When it comes to traveling, I’m in the minority of people who window shop, research, shop, price compare, shop some more, and research until I’m satisfied. But do I find super deals for my trips? Of course! As I mentioned in a recent post, I masochistically enjoy all that work. Most people don’t, so they ask me for advice, references, and some, ultimately choose to hire me to book their itineraries for them.
The other day I was rambling (as I often do) about discount travel booking websites. Did you ever wonder if that’s it? Is there life after Expedia? That site is very well made and maintained, and offers basic competitive pricing, but there are a slew of other sites where I find even better deals. Sometimes there’s a small catch. For example, more work for me. People do like the convenience of having everything bookable on one site, rather than reserving flights (boats in my case!) in one place, a hotel in another, and activities in another. But my goal is to cut the price as much as I know how. So I don’t mind a bit of running around (virtually). And frankly, I’ll give up one of my secrets in the interest of debunking Expedia as the be all and end all.
Shhhh… Orbitz DOT com, guys!
I paid next to nothing with all the accommodations I booked on my 2016-17 trip to Asia by using Orbitz. There’s a continual renewal of Orbucks being collected the more I book through the site. Those Orbucks count as dollar discounts, and sometimes allow for a mix n’ match with whatever daily discount is being offered site-wide. There are also perks to new members, as is the case with similar websites.
Trivago used to be my go-to because its interface was transparent in showing price matches between the top few travel bookings sites. If for instance, Booking DOT com and Expedia offered the same rate, I would chose the latter, because I collect points there too, and I find that in general Booking adds fees to the advertised price, whether taxes, or resort feeds, etc. I hadn’t looked at Trivago since returning from my last trip (already almost a year ago, boo hooooo, I miss Japan!), and the other day was surprised to find quite a bit less transparency in how they display the prices. A lot more clicks are required to check one at a time which deals are most suitable on a case per case basis. I know intuitively, Orbitz still tends to show the lowest rates even on Trivago.
This is of course not a rule. It fluctuates. Now and then, Orbitz rates go up, or only certain ranges of accommodations remain cheaper than on other sites. This is why I do so much back and forth to make sure I really do have the lowest rates.
Now, many of you are familiar with Costco and price clubs. It’s where you sign up for a membership and you have access to deep discount merchandise. Food, homewares, sportswear, electronics and more. Why do I mention this, suddenly? What’s the link between price clubs and vacation booking sites? Yes, life after Expedia does exist – beyond Orbitz. The new era of travel booking is coming. And it is….wholesale!
Just like Costco.
I am now using a new site. I gave away my Orbitz secret. I will also tell you about this new fave. Wholesale Hotels Group is an alternative that offers price drops because, yes, you got it – they showcase wholesale pricing that single entities wouldn’t expect to have access to. But if Costco can do it, why not? So yes, as a solo traveler, this helps me too. You don’t need to be booking 3 adjoining rooms for your whole family to receive the wholesale prices. Book for 10 people, or just one. Same access to the lower pricing.
Again, there are pros and cons the same as with any of the sites I’ve mentioned. Some hotels might appear more expensive, while others will not. Research is still always key. But isn’t it nice that with your membership to such a site, you’re guaranteed a globally (meaning on average) lower price? What this means is that if you’re a frequent traveler, you might have 20 hotels booked in a year. How many of those will have the cheapest rates VS those that may be competitive or a little higher than an Orbitz or a Booking? I’ve been doing some tests with WHG so that when I get my next client, I’ll know how to direct them.
The verdict seems to be that in 20 bookings, I might have 4-5 quoted as equal or higher than non-wholesale competitors. I also found that I can count on between a 2-40$ price drop per night depending on the accommodation, the days of the week (weekends are always pricier in mid-to-high class hotels), and the type of accommodation (luxury VS motel, for example). That’s not bad!
If you’re someone who only books a 3-day vacation in any given year, this may not be worth a subscription fee. But I’m thinking of those families of minimum 2 adults and 2 children, who go on fun-filled all-inclusive trips and need to consider minimum quadruple occupancy. I’m also thinking of business people who travel for a living. They are on the road most of the year in multiple locations for multiple reasons. There’s also the digital nomads and slow travelers – like myself – who might travel more if they had opportunities to usually obtain very good rates. In such cases, company loyalty to one website instead of 10, might land you (using the same example of 20 trips per year) 15/20 deep discounts, 2 average priced, and 3 slightly higher than Expedia prices. The overall effect would still be a savings for the full year.
As another test on WHG, I searched for hostels or independent-run B&B’s. The selection is much less than a site like Expedia that covers even fleabag motels. But this makes sense. Quaint mom & pop shop accommodations don’t always have the means to offer a wholesale deal. And that’s okay. For those types of bookings, I would still search my usual haunts. WHG feels like a good match for enormous discounts on places like the Shangri-La, the Mandarin, Hyatt Regency or (dare I pronounce this name on my blog?) Trump Hotel (*hides*). The 5-Star treatment isn’t what everyone seeks, but with a price chop of 50%, some might like to try. I won’t say which hotel I searched, but I did see an almost 4000$/night suite for something like 2300$. Now THERE is where a membership would pay itself off instantly and then some.
So, is wholesale the wave of the future? It very well might be. I so far don’t know any other sites like WHG. It’s still very new to me as well, but i feel like I’ve come in at ground level before it’s made known worldwide by millions of travelers.
Don’t have travel insurance? You can hook yourself up directly via the site, because WHG is affiliated with Allianz – my insurance company when I book US travel. If you’re interested in checking it out, there are 3 membership levels and perks for referring friends. They will soon be implementing ApplePay and AndroidPay, which is so….futuristic to me since I don’t even know how to use them, but I’m sure some of you do! Another cool thing is that if for some reason, you just can’t find an accommodation option that suits you, WHG offers coupons to competitor sites. I noticed the usual suspects, but also Sandals resorts and Uber.
Membership is needed to book accommodations, but not for flights and activities. And yes, because I’m already a member, I have perks! I can share! Go get yourself a 50% membership discount by using code 59321783 from my referral link: https://www.whotelsgroup.com/member-signup/59321783 and tell me about your experiences, both good or bad!
I’ll keep sharing mine (and rambling way too much, as usual).