My credit card has been on fire this past week!
I've been doing a lot of travel planning and what I've spent is frightening. I've been planning three trips including:
- A complicated two weeks through western Canada that involves planes, trains, and automobiles. It is being covered by a grant from Canadian Heritage.
- A long weekend in France in September after I attend The Social Travel Summit. I wrote about it here: A Short Trip to France: Planning Where, Budgeting & Booking.
- A week in Portland at the end of October for the Society of American Travel Writers annual convention.
Each booking I make happens with a bit of trepidation.
- Have I got the dates right?
- Is there enough time between flights for the connection?
- Is this the hotel I really want?
- Will the train schedule fit with the car rental pick up time?
- Does my plan for the car rental fit with accommodation availability?
That last one was a big problem for me.
In British Columbia, the train to Jasper arrives at 7:00 pm and the car rental closes at 5 pm. No problem, I thought. I'd stay the night in Jasper and pick up the car in the morning. So I booked it. But then I learned that a night in Jasper for my date started at $300 – for one night's sleep! I couldn't do it. For $30 I got the car early and booked a hotel in Hinton, about 45 minutes away, for $125.
I think we all jump through hoops as we plan our travels. It can be stressful as we fit everything together. So, I thought I'd share the two sites that give me some comfort as I'm making all these decisions.
Accommodation: Best Rates, Most Choice, Cancellation Options
Marketing messages do not tell the truth. Hotels.com is not the obvious choice regardless of what Captain Obvious might say. Trivago's we'll-find-you-the-best-deal pitch doesn't prove out in the analysis.
According to Frommer's, who did their first analysis to uncover the best hotel booking site in 2015 and repeated the process in 2017, Booking.com is the online travel agency of choice for hotels. To quote them:
Booking.com remains the top direct booking site. It smokes all competition when it comes to the sheer number of city-center listings under $200.”
The authors found it interesting that, at first glance, it would not appear that Booking.com would be the winner. But that's because Booking.com includes the taxes in their lead rates while others bury them in the fine print. The research also showed that Booking.com typically finds twice the number of options as other booking sites and, I like this, outperforms all others in the budget category.
In addition to all of the above, what I like about Booking.com is
- They show the total cost for my stay, not just the per night rate. This way I get a better idea of what I'm actually spending.
- I don't pay until I'm at my accommodation. Thanks to this, the major costs of my trip, flight, and accommodation, usually end up on separate credit card billings.
- They have a liberal cancellation policy. Watch the deadlines for cancellations if you think you might change your mind.
Still, it's always advisable that you check the website of the hotel you're booking just to make sure that you're getting the best deal. Read:
Flights – Best Rate, Price Protection
I've used a variety of sites over the years but the one I like best right now is FlightNetwork.
- FlightNetwork's prices are typically the same as the website of the airline or better. I booked a flight to New York City last fall and saved almost C$200 on a C$500 flight compared to the airline's site. I was equally lucky when I booked my flight home from Glasgow for C$400. I don't understand it but I love it.
- They offer Price Drop Protection. I've not tested this yet but I'm eager to do so. Essentially, under FlightNetwork’s price-drop protection, you book when you want and if the price drops they will give you a credit for the amount that the fare dropped (not counting taxes, airport fees and the like). You have to monitor for price drops and you can only claim once. They will also price match under certain circumstances.
- The advantage is variety. The advantage of using a booking engine over is that they search a variety of airlines giving you more options in terms of price and itineraries. With FlightNetwork (as with many other booking engines) you can filter your search to certain times of day, the number of stops and airlines.
Tip: As with any booking engine, always make sure that you choose the correct currency. And if you're comparing sites, make sure that you're making apples-to-apples comparisons in terms of flight times, currency, airlines, connections, taxes included or not, and the like.
- Save on Flights for Thanksgiving, Christmas & New Years – 2017 Update
- Stopover Flights Deliver More Travel for Less Money
- Trip Planning Resources
I hope that above helps you with your fear of commitment when planning your travels. Please, note that I also protect my money as I travel by taking travel insurance and using a VPN when on public WiFi.