If you are a savvy Internet shopper, you will know by now that comparison websites are rigged. The companies that pay the highest commissions to the websites are the ones that “appear” to be the cheapest. So, how do you get the best deal? There are three practices to undertake.
The first is to start shopping long before you need your flight so that you may take advantage of early booking discounts. If you cannot find a good price, you may set up price alerts and watch airline/holiday package prices to see if the cost slips.
The second is to shop around as much as possible. Use comparison websites and visit the websites of the companies offering holidays and flights. Keep shopping around until you find the best possible price.
The third practice is to learn as much as you can about the companies offering the holiday packages and the flight deals. This article is loaded with information that will help you pick the travel booking company that is right for you.
A Little Background Information
All is not what it seems when you shop online. Quite a few travel companies are owned by the same company. Here is a list of which company owns which company. For the record, just because one company owns another, it doesn’t mean they have the same prices or service quality.
Expedia currently owns Orbitz, Travelocity, Hotwire, eBookers and CheapTickets.
Priceline currently owns Booking.com, Agoda and Kayak.
CheapoAir is an independent flight-booking agent.
Tripadvisor owns a wide range of small companies and websites, and they use Seatguru as their flight-booking engine.
Google has ITA Software and they have the Google Flights search engine.
It is impossible to say which company is the best and which is the worst. There is not a time when one is consistently cheaper than the other, and there is never a time when one beats all the others hands down. Judge for yourself with this series of pros and cons for each travel company.
CONS[–] The fact you are able to earn points is lost on most people because the company doesn’t advertise it well enough. Many times, the first time a customer learns about the points system is when he or she has already earned them from a booking. Agoda could help themselves by more widely advertising their points system. [–] The website could use more advanced filtering options. It has some that allow you to narrow down your search, but it could use more functions so that people may customize their searches a little better. The lack of filtering means you have to trawl through more unsuitable deals in order to find the one you want. [–] They will not allow you to book vacation packages through the website because they do not offer full packages. You will also have to find another way to rent a car because you cannot do it through the website either.
PROS[+] Priceline is clever because it allows you to name your own price. You place a bid on a booking price, and if you win and/or if the hotel accepts it, then you get that price for your hotel. [+] The bidding system means that some people get hotel rooms with whopping 60% discounts. Obviously, it depends on the luck for the most part, and it depends on how much demand there is for the room you desire. Still, discounts of up to 60% is very good. [+] Place bids that are within your budget, and you may save money, or you may get a better room than what you would have otherwise had for the price you are paying. [+] The act of bidding on your room and hoping you get the price you set can be fun. If the hotel decides to accept your bid, then you feel as if you have won something. Do not be conservative when you bid, try to take them for as much as you can get. [+] There is a hotel freebies feature. It allows you to search through and find hotels that are currently offering freebies. The freebies often include silly things such as free use of their towels, but some include free use of their spas, swimming pools, nightclubs and so forth. It is a Priceline gimmick, but you do feel as if you are somehow getting more for your money. [+] They have a mobile app you may use on your Windows device, your Android or your iOS device. You are able to book hotels, flights and hire cars with just the app, and it is great for people who are looking for big vacations, and people who are looking for business trips. [+] The Priceline phone app allows you to view last minute offers via your phone. They claim they are phone offers, but you can find the same deals on their website. The app does make finding those deals a little easier and more convenient than it is on the website. [+] They have a “Best Price Guarantee,” which means that if you find a price lower than theirs, you may go back to Priceline and ask that they beat it. If you book through their Express Deal option and you find a cheaper price, they will refund 200% of the difference.
CONS[–] There has to be an amount of shill bidding going on. How is it that hotels do not give away bigger discounts more often? There are hotels that are almost empty and yet the system shows people paying close to full price. There must be some way that the hotel staff can manipulate the system so that people’s lower bids are ignored across the board. [–] The best price guarantee isn’t as good as it sounds. Quite often, you get a tiny refund to match the other price rather than a newer and lower price for your own booking. Plus, it is almost impossible to find an express deal that is cheaper because few others offer the specific terms and conditions that match the Priceline Express Deal. [–] The website could use more filtering options. You may find yourself trawling through offer after offer when all you want to do is find the one that is suitable for you as quickly as possible. More advanced filtering options would be nice. [–] The name-your-price bidding option has a massive flaw in that you do not know the name of your hotel until they have accepted your bid and you have paid. There is a big level of uncertainty when making your bid. You choose the city and the star rating, but the rest is an uncertain mystery.
PROS[+] They have a best price guarantee, which means you may research into cheaper prices and then ask Expedia to reduce their price to lower than the lowest price you could find. You have to find the same deals from other operators and you have to find them at a lower price in order to get a lower price in return from Expedia. [+] If you cleverly use their best price guarantee, you may also earn a $50 coupon. The idea is that if you are the first to find a deal that has a significantly lower price than theirs, then the first person to spot it gets a $50 coupon. [+] The website has plenty of advanced filtering options. You may narrow down your search again and again to find just what you want. They have a wide number of filters that allow you to narrow down your search to find exactly what you want. [+] How you navigate the Expedia website is very good, especially when you consider how the advanced filtering system works. It allows you to start with a large category and narrow each subcategory down in a very intuitive way. Despite the advanced filters, you will not need a tutorial on how to use the website. [+] The Expedia website has a scratchpad feature, which allows you to see which hotels you have looked at, how much they cost, and how many other people are looking at the same hotels. It allows you to track different hotels to see if the price of your preferred hotel goes up or down. [+] The website has very detailed hotel pages that give you plenty of information about your hotel before you book. The information you are given is mostly accurate, with a mild bias for putting a positive spin on things and missing out some of the negative things. Nevertheless, the level of information they give is reassuring and help you make informed decisions. [+] You are able to book hotels with Expedia, and you are able to search for flights, you can rent cars, and you can even book cruise packages. They have bundle deals that may save you money, especially when they are linked with hotel bookings.
CONS[–] Their customer service department could use a little work. Most people expect a live chat function on a major travel agency website, but Expedia is lacking a live chat function. The website has over half a million bookable offers, and yet they cannot chat to a support worker over the Internet page. [–] The best price guarantee is tricky to manipulate because they have so many stipulations about the packages they offer. For example, if you find a similar deal on another website, but the other website offers something even slightly different, then you are not eligible for a price reduction or refund. [–] Expedia is good for booking hotels, in fact, it is probably one of the best websites for booking hotels, but it isn’t the cheapest for flights, car rentals and package deals. Before you accept a package deal from another website, take a look at how much a hotel will cost with Expedia and see if you can save by changing your arrangements and using a hotel you booked through Expedia.
PROS[+] Not only do are you able to search out hotels, you may also search out vacation properties. It gives you a few more options that other travel websites do not allow. If you are shopping around, it may pay to consider your alternatives–especially if you are trying to save money. [+] Kayak has travel alerts. These are ideal if you are trying to hunt down the best prices over a longer period of time. You may set up alerts that tell you when a flight has gone down in price, and you may set similar alerts for the cost of hotels. Prices may change due to the season, or due to demand, or maybe even due to cancellations. [+] The website is good for researching the best times to travel. The tools on the Kayak website are great at showing when prices fluctuate and when the best times are to fly and to book your hotel. If you are doing long-term research for a trip you are planning in months, you may learn a lot from the Kayak website. [+] The Kayak website allows you to compare your search with other travel search engines. For example, you are able to compare what the deals you see on Kayak with the deals the Priceline search engine generates or the Expedia search engine generates. [+] You may play with the advanced filters and search options that Kayak has on its website. If you have flexible dates, you may toggle with the options until you find a quote that suits your budget. If you are flexible, you can save money with Kayak. Prices for their packages are about average. [+] There is a mobile app you may use to book and so forth. It also has a currency converter and a packing list. They are cute tools that are not necessary, but they are a nice touch. The app is well built, and it makes searching for bookings a fluid and straightforward endeavor.
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CONS[–] They have a customer service department, but they do not appear to have phone support, which is very odd for an American company. The other support functions work just fine, but you are not able to pick up the phone and get an immediate answer to your questions. [–] There are pop-ups that seem to spawn for no reason. It is possible to disable them, but why are websites such as Kayak going out of their way to annoy people. Surely these web masters must know how annoying pop-ups are, is there some jerk surfing the Internet that keeps buying everything she sees on pop-ups and that is why web masters think they are the bees knees? [–] Booking with Kayak seems to have odd restrictions. Their prices are cheap on the whole, but there are packages where you can book a vacation package, but you cannot add a rental car into it. The way they packages are put together seems rather inflexible too.