Admittedly, there is the tendency to want to do anything for yourself that anyone else can do, provided you have access to the same quality product at a reduced price.
With travel, that might well be possible.
Have you ever had that nagging question, “OK, I paid a membership fee to get exclusive travel arrangements? What if I could have gotten them without a membership fee?
What if you have a recurring membership fee and you’re not traveling as much as you thought you would be traveling? Can you get out of the payment cycle? Can you get a refund?
#1. You have to know that you could get the same products at an equal or less cost.
#2. You have to figure how much time and energy it requires to stay in the vacation or travel club.
Let’s figure the second question first. (Hey, we’re adults. We can start with the last question first.)
- How much initial fee was it to get into the membership?
- How much recurring fee is it to remain in the membership?
- How much was the total cost of the trip or travel experience (including all taxes, fees, surcharges, tips, etc)?
- How many additional discounts did I get and apply that may have further reduced the announced cost of the entire travel and entertainment event?
Now, get that figure in mind. (Let’s be fair and make sure we compare kiwi fruit to kiwi fruit and not kiwi fruit to oranges…or is that apples to oranges?)
Let’s tackle #1 question now….Could I have secured the same products at an equal or lower price?
Travel booking aggregates such as Chipmunk, Expedia, Hotels, Hotwire, Kayak, Orbitz, Priceline, Travelocity, TravelZoo, are numerous and easily accessible.
Let’s enumerate their similarities:
- Available to the public.
- Access to massive travel services and products from the comfort of your home or office or car.
- Comparison of 2 or more can practically assure hours saved from individual and independent inquiries.
- Professional assistance may be available as needed.
- Can each be compared to the other for the most investigative among us.
- Take online payments.
- Promotional codes and rewards programs may be applicable.
- Capable of group discounts and concierge guidance in most cases.
Let’s talk about their differences:
- Some offer all-inclusive packages; some packages are exclusive to their predesign and may not be 100% comparable to others.
- Not all provide coupons that reduce secondary pursuits such as attractions, excursions, onboard benefits, etc.
- Though the ones mentioned are all technological marvels, not all marvels are equal. Some planning tools are not available among all.
LET’S COMPARE: (in alphabetical order)
Hipmunk has an ingenious way to keep your browsing history even without an account or login (thank the Lord for cookies!). You can display multiple scenarios of air flight itineraries coupled with hotel stays, vehicle rentals and even rail time tables. In addition, you can slide the whole trip 1, 2, or 3 days earlier or later and see what happens without the entire trip falling apart.
It’s easily possible to see the lag times and lead times for layovers or crowded schedules. What’s really amazing is the ability to plan air or rail travel one segment (leg of a trip) at a time. Travel can be booked directly with the carrier or through another price saving site (Orbitz, Priceline, etc.) That’s amazingly helpful to the discriminating travel planner.
Good things to remember: You can visually see the effect of additions and changes to your travel plans (their “timeline” feature is fully integrated). With a keen eye for the traveler’s experience, you can sort your variety of options by “Agony” quotient, the accumulative layovers and the shortest full trip by time or by route.
Things not so good: They don’t provide phone assistance or support contact via email. It’s flexibility of multiple services means it doesn’t provide a suggested package deal or diversions like excursions and attractions.
Whether you are a novice or a seasoned travel planner, get your trip on with this comprehensive search machine. It’s free to use and you can set up your own account, save you trip ideas, build an itinerary and even get price alerts of you’re hoping things might change if you wait (waiting can bring about both an up or down change).
Expedia+ rewards applied to your purchases can further discount some things or be saved to discount future travel plans.
Things to remember that are good: You can set a price point and view the number of accommodations that are available at that prices (seats, rooms, etc.). Expedia customers have left their marks behind with star ratings and prompts that help you feel like you have a traveler’s perspective.
Things not so good: You can only search for one service at a time (no immediate comparisons to available date ranges or to multiple hotels, flights, etc. from one service to the next…that’s what the scratch pad is for.)
Hotels is all you get, but that’s quite a bit. There’s a great feature through Hotels.com with their “Welcome Rewards” after your tenth stay booked through them, you get a free night.
You can select a landmark, an address, or just a neighborhood. All types of accommodations are available, from B&B (Bed and Breakfast) to luxury condo or resort. You can rest assured they will stay competitive with any other searches because if you can produce evidence of a lower price for the same choice, Hotels.com will match the lower price or you can cancel without a penalty charge from them.
Good things to remember: They let you see the hotel name and the charge before you purchase (not always the case with others); get that 11th stay free; don’t get undercut by some else’s lower price.
Good for Hotels, Not so good for other. It is only the hotel that can be reserved.
Hotwire trims away the gaps in unfulfilled reservations. They are masters at finding the rooms that will go without any revenue if left vacant for the evening. Cut rate comes at a price…a psychological one for most of us. When booking, you identify a general area in which you want to stay and a price for a star rating you decide. Exact prices are provided, but the precise name of the hotel is not disclosed until you are charged. (I told you it’s a psychological price to pay).
This practice is called opaque sales. It’s when a non-disclosure business to business arrangement is made, that assures the customer of a discounted price and a local area and a level of quality (star rating), without disclosing the name of the hotel, so that regular paying guests are not upset that they couldn’t get the same accommodations at a discounted price.
Fortunately, Hot Wire also allows for bundle deals with vehicle rentals, air fares and cruises available as well. The jeopardy of the blind booking is somewhat lessened with the fact that Hot Wire only uses brand-name products easily recognized by the public.
Good things to remember: Support is available by phone or email to assist customers with registrations; you can set your preferences and receive alerts and availability for specific requests.
Not so good: You don’t know what you got until you pay, and there are no refunds or transfer available after reservations have been set.
Kayak is very interactive. You can enter your preferences, get you results and then adjust the necessary connection points like departures and arrivals, number of stops and length of layovers and do so specific to airline preference. That means you can plan your entire experience including means of travel, vehicle rentals, hotel stays, and have a lot of flexibility to craft out just the experience you desire. The hotels are displayed in spatial, geographical mapping with rating assessed by previous travelers and photos to give you a sense of the accommodations and surroundings.
If you set up an account (no charge) you can share your travel plans with cotravelers and interested family and friends. You can even get text alerts (or emails) when prices change regarding any of your travel services.
Good things to remember: Trends related to the peak travel (and expensive) times or the best time to take advantage of savings; you can save the browsed trip and then hold it for direct comparison with other travel aggregates; and there are many prearranged packages from which to take advantage of the preferences other travelers have had.
Things not so good: Nobody is going to visit or counsel with you by phone.
Orbitz was pulled together by six prominent airlines back in 1999 and is one of the longest existing companies to aggregate travel services for the general public. That’s part of the explanation of how cluttered and distracting the website remains to this day. Lots of hands in the pie, and the easily distraction should not go there.
You can reserve vehicles, airfares, cruises, hotels, excursions, attractions, practically anything travel related. In fact, most of the other travel planners allow you to book from their site onto Orbitz. Most seasoned travel planners expect to come to Orbitz, but by way of having searched through other sites and then eventually booking where Orbitz has the best price. The platform on the Orbitz site is mid to highly difficult to use if you’re the occasional shopper.
Good things to remember about these guys: you can change airline reservations directly with Orbitz without having to contact the airline and most hotel reservations; no additional fees to make changes to your hotel plans; guaranteed a refund if the same flight is available at a lower price; the go-to site for many other third-party travel service sites.
Not so good, it’s a really bulky website to get through and the customer service is not a strength.
Priceline is one of sites that uses an opaque sales approach. They work the discount so deep that the hotels don’t want their name associated with the price prior to purchase. Priceline soothes the concern of their customers with a double back guarantee. If the price for the same reservation can be found at a lower amount within 24 hours of booking, Priceline will double the difference in price and refund your money.
Of course they have your money already because you don’t have reservations without payment in advance. You do have your choice of the neighborhood, the price range, and the quality rating. You just don’t have knowledge of the specific brand-name hotel where you will be staying. Priceline advertises that their prices are at least at a 40% savings. That’s why there are no cancellations or refunds available (except if you find the price lower once you have the brand-name disclosed).
The good to remember is you have an exact price and you can stay within your travel budget; you have a double back guarantee; they have locations worldwide.
The not so good things are the Priceline cut throat discount usually voids any loyalty program a name brand hotel may have; and, the Priceline process takes a bit more time than most others.
Travelocity includes reservations for vehicle rental, airfares, hotels, cruises, excursions and attractions, and even travel package bundles. You can identify the destination and then search out discounted prices applicable to the surroundings. That means you’re mind has to be in the travel planning game to take advantage of the locale discounts. They can and do disclose the brand name of the accommodations you are requesting before purchase. They will match any price offered by any other discount party.
The good stuff includes: 24/7 customer support interaction; price guarantee; you know the name brand prior to commitment.
The less than good stuff is: not a streamlined process; not an intuitive interface; financial transactions are a little sluggish.
TravelZoo has chosen an appropriate name. Lions and tigers, and bears are replaced with the “Top 20” best destination packages, travel opportunities, and entertainment offerings locally and beyond.
TravelZoo updates their offerings systematically and allows you to do the same. Their “super search” lets you comparison shop the major travel companies by a mere click of the mouse. You don’t have to constantly enter again your boundary plans of dates and destination. Each click and you save the comparison in a new tab for immediate scrutiny. You can set your own criteria to fairly and systematically compare each offer and make the wisest, broadest decision possible.
The good to remember: systematic updates of the top 20 packages out there; location based searches to narrow your destination access and attractions; super search comparison.
The not so handy: no means of contacting anybody for further assistance; limited to those top 20 and just a few more packages to consider.
Trivago is all about hotels. At the public portal you can see everything including the name, location, photo, price, discounted price, and in most cases a comparison of all other discounted sites for that specific hotel reservation, all before you book.
You can filter by quality rating (stars); traveler opinions (smile to frown); cost; and several other filters to your heart’s delight.
The good stuff: everything you want to know before you go, for hotels.
The not so good stuff: it’s just hotels.
If You Want To Really Take Control of Your Future
Most of us have searched for a means for additional income. We’re tired of waiting for a promotion and raise we’ve been promised but never comes. We let someone else decide for us what we will be paid. We enjoy the “security” of a job, but find it hard to trade that for a sense of control.
If you just have time to learn enough to make a decision, then listen here.
If you are ready to make a step I made to freedom and control, then go right here.
You’ll be glad you did! I sure am.