The Best Travel Websites Can Save You Thousands of Dollars
The world is awash in a gazillion travel websites and apps for cheap airline tickets, hotel rooms and more- which is both a good thing and a bad thing. Good because they allow us to do things we could never do before. Bad because, well, there’s a gazillion and a lot of them aren’t very good.
In Travel Like a Pro, we share that Kayak is our favorite travel website for sourcing cheap airline tickets. It’s ease of use, broad geographic scope and ability to automate the process through fare alerts make it our starting place for any airline ticket search.
In this bonus chapter, we are going to share a few new tools that have great promise in saving you even more money.
From reading Travel Like a Pro, you now know that airlines and hotels use a process called yield management to set pricing for airline seats and hotel rooms. Yield management uses sophisticated computers to change pricing in real time based on supply and demand. That’s why you’ll find 50 people on a flight that all paid a different price. The challenge for you is finding the best price in a pricing landscape that is ever changing and this is challenging at best.
We shared that the sweet spot – in general – for purchasing airline tickets is six weeks prior to your departure date. In specific, it is that Tuesday at about 4PM EST. But this is never assured. Some new websites are working to change that by offering refunds if prices for airfare or hotel rooms drop after you book them.
Using Travel Websites to Find the Cheapest Airline Tickets and Hotel Rooms – Even When Prices Drop
Tingo is the best travel website we have seen for booking hotel rooms using this new paradigm.
After you book a refundable room through the site, Tingo automatically monitors rates up until 24 hours prior to your arrival and if the price drops, automatically refunds your credit card the difference. The key word here is automatically! There is no fee to use this service and no cancellation fee either (hotel cancellation fees still apply). All of this makes using Tingo an absolute no brainer.
The only downsides are that you could miss out on a cheaper price that the hotel offers directly (hotels sometimes discount rooms especially if they have excess inventory at the last minute) and you have to book a refundable rate which is often more than a non refundable rate. Even so, you can book with Tingo and if you later find the hotel directly offering a better rate, cancel through Tingo and book directly (hotel cancellation policies apply). All of this makes Tingo our new go-to portal for hotel bookings.
Cheap Air is a travel website that tries to do much of the same as Tingo for airfare but with some key differences.
First, you have to monitor prices – which is a pain in the ass – and if you find a cheaper price for your ticket on Cheap Air, you apply for a refund. And you can only claim one refund per ticket so you are still playing a guessing game as to when to claim a refund if the price drops. Refunds are capped at $100 per ticket. If you don’t mind doing the extra legwork, this may be an option for you. Another option would be to set price alerts in Kayak to warn you of lower pricing or use Airfarewatchdog but you still have the issue of deciding when to “call in” your one refund opportunity.
Yapta is a travel website that offers to help you get a refund directly from the airlines if ticket prices drop.
And while Yapta does the monitoring for you which is nice, it has some usability issues. Notably, it supports only a limited number of airlines (including United/Continental and Delta) and many airlines set a minimum pricing difference before they are willing to ante up a refund. In particular, if you purchase a ticket on Delta or United, the price has to drop at least $150 before they offer up a refund. This dramatically reduces usability on those airlines.
Orbitz, one of the three big online travel agencies, now offers what they call Price Assurance.
Right off the bat, we are reluctant to promote Orbitz given some poor customer service issues we have had with them in the past but their program is worth a look. First, price assurance covers both flights and hotel but not if you book them together as a package so be aware of that. With Price Assurance, Orbitz will send you an automatic refund if prices drop which is great but there is a catch. They only send a refund if another Orbitz customer books at that lower price – not just if the price drops on the website. It is unclear at this point how often that actually happens or what the average refund is. Refunds are capped at $250 per airline ticket and $500 per hotel room. And while no cap would be better, those are generous enough to make a difference. So unless you want to spend the time constantly checking back on prices, Orbitz may be you best best for airline bookings. One bad “quirk” with Orbitz is that it is not uncommon to source a flight and once you go to book it, you are told that the fare is no longer available.
All in all, these are some great new tools to help you beat the airline and hotel’s yield management computers and end up with a lower price for both your airline tickets and hotel rooms. After all, the goal is to save you money so you can travel more.
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Keep an eye out next week for your second bonus chapter!
Sharkman & Mantagirl