t offer perks for booking.
To know you are getting the lowest price available, check Trivago.com. Trivago compares the prices of the same hotel room across almost 200 different sites and shows you where the lowest price is available. As I stated earlier, there is typically very little different between the prices of a hotel from site to site, but there are exceptions, and often these exceptions are on obscure sites you would have never checked. While the site doesn’t offer an incentive to book through them, it’s a great place to search.
Hotel Points. Unless you frequently stay at the same hotel chain, hotel points can be fairly useless. However, many airlines have partnered with some hotel chains such as Hilton, Starwood, and Hyatt to allow guests to earn frequent flyer miles in place of hotel points. Create an account to earn points at your hotel of choice, then switch the earning style to your favorite airline in your profile.
Additional Points. Many airlines also offer shopping portals where users can register their frequent flyer numbers and gain miles while purchasing goods online. Groupon is commonly offered on these sites, so you can gain a fairly significant amount of miles when you book your hotel through them. I earn 3 miles per dollar spent through the Southwest portal and MILES through American Airlines. Here are some of the more common airlines:
Likewise, many credit cards (especially travel cards) have shopping portals where you can earn extra points per dollar at Travelocity and other major travel booking sites.