Debunking Deals – Travel Discounts and Third-Party Sites
Everyone loves a great deal. Who would pass on a saving a bundle? “Keep more money in my wallet? No thanks!” said no one ever. So, the promise of flash sales and discounts are a lure for us all and when you are trying to accommodate a large family, it is sometimes a necessity.
However, sometimes those “deals” aren’t so great. You have third-party agencies that can offer discounts with sites like Orbitz, Priceline, and Expedia. Most of these websites either make their revenue through commissions, a fee or percentage allowed for services rendered, through a markup or a rise in the price. The hotels do not get all the money the shopper pays to travel sites. This fact can be an advantage when making your own arrangements.
As I have stated before, you need to pick up the phone and call the establishment you want to stay at. Often, you can get an even better discount. Do your research first, find the hotel you’d like to stay at and look into those third-party sites. Then call the establishment directly and ask for any specials. Don’t offer up the fact you found a room on another site. Let them start with an offer. If it’s not as good as what you found online, mention that discount available via Orbitz. In most cases, the hotel will offer to beat that price so the can collect the full amount you will spend instead of sharing it with a third party discount site.
Groupon, LivingSocial, and Jetsetter are a slightly different beast when it comes to the growing menagerie of discounted travel options. They offer vouchers that you pay for upfront and use at your own will. You have to do a little more legwork and while they do feature amazing deals, most of the time they aren’t actually that competitive and you can actually end up spending more.
The Detroit Free Press did some digging and came up with a result that might surprise you…
“The Free Press looked at 22 travel daily deals on multiple sites. We found that about a third of the time they either were not the lowest price or involved a lot of red tape.”
I did some research of my own to see if this was true. I only called 5 hotels that were offering deals via Groupon and found all but one hotel was willing to give me a better deal or an upgraded room for the same price.
Look at this Groupon…for a King Superior Room, they craftily advertise $99+ a night. However, only November 24-28 and December 22-26 get that deep of a discount. For the rest of the months, prices hover in the $179 a night range. For November 4th – November 8th Groupon’s “deal” is subtotaled at $716 and the final total is $833. If you go to the hotel’s website, you can score the exact same room at the same time for a subtotal of $700 and a final total of $815. It might only be a small difference but it will cover a coffee and donut run in the morning. Plus, when I called, I got an even better deal!
Next, LivingSocial was outbid by 3 of the 5 hotels. (Note – The other two establishments couldn’t accommodate the same time frame offered on the third party sites.)
Also, be wary of red tape. There can be a ton of restrictions including the number of people in your party. Adding on extra people, like kids, often ups the price. During one of my trips using the voucher deal, I didn’t consider my toddler as an extra person for the breakfast buffet included in the price. I ended up paying an extra $20 for her to eat a pancake, 3 strawberries and a glass of chocolate milk!
I would like to state that I am not bashing the online travel discount offerings. Sometimes you can score a sweet deal, but this is meant to caution fellow adventure seekers.
Extra Tourist Meets Traveler Tips:
*Look for the fine print and read into the details thoroughly.
*Follow deals through the transaction process until you get a final total or grand total.
*Know your refund options before you buy. Some flash deals are case by case while others, like Groupon, offer a promise to “work with you to make it right.” Note that is very vague and your idea of “right” may be different than a corporate idea of “right.”
*Just because it is on a discount website, doesn’t make the best deal.
*Call to ask any questions. If you have trouble calling to ask a question about the deal, think of the troubles you might if any issues arrive in redeeming your voucher.