What You Need To Know To Get The Best Hotel Rates On Your Vacation
We all work hard for our vacation dollars, and when it’s time to get away from the daily grind and relax on vacation, maximizing those dollars is essential! But how do you REALLY get the best bang for your buck when it comes to the best hotel rates? Is the rate you booked available at a lower price elsewhere?
They do their best to confuse you when it comes to the best hotel rates!
No, generally not the hotel or resort, it’s the new scourge in the travel industry, the OTA (Online Travel Agency.) We have all seen the ads with the little gray-haired man touting the lowest rates for Trivago or heard the sultry European female voice promoting Booking.com. They all promise the most economical rate and often a 100% price match guarantee. But is it REALLY true? Or have we as Americans become so lazy we click on the first and fastest way to book a hotel? If you are one of the latter, you are most likely paying more than you need to. And it could be a lot more!
Understanding How The OTA’s Work Is Essential To Get the Best Hotel Rates
Hotels & Resorts typically use a booking application that allows them to manage their rates and availability. They then “push” that information to the OTA’s. An OTA charges the hotel or resort a fee, generally 15% of the amount of the reservation that books through their website. In most cases, a hotel raises its rates by that same 15% and “pushes” that higher rate out to the OTA. As we will demonstrate in the example below, you will generally be the one paying the higher prices!
But First, Let’s take a closer look at that (100% price guarantee). When it’s the same, But It’s NOT!
Many of the OTA’s claim to guarantee the best hotel rates with a price match. In some cases, a 100% rate matches if you find a lower rate. In most cases, they rely on, once again “A Lazy Consumer” who never really goes back and checks prices on a reservation that has been made. For the few who do, and in the rare event, find a lower rate, a call to the OTA will result in a response that the reservation is not the same as the one booked thru the OTA.
How can that be? Easy, they revert to the cancellation policy that the OTA has. In each case, the OTA, in their contract with the hotel requires the hotel to select one of the OTA’s cancelation policies, which differs from the hotel. And there is their out. It’s the same but it’ not! Now you are not only stuck with a higher rate but your cancellation policy/penalty is also much more severe than if you had booked with the hotel directly!
Let’s Compare some rates and see where the lowest prices really are!
For our example, we are going to use Put-in-Bay Ohio as the destination. Put-in-Bay is a resort island located in Lake Erie near the Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio. A simple search for Put-in-Bay Hotels shows many options, but the first thing to catch your eye might be the clickbait from an OTA stating “45 Hotels & Rates at Put-in-Bay” Well, the only problem is that there are nowhere near 45 hotels at Put-in-Bay! If you are unfamiliar with the island, you might find yourself booked at a hotel that is not even on the island!
For our search dates, we are going to use a check-in date of July 16th checking out July 18th of 2021. We are looking for accommodations for six people. For the purpose of our example, we are going to focus on three well-known OTA’s Booking.com, Expedia & Hotels.com, as well as the individual properties websites. Let’s go see where the best deal really is! Below you will find the rates for each OTA and the rate booking directly with the hotel.
OTA Website Nightly Price
Expedia Bay Lodging Resort $518.00 Put-in-Bay Resort $522.00 Edgewater Hotel $522.00
Booking.com Bay Lodging Resort $517.50 Put-in-Bay Resort $522.00 Edgewater Hotel $522.00
Hotels.com Bay Lodging Resort $518.00 Put-in-Bay Resort &522.00 Edgewater Hotel $522.00
And now the exact same room booking directly with the hotel or resort
Bay Lodging Resort $385.00 per night
Put-in-Bay Resort $385.00 per night
Edgewater Hotel $385.00 per night
As you can see in each case, you would have OVERPAID by as much as $137.00 per night or a total of $274.00 of your hard-earned vacation dollars just to save a few minutes of your time! Who wants to do THAT? But wait, to make matters even worse, take a look at this!
More Bad News! Cancelation policies for the properties above and how they differ from the OTA’s
All three of the Put-in-Bay Ohio properties we tested above offer a $25.00 cancelation fee as long as you cancel at least 14 days or more before your scheduled arrival dates. When we looked at the three OTA’s, they all required the first night due and payable at the time of booking, and it was NON-REFUNDABLE from that point forward!
This means not only would you lose your hard-earned money if you booked and then something came up, but you’re also paying significantly more per night for the “convenience” of using their booking platform! Your 100% price guarantee is no help because the cancellation policy terms are different, and the OTA states the rate they match must be the same room type, dates, and terms!
The Best Hotel Rates Go To Those Who Seek Them Out!
No matter where your vacation travels take you, taking the time to research the individual property rates and the OTA’s will ensure you are getting the best hotel rates available. If it’s a family trip, engage the members to explore rates, and make it a contest to see who can find the lowest rates! They’re your hard-earned vacation dollars! Spend them wisely! Bon Voyage!