Boston (while running along the Charles River)
“Mrs Skinner do you have a credit card?”
I felt smug. Usually I wouldn’t. I mean who would when you’re being asked to hand over a piece of plastic used for large charges. Especially after they messed-up my name (I’m still a Miss)!
Why was I smug? Because I had already paid for the hotel in Boston (it was part of my trip over New Years) on the online site www.hotwire.com.
You don’t know hotwire? Well Hotwire.com has one gimmick and only one gimmick. What is it? Good question. Essentially they claim to offer reduced prices for hotels and airline tickets.
“Sounds like everywhere else Robyn.”
Yes, I know, which is why reduced prices is not the gimmick, just the substance.
Hotwire.com is about gambling. While this reservation site will offer you explanations about the hotel rooms or cars you want to rent, i.e. the room is in a three star hotel, the site will not name the hotel.
So for Boston I selected a three and half star hotel in the Back Bay area (i.e. central Boston). Sounds like it could be expensive? I actually found it on hotwire.com for just $93 a night before taxes – it came to a total of $359 for three nights.
A little over my $100 budget on my recent trips from London (so Dover, Berlin, Stockholm, Brighton, to name a few), but it was a holiday. Plus I was splitting the price so technically it was still under $100 a day.
Which hotel did I book? After I gave hotwire.com my credit card they told me it was the Sheraton in the
View from my hotwire.com booked room
Prudential Centre (i.e. above a mall). I felt pleased with my gamble.
“But the room is already paid-for, right?” I said to the receptionist.
“Oh yes, this is just for incidentals.”
My piece of plastic was much more for the Sheraton. The hotel then decided to also charge me for the three-night stay.
But that’s not the worst part. Nope. Neither is the hassle I went through to deny this charge. The disappointing part was that the hotel was only going to charge me $288!! I might have saved more than $70 if I had booked directly through the hotel!
Which led me to this column: how to use these online travel agencies such as hotwire.com, expedia.com and orbitz.com (to name a few of the most popular). Who am I to write this after my Boston fiasco?
Well that brings me to tip one: don’t be lazy or too busy. I know, I know you can’t always make a lot of time to book your hotels and flights, but make half an hour to do a little research,(which is what I normally do and what I didn’t do for this trip) and you could save yourself close to $100.
Which is why, to be fair to tip two and to hotwire.com, I have to concede they were providing a service to me, which was pulling together a bunch of hotels in Boston, providing me with their descriptions and, according to the online agency, the best price on that day….allegedly.
Taking me to tip three be careful about these sites, which also compound the search engines. I discovered this as I gave myself half an hour to try and find flights than I could find on hotwire.com (why not try another portion of the site?). Instead of hotwire.com searching, however, I was directed to two of its partners (i.e. to search through expedia.com, kayak.com, etc…) to find flights. Hotwire.com was not even going to do the work!
This discovery led to tip four and my result, which was prices above and beyond what the actual airline was quoting. In the experiment I chose Boston again (on hotwire’s partner sites), just to keep it in the family, and both expedia and kayak were above the price quoted by the airline.
Delta leaves Bermuda
On Delta’s site the round-trip flight from Bermuda to Boston and back, from January 26th until January 30 was $315. On Expedia.com? That would be $322! An extra charge of $7 just to use that service, apparently.
Ok so this column is not meant to pick on hotwire.com. Unfortunately they are in my crossfires this week because I have had to pick-up my bank account pieces thanks to them.
But tip five is watch the small print because the booking site provides plenty of clauses that release them from me actually being irate at the higher prices. i.e. “Savings based on lowest published rate we’ve found on leading retail travel sites in the last 24-48 hours for the same neighborhood, star rating, and stay dates. Availability is limited and rates are subject to change.”
But that doesn’t mean I will return in the future and in fact many of these online agencies, such as hotwire, orbitz and cheapoair.com are facing a lash back from people much bigger than me.
I’m not the only one, apparently, who is tired of being taxed, which leads to tip six. American Airlines led the way by pulling out of advertising their fares on Orbitz.com. Other airlines, including Delta, have contacted sites such as Airfare.com, cheapoair.com and OneTravel.com to also remove their flights.
Which is seven: don’t get caught in a flight pricing war because now even the sites are fighting back. Expedia.com actually removed American Airlines from it’s flight selection, while Delta contacted them and told them to discontinue the flight listings.
Low-cost carriers, such as JetBlue and Virgin America, decided to be Switzerland and just always did their own thing by listing their seat deals directly from their sites.
So to book the best tickets, hotel prices, etc… my tip eight is to initially visit an expedia.com or a kayak.com
Get ready to ski in Vermont!
and figure out the days that are looking cheaper to travel.
Then (AND ONLY THEN) do I touch on tip nine, which is to then travel to the website of the lowest airline, car rental or hotel to see if they have better deals BEFORE booking. Sure the want to book immediately and spend less time is there. But that brings us back to tip one: don’t be lazy.
Which brings us finally to tip ten: sign-up with the travel agency online sites to received their discounts and best prices. These can direct you to good deals, but again DO NOT BOOK through them. Take these as guidelines to then research on the actual provider’s site.
You will be happy you do especially when you save a possible $70 and can put that towards skiing in Vermont, which will be next week’s Rock Fever. And as always visit Robyn’s Wanderings every day for more tips and tales!