Seems a bit overwhelming with all of the travel sites online now a days. What sites have the best deals and are the easiest to use?
Airfare - Hipmunk does an awesome job combining the price factor and the time factor. Don't forget to cross-check Southwest since they don't show up on booking sites.
Hotels - I've long been a fan of the blind booking sites (i.e. Hotwire, Priceline). Do your research in advance on neighborhoods, stay away from anything less than 3 stars, and you'll pay far less then booking the old fashioned way if you're comfortable with the random factor. This works best for non-resort trips - if you're looking for the place with the nicest pool in a resort town, blind booking is probably not the best idea.
Note that in general and outside of the blind sites, you should always book straight from the source. There is no benefit in booking a Delta flight or a Hilton stay from Travelocity. Use the travel aggregators to sort by price, then go to the source website and book. You'll get more flexibility in your reservation and it shouldn't be more expensive. Hotels reservations should allow cancellation up to 24 or 48 hours in advance. Car reservations should be non-binding.
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Skyscanner.com accounts for the discount airlines usually left out by Kayak
google.com/flights is my go to to plot my trips since it has the easiest to understand interface
Hotels.com gives you a complimentary night after 10 nights. When you travel often, and in groups this leads to big savings
The only exception is if you're doing something like a Priceline prepaid "name your price". I do that occasionally for airport hotels when I don't want to deal with rush hour for a morning flight. I've figured out how to game Priceline's "name your price" to figure out the lowest price for the airport hotels I use.
- Find all neighborhoods in the city that don't have a hotel with at least as many stars as what you're looking for.
- Bid super low.
- Increment each successive bid by $5 while adding a zone that does not have any applicable hotels.
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I just browse online for discount codes and fire away. CIT for Citigroup works at most Marriott properties and I've never been asked to present company ID. I guess it's a bit of a risk but it hasn't burned me so far
Lacking a discount hotel I just choose a local Starwood property for the points.
From personal experience, I would avoid Hotels.com and Booking.com. My wife cancelled a reservation from Hotels.com, who didn't cancel the hotel reservation, and the hotel was trying to bill us for a stay we never did.
Booking.com is a s**tshow on greasy wheels on a pink shag carpet. For my wife's trip to Europe, she reserved a room at a 4-star hotel for dirt cheap. A few weeks later, when finalizing the plans, she looked up the reservation. It was nowhere to be found. Booking.com said she never reserved it for this time. Their records showed she had reservations back in January (trip was in April). Her online account was blank. However, she had a copy&paste of the confirmation page... and the dates were wrong. She then called the hotel in Europe, who said they didn't have a reservation for the planned time. My wife asked if they had the reservation from January, and they said no. Booking.com totally denied making the wrong reservation... they didn't make any at all. Just took the money.
After my wife got off the phone with Booking.com, her account page had magically refreshed and it included the January reservation. And we had 3 different computers with her account screen open. F**king Booking dot NO.
To counter the HOTELS.com issue, I had the opposite results and no hesitation to use for the next trip.
I would suggest thou, using the group sites that you go to the direct site for the hotel and see if they have a better deal (not unusual)
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I use Kayak to compare fares, then usually book directly through the airline. The exception is when Kayak can put together different airlines to get the times I want - on a recent trip I went there via United and came back via Delta.
I had a similar experience in Europe with 'eDreams' for a same-day flight. They did eventually refund my money, and buying a walk-up ticket from Swiss was the same price as getting ****ed by the aggregator. Several people at the airport sympathetically told me that eDreams was '...so bad!' Won't use them again.
For hotels, in the US I always go directly to Hilton.com (or HHonors.com) and pick a Hilton property. An exception is New York City, where I like little boutique hotels if they have good prices (Pod 39, the YoTel, the Moderne). In Europe, I look for local 4-stars first, then Accor properties (Ibis, Mercure, Sofitel, Novotel).
I never use a booking site, but to be fair, my business travel usually involves going to one of the same two or three cities, so I know which hotels I'm willing to stay at. I bring up 4 windows and look at the price between the Hyatt, the various hotels in the Hilton group, the hotels within the Marriott group and the hotels within the IHG group. I prioritize based on my preference and see what the prices are for my preferred hotels. I'll pick the one that is the best value to me from those four choices.
Now, if I were going to a city I'm unfamiliar with, I'd probably go with trivago or a similar site, narrow down the choices and then go directly to the hotel's website for booking.
The Hyatt and Hilton are the only four star hotels at Logan. You never get the Hilton. As you say, add in zones that don't have four star hotels and you eventually get the lowest possible price for the Hyatt.
I often do that when I'm taking the Boston/London-Heathrow morning flight.
In general my first and often only choice is Priceline.
You have to use the "name your own price" tool to get good deals.
For hotels start at $35 and cars $10.
You might have to bid over a few days as you only get three bids a day (there are ways to get around that, look it up) and that's fine if you have a few days.
I've literally paid $35 a night for a hotel that had their lowest cost room at $180 if you book through them.
At times the "Express Deals" tool is just as good.
DO NOT BE DISTRACTED BY THE FRONT PAGE PRICES. YOU HAVE TO BID OR USE EXPRESS DEALS.
I cannot possibly advocate that enough.
I am in the midst of planning a 2-week family trip to Thailand and found that Trivago, Agoda, Hotels.com, Expedia etc. are only good to find a price range and what type of rooms are available. What I don't like about these sites is the varying prices for non-refundable and free cancellation options. I have found that most of the time that calling or going online directly to that hotel you will find comparable or better pricing than those other travel websites. Also, dealing directly with the hotels gives you free or small fee cancellation rights within a reasonable time frame. Deleting a middlemen makes changes or cancellations much easier. As far as airline tickets I believe Google flights.com has the best pricing and easiest format to compare pricing. You also get notifications when pricing on your flights of interest change.
Bumping since it's a good topic.
I used to use Priceline for everything. Could compare it to Expedia/Kayak/etc and it would always be about the same price. Booking a package directly through an airline would also give me that same price.
One negative thing about packages through a broker (Priceline/etc) is that if you have to change/cancel anything, it goes through them and not the airline/hotel/car directly. I've heard that can be good or bad... My one cancellation through Priceline I did get a refund though
Having said that, I generally only want to fly Delta these days so using their website yields me the same deals/prices. Granted, you don't get the "last minute" crazy deals that for example Priceline can get you if you "bid" on packages etc.
I've tried booking through AMEX recently, but the interface is horrible and it kept glitching, then when I called my concierge service I was just told "flights and deals change every hour" blah blah so I figuratively threw that website in the garbage.
Best thing I'm seeing is to stick with the same airlines and hotels (Hilton, Starwood, etc) and enroll in their free membership programs. Get "status" with them and they'll treat you better. Free room upgrades, free car upgrades, free class upgrades on flights if available... Many things are possible.
Also if you fly a lot, get the "TSA pre-check" done. Costs $85 and you can find a few ways to get it for free. All it is is your basic info and then fingerprints. Now every time I fly I'm "TSA prechecked", get to take the shorter line, keep my shoes on and everything stays in my bags.
TD;DR - Doesn't seem to matter where you book, but do it all as a package. Enroll in the free membership accounts. Try to use the same brands if you frequently travel