Want to pay less for hotels? Here's how to get around Orbitz's new trick, and other ways to save...
Want to save on travel by booking online? Don’t browse on a Mac computer – at least not on Orbitz.com.
The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that travel site Orbitz “is starting to show them different, and sometimes costlier, travel options than Windows visitors see.”
When I first read this, I wondered to myself, “Do Mac users deserve this?” And maybe they even want it – Apple customers seem willing to pay more for high style. In fact, that’s the reason Orbitz is trying this tactic. Its research has found…
- “Mac users spend as much as 30 percent more a night on hotels.”
- “Mac users are 40 percent more likely to book a four- or five-star hotel than PC users.”
- “When Mac and PC users book the same hotel, Mac users tend to stay in more expensive rooms.”
To be clear, this isn’t price discrimination. Orbitz isn’t charging Windows users one price for a room and then marking it up for Mac users. It says it’s just catering to user tastes by highlighting more pricey places on Macs – because their users tend to stay at pricier places.
Regardless of what computer you type on, here’s how to save on hotel bookings…
1. Sort by price
The safest and simplest way to avoid more expensive options is to sort the search results by price. On Orbitz’s current layout, just under where it says “Matching Results” near the top of the page, you’ll see that label second from the left on a row of options. The first (and default) option is “Best Values,” while the second is “Lowest Price.”
According to the WSJ, Orbitz competitors Travelocity, Expedia, and Priceline don’t use this system – yet. But that doesn’t mean they automatically show you the cheapest options. Expedia and Priceline default to “most popular,” and Travelocity has “Travelocity Picks.”
2. Beat the fees
Watch out for those pesky hotel fees: Internet, parking, mail, newspapers, phone calls, towels, a safe, and gym/resort fees. Not to mention those tempting in-room drinks and snacks you can’t touch without paying.
Ask to see a list of fees before you check in – then ask a manager to waive any mandatory fees for services you won’t be using. (Follow up at check-out to make sure they don’t reappear.) If you’re a good haggler, you might talk your way out of other fees or into a free room upgrade while you’re at it.
3. Plan ahead
Comparison shopping – with attention to amenities as well as room rates – can help you find the lowest price. If you have flexibility with travel dates, check different dates. A room that costs $500 on a peak-season weekend can cost as little as $150 off-season. And a hotel catering to tourists may charge more for weekends, while one catering to business users may charge more midweek.
4. Clubs and promotions
Loyalty/rewards programs and hotel newsletters often cost nothing to sign up for, but may earn you discounts, automatic upgrades, or freebies.
And if newsletters inconvenience you, just check for promotions before you book – you might find coupons and discount codes at RetailMeNot.com or score a good rate at discount sites like Groupon and LivingSocial. Just put the name of the hotel in your favorite search engine, along with the word “discount.”
5. Look for alternative services
Free Wi-Fi is probably a coffee shop away, and you can buy your own newspaper along the way for less than having it delivered to your room at a price. If you have a smartphone, apps like Yelp will help you find nearby restaurants or laundromats that are happy to compete with your hotel for business.
By the way, there’s nothing wrong with Orbitz – they got me a two-night stay at an Indianapolis hotel last month, with free Wi-Fi and free breakfast for $40 a night instead of the regular $80. Although now that I think about it, I did book on a PC…
Mac users, how do you feel about this? Sound off on our Facebook page.