Buyer Beware – Budget Travel Sites

Hotels Fight Back Against Sites Like Expedia and Priceline

This was a headline I read this morning in the New York Times. It’s true that most people are not brand-loyal when they travel and will search all sorts of 3rd party sites to get the best “at-the-moment” deal. A few days ago I even told you about a new way to search for flights that can provide tremendous value. But – Buyer Beware when it comes to these budget / 3rd party travel sites. That doesn’t mean that I used these sites to PURCHASE anything. In fact, I ALWAYS use these sites to SEARCH for deals on flights & hotels. Then I ALWAYS BOOK DIRECTLY WITH THE SOURCE. Even when I wasn’t loyal to Delta & Marriott I would do that. I don’t really know why ,I just do. I guess booking with them makes me feel more legit? (shrug) I’ve read too many cases where people use these sites and their reservations get lost, room types aren’t honored, etc. I’d rather not deal with all of that. Use the tools available at your disposal, but ALWAYS book DIRECT.

I’m saying Buyer Beware because:

  • Hotels can “see” on your reservation that you booked via a 3rd party site. We also know that they do not make as much profit/commission on these type of reservations. As a result, they can give you the crappiest room available and save the swankiest rooms for people who book directly with them.
  • Airlines are creating basic, no-amenity, no change, non-refundable no advance seat selection site ticket fares to fill demand from 3rd party sites. Delta calls theirs Basic Economy. as a Gold Medallion Member, I would never book that. Ever. Even’t if I wasn’t Gold. If you are rock solid with your travel plans and don’t care about a middle seat, then go right ahead. Just make sure you also read the fine print.
  • Hotels are offering perks for people without status – those who “Just Enroll” with their programs on reservations booked directly with them. Things like room type, Wi-Fi and selecting room location on your mobile phone are now offered by brands like Hilton. The offers look legit and like they may apply to ALL reservations but that’s just not the case. You must read the Terms and Conditions.
  • You will not earn points for you stay/flight. You’re giving up major benefits here. Loyal pays off, really. You can stay for free, eat for free and be treated pretty much like royalty wherever you go. I’m super serious here.

So ask yourself, is it really worth it? You may be saving $20 on any given flight or hotel stay but in the end, booking DIRECTLY with the travel companies almost always outweigh the GAINS.

Check out my Travel Section for more Tips and Tricks.

Marriott Terms & Conditions - WiFi only
Marriott Terms & Conditions – WiFi only
Hilton Terms & Conditions
Hilton Terms & Conditions
Marriott Basic Member Benefits
Marriott Basic Member Benefits
Hilton "Just Join" Member Benefits
Hilton “Just Join” Member Benefits

photo credit:

New Delta Flight Options

imgresDelta Airlines is changing the way we book flights. Today, we get 2 choices: Economy and First Class. Starting March 1, you will have 3 additional options and we’re breaking them all down for you:

  • Delta One – First class on long-haul (LAX to NYC) and international flights

  • First Class – First class on domestic flights

  • Delta Comfort+  – seat selection at purchase, free alcoholic beverages, premium snacks and entertainment

  • Main Cabin – seat selection at purchase, typical snacks (peanuts and beverage)

  • Basic Economy – no seat assignment in advance,  no changes, no standbys, no refunds, typical snacks

So far this year I’ve purchased 2 Economy class tickets (Miami and Orlando) with 2 more on the way (Minneapolis and Seattle) so it will be interesting to see where these tickets will “land” when this change happens, especially what my upgrade will be – all my travel is AFTER March 1st. I’m presuming they will honor the rules at time of purchase, which means First Class for Gold Medallion members. Whereas, if you purchase Basic Economy after March 1st your upgrade may only be to “Main Cabin”? Who knows … My gut is telling me to book all my flights before this change happens. If the price is right, I will do just that!

I included a 90-second video from Delta below explaining the differences and a comparison chart from the press release. To be honest with you, I completely missed this announcement and just ran across it this morning as I was perusing my daily news feeds. To stay in the know, you can sign up for Delta press releases here. (And Marriott here, in case you’re interested).

DLCC-100 Branded Products Chart_v4