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Old 02-09-2016, 08:13 AM   #21
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Thanks for your feedback Rickt on a subject--from a pro.

Although we're using Booking.com predominantly, most of our retirement travel is international. I have some pricing concerns from time to time.

I was appalled last year at one weekend's pricing for all Booking.com's listings for Louisville. I've been there often, and I'm not paying any $100 a night for ultra budget rooms. I researched hotel websites individually and got their normal pricing.

This last week, prices around an Atlanta suburb on Booking.com were north of $100 for every room when I've been staying there for years for far less. There again, I have found rooms online for normal pricing.

Booking.com is not this way all the time and they're not that way everywhere. Just be careful when booking rooms--and don't hesitate to check direct rates if things appear out of line.

But worldwide, Booking's got accommodations everywhere. If you're looking for a tent on a yak farm in Outer Mongolia, chances are Booking.com can accommodate your wishes.
This all seems like a fair observation to me. It basically boils down to the idea that no one booking engine always has the best prices. That's why we consult several and would never recommend something along the lines of . . . "always book using X."

But when there's one that matches the published prices of all the others and gives you discounts on top of that, that's the one we choose most often. Here's a partial list of our "rewards" that to date total more than $1K in additional realized savings over the best available published internet rates.
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Old 02-09-2016, 09:40 AM   #22
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Thanks all for suggestions. We have indeed determined it is best to book ourselves and have begun doing so.


Any suggestions on how, where and when to get the best deal on a car rental for about 12 days?
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Old 02-09-2016, 09:56 AM   #23
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Thanks all for suggestions. We have indeed determined it is best to book ourselves and have begun doing so.


Any suggestions on how, where and when to get the best deal on a car rental for about 12 days?
If you can rent away from an airport, it can be much cheaper. Sometimes it means a taxi ride or using public transport. Often you can return the car to the airport for minimal or no upcharge.

If you must rent at the airport, I've found Costco Travel to be the lowest cost.
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Old 02-09-2016, 10:05 AM   #24
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Any suggestions on how, where and when to get the best deal on a car rental for about 12 days?
Car rentals are tricky, and often times very expensive in the U.S. In some instances we've seen the best price about 1 - 2 months in advance, with significantly higher rates when trying to book further out.

We always try to rent our cars "in town" versus at the airport (or even sometimes the train station) as there's often a huge mark-up associated with airport rentals.

We know that there are site aggregators for car rentals too (hotwire, etc.) that seem to return good prices, but we've never used them. Others may be able to offer more insight with these. I've tended to find that they don't always disclose what rental company you're renting through, or where exactly you're getting your car, until after you book. They don't always allow one-way bookings and often seem to only offer airport pickups/returns. These are all reasons why we've never used them.

Many of the domestic car rental companies offer good discounts for AAA so be sure to request the AAA price when searching. I've also had good luck using the United Airlines discount code of 62455 with Hertz. Some of the other airlines have discount codes too for other rental companies, but you'll have to look them up on the various web sites as I don't have them handy.

Good luck
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Old 02-09-2016, 10:33 AM   #25
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Just reserved a few hotels. A couple directly through the hotels website with AAA rate as the hotel location is close to the event. The other, I used Hotels.com.
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Old 02-09-2016, 02:45 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by bizlady View Post
Thanks all for suggestions. We have indeed determined it is best to book ourselves and have begun doing so.


Any suggestions on how, where and when to get the best deal on a car rental for about 12 days?
Do you have a Costco membership? I have found reserving car rentals through them works well.
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Old 02-09-2016, 03:03 PM   #27
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Any suggestions on how, where and when to get the best deal on a car rental for about 12 days?
I like to check Kayak and Rentalcars for the best rate. Sometimes you also get an offer when you book airline tickets that is the best, sometimes not. An off airport location is often lower, but less convenient.
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Old 02-12-2016, 05:57 PM   #28
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I've been doing some car rental research today. I have two rentals, in two cities, for three days each.

Costco was marginally cheaper for one city, and Chase Ultimate Rewards was dramatically cheaper for the other.

I did get a rental car for a month from Costco last year for $600, the best deal going anywhere.
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Old 02-12-2016, 06:42 PM   #29
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I'm curious why you recommend this. My experience is that the hotel site is almost always the most expensive way to book the hotel.
I've found this to be true. And trying to get them to match is apparently quite challenging based on a horror story I read on this board. If you expect to use the match, read the fine print. You might have just hours after you book to bring the lower quote.

I didn't see anyone mention my two go-to's: PriceLine and the roadside coupon books.

I don't try to 'name my own price' on PriceLine, but they have "Express Deals", where you don't know the exact hotel or exactly where it is, but you know both of those things generally (number of 'stars' and a circle on the map where the hotel is).

The coupon books are slightly cheaper than PriceLine Express Deals, but you don't have (can't have) a reservation. But if there's no coupon book, I yank out my phone and book something in a town down the road a bit.

If you search hotels on the booking sites, they seem to "push" various hotels and ignore the fact that there are other good hotels nearby. That's what I've found with searching hotels on Google Maps. I've tried, but never really found a "good deal" on any hotel booking or travel booking site. It seems like the prices are all the same on all of the travel and booking sites.

But Costco sounds like they might have a legit pricing difference, but I'm not a member there.
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Old 02-13-2016, 07:32 PM   #30
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I usually look at Costco.com and Priceline.com. I then go to the rental car site that had the cheapest rental to check their prices, but before doing so, I join their loyalty program and search for any discounts available. After getting the reservation, I check back at the rental car site in case they've lowered prices. I've been known to have as many as 4 reservations at once, cancelling the others once the new lower priced one is confirmed. I've had good luck with Payless Car Rentals with my best deal getting a rental for a day for $14 including all taxes and fees. I think my first reservation was for $36 on that one, so it pays to check back.


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Old 02-16-2016, 07:52 PM   #31
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We seldom book anything through AAA-especially cruises. Their prices tend to be high.

For US we often bid on Priceline, do Hotwire, or go directly to the hotel site. Once in a while we will get a better price on a third party site but not very often. We have had excellent success with Priceline hotel bidding-almost always 4 star bids and above.

For cars in the US we check around but we usually end up at either Costco or use my former employer's discount code. The latter is a very good rate-most especially over Christmas when rates tend to increase in certain cities.

Even after booking we keep checking. Car rental rates fluctuate wildly based on supply and demand. We have saved a fair amount of money by rebooking cars and hotels.
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Old 02-16-2016, 09:02 PM   #32
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I did several reservations recently, and I found that booking.com never had a price lower than the price given on the hotel site. It was usually the "standard" best rate. Often the hotel had a senior or AAA rate with a nice discount that didn't appear on booking.com. I think there are enough loopholes for the hotels that they are able to offer discounts directly to folks booking online.

You have to be careful and check taxes and extra fees to compare, because they are often in small print or presented differently. Those hotel will usually give you the true total if you click on the right button or select details, but booking.com often shows the taxes in % and you have to calculate it.
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Old 02-16-2016, 09:13 PM   #33
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I did several reservations recently, and I found that booking.com never had a price lower than the price given on the hotel site. It was usually the "standard" best rate. Often the hotel had a senior or AAA rate with a nice discount that didn't appear on booking.com. I think there are enough loopholes for the hotels that they are able to offer discounts directly to folks booking online.
That's probably true in the U.S. If I recall correctly during the brief period when I booked hotels in the U.S. the AAA price was pretty good. And the AAA rate is a "club price" that no one else will match.

But overseas AAA is virtually worthless, unless perhaps, you're booking at big American chains that are usually double the price and half the quality of local operators.

Personally, within the last two weeks I booked 7 hotels in Portugal. Not once did I book through the hotel site.

So, basically the story remains the same . . . "it depends." There's no one way to get the best deal. Different methods work better in some regions and in some circumstances than others. You pretty much have to try them all if you want to get the best deal.
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Old 02-16-2016, 09:50 PM   #34
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Many companies still use corporate travel agents.

Back before FIRE, I'd annoy the corporate travel department all the time by booking my own travel. I cared way more about flying at specific times and long/short layovers than they did. I got away with it because my boss wanted to keep me happy.
Before I retired in 2004 the megacorp I worked at only used travel agents for international travel. For domestic travel they had a web site (that for all I knew could have been run by some travel agency) that knew about the various corporate discounts etc. So you only called if you needed international travel.
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Old 02-17-2016, 07:24 AM   #35
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That's probably true in the U.S. If I recall correctly during the brief period when I booked hotels in the U.S. the AAA price was pretty good. And the AAA rate is a "club price" that no one else will match.

But overseas AAA is virtually worthless, unless perhaps, you're booking at big American chains that are usually double the price and half the quality of local operators.

Personally, within the last two weeks I booked 7 hotels in Portugal. Not once did I book through the hotel site.

So, basically the story remains the same . . . "it depends." There's no one way to get the best deal. Different methods work better in some regions and in some circumstances than others. You pretty much have to try them all if you want to get the best deal.
I have done extensive hotel reservations in Europe as we visit every year. No, I rarely use the AAA rate there. But in all but a few cases I have booked directly on the hotel site as Booking.com didn't give me a better rate and usually showed far fewer options than available directly from the hotel. We tend to upgrade rooms instead of booking the basic one, but even in the case of reserving the most basic room I haven't usually found a cheaper rate on Booking.com or Expedia.

Occasionally I use a site like Booking.com or Expedia.com because a hotel room isn't available otherwise. This seems to be more of a last minute issue.

Once I used Booking.com because the hotel site only offered non-refundable choices. But once I was very sure of my dates I went back and took the non-refundable deal at the hotel which was a substantial discount on an upgraded room.

I've run into some places that don't take online reservations directly, and that's when I've booked through sites like Booking.com.

So obviously people have different experiences. Personally, I don't like having a middleman in between me and the hotel. So I won't use one unless there is a clear financial benefit.

I experienced an "Oh, Expedia didn't send us your reservation" situation before, and I've read about hotels giving arrivals such an excuse regarding a booking.com reservation when the hotel was overbooked or whatever.
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Old 02-17-2016, 09:09 AM   #36
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I have done extensive hotel reservations in Europe as we visit every year. No, I rarely use the AAA rate there. But in all but a few cases I have booked directly on the hotel site as Booking.com didn't give me a better rate and usually showed far fewer options than available directly from the hotel.
I'm not sure why you'd have such radically different experiences than me.

Here are screen captures from just one of the places we booked in Portugal. My actual booking on Hotels.com for USD $133 versus Euro 165 on the hotel website for the same superior room. In addition to saving ~USD$50 (26%) on my booking I'm also getting credit with Hotels.com for discounts of 10% of my hotel bill off future bookings. So more like a third off.

And had the Hotel site had a better price, Hotels would match it and I'd still get the 10% credit. So it really is hard to beat unless you get a special "members only" price like AAA.

And after 100's of hotel stays, we've yet to have a lost booking. In fact, I've noticed that many smaller hotels have outsourced their online reservation system to bookings.com anyway. So when try to book through the site, it forwards you to a site that is either Bookings.com or "powered by Bookings." Not sure how you're better off.
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Old 02-17-2016, 09:14 AM   #37
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I don't know either, I'll continue checking.

But I do know that with Hotels.com you have to press the BOOK button on a given selection to get the true full price to compare to the hotel quote.

A booking from a third party site may not actually be lost, but a hotel might use it as an excuse if they get in a tough situation. Not ethical, but I've read several reports of such shenanigans in Europe on Trip Advisor, or of folks being sent to a different hotel due to overbooking, and direct books were given preference. If something goes wrong suddenly this not present third party can be blamed.
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Old 02-17-2016, 04:15 PM   #38
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But I do know that with Hotels.com you have to press the BOOK button on a given selection to get the true full price to compare to the hotel quote.
That's absolutely true with Hotels.com And it's a good habit to get into regardless. Whether you're booking a hotel, or airfare, or a rental car, or whatever every company and every site does things differently. And many of them show you an initial price that doesn't include all the charges.

So yes, absolutely click through until you get a final, final price. I'd do that with hotel sites, too.

And because I have nothing else to do, I went back through my Portugal bookings and checked what I paid vs. what I'd have paid using the hotel site. And here's what I found . . .

HotelBooking Site. . . Price Paid. . .Hotel Site Price. . .$ Saved . . .Rewards Earned. . .
Short Stay AptHotels$586.76 € 684.00$172.48 $43.40
Casa da PendoaBooking€ 186.00€ 192.00$6.66 $0.00
Moov Hotel ษvoraBooking€ 90.00€ 90.00$0.00 $0.00
Nazar้ Hotel MagicBooking€ 180.00N/AN/A$0.00
RiversuitesHotels$133.14 € 165.00$50.01 $11.00
Quinta da PachecaHotels€ 360.00€ 360.00$0.00 $33.00
Porto Shining ViewHotels€ 350.00€ 350.00$0.00 $38.85
Total Saved N/A N/A$229.15 $126.25

So the short story is that I saved $229 on these bookings, which is a 12% discount. I also will earn $126 off future bookings after I complete my stay, for a total savings of about 19%.

Now some of those prices reflect previously earned rewards. But had I booked through the hotel website, I wouldn't have had those discounts to use.

One of my Hotels.com bookings reflects a "price match." The original Hotels.com price was €30 higher but I got the hotel price anyway plus I'll earn rewards for using the third party site.

One of the hotels didn't publicize prices on their site and required me to send an e-mail booking request to check availability and prices. So it's possible I might have found better prices by contacting them directly but somethings are just too much of a P.T.A. - hotels that don't have instant online booking are one of those things.

Now I'm not saying things always work out this way. But it does pay to check.
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