When we’re traveling frequently, as we did in 2019, our hotel stays focused on chain properties. Our status gets us special perks and with a chain, we tend to know what we’re getting in advance. Local hotels can be more of a crapshoot.
When looking at independent hotels, you should do a little more research. While reading the reviews, it’s important to realize that some reviews on Tripadvisor will be more relevant to you than others. Once you pick out a hotel, you’ll have to decide if you want to try to book directly with the hotel or use an OTA (Online Travel Agent.) There are pros and cons to booking direct or using an OTA. These OTAs, like Expedia, Orbitz or Hotels.com, help travelers book hotel rooms all around the world. In addition, some of them, like Hotels.com, have their own loyalty program where you can earn points to be used for future stays. There are plenty of options to book your hotel room, but you need to be careful.
When we stayed at the TWA Hotel in 2019, I booked our room before the hotel had opened. The only way to make a reservation was through the hotel website. Since then, the hotel is letting travel agencies see some of the room inventory. When I looked at Tripadvisor, several OTAs were listed, offering rooms for similar prices.
Since there would be no advantage in booking one place over another, I looked to other ways to save money. I thought about using Hotels.com because of the loyalty program where after staying 10 nights, you get 1 night free. However, since we usually book directly to get perks, it would take forever to get 10 nights.
I then looked to see if any of the OTAs were offering any bonuses for booking through portals. I went to Cashback Monitor and looked up the different websites. TopCashback offered 10.25% back on bookings through Travelocity.
When I clicked through to Travelocity, I found the room I wanted. However, the only available options were for pre-paid, non-refundable reservations.
I found the same language from Hotels.com and Expedia. The only available rooms were non-refundable.
I was going to give up and book directly with the hotel, since they offered a flexible rate.
Instead, I gave it one more try with Booking.com.
When I looked at the room through them, there was one big difference from the other OTAs. Free cancellation.
After all the taxes and fees, the prices for the two websites were identical.
By doing a little bit of research, I was able to find an OTA that offered the same price as the hotel website, with the same cancellation policy. I also didn’t have to prepay for the stay. Using a shopping portal, I’m going to get 6% back once the stay is complete; about $15.
Just remember that the website offering the biggest rebate might not be the best offer out there. You have to decide if those few extra points or cash back are worth what you’re giving up in return.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary