Last week I helped my parents book the second night of their upcoming PEI getaway. I’ve been aware of Hotels.com for a long time but I had yet to use it to make a reservation. They were going to pay for the stay with a Hotels.com gift card so now was the time to try it out.
We usually stay at chain hotels so I book directly on the IHG, Marriott, Hilton etc. websites. By booking direct you receive loyalty points and other benefits. On a few occasions I’ve used other sites to take advantage of a promo code on Expedia or Booking.com. And sometimes I’ve booked directly on the website of an independent hotel or B&B when that’s the only way to reserve a room or when its rate is the lowest.
Hotels.com has always been on my radar because of the popularity of its relatively straightforward rewards program – stay 10 nights, redeem a “free night” equivalent to the average rate of the 10 nights.
Secret Prices and Dropping Rates
I discovered that when you’re logged in as a member of Hotels.com Rewards, you can see members-only discounts that don’t otherwise appear in searches. One motel showed a rate of $100 when searching on Trivago, Kayak or TripAdvisor which display rates across several booking sites. However, when logged in to Hotels.com the rate dropped to a “secret price” of $90.
The motel they chose did not offer a secret price for the room they booked. A discounted rate was available for the larger room dropping the rate from $120 to $108 which would have been a good deal if they were looking for a room with two beds. (I logged in to my Expedia account and saw the same discount.)
The $100 rate at the first motel I mentioned dropped to $85 on most sites the next day (Friday) and to $83 on Hotels.com. This is for Friday, August 30th so perhaps when it reached 2 weeks out the rate was lowered to try to fill rooms. If you booked a room with free cancellation you can cancel and re-book to save some money.
Although it makes for a somewhat tedious process, it’s a good idea to log in to check members’ rates in various booking sites. And definitely check back to see if rates have dropped since you made your reservation.
In the case of some small properties, rates will not vary much so it pays to check its own website and perhaps make a booking by phone where direct online reservations are not an option. This would have been our plan if we didn’t have the gift card.
Search Filter And Gift Cards
It’s quite easy to tick the box under “Payment & cancellation” to limit the results to places that accept gift cards. These are properties where you can pay via the website and those are the only ones where you can use gift cards. Places that only take payment at the property do not accept the gift cards. Strangely, the non-accepting places will display in the results as “sold out” when that may not actually be the case. So that’s a bit misleading.
On one hand, I’m glad Hotels.com is not limited to…hotels. You can book other types of accommodation as well including B&Bs and vacation rentals. You can even book flights. On the other hand, I’m disappointed so many properties don’t accept payment through the website, so you can’t use the gift cards. The next spot in the Maritimes my parents are eyeing for another short getaway doesn’t appear to have any lodging where you can pay with a gift card.
When choosing a booking method it’s wise to consider what you get for using it. When rates are the same, there must be a reason to pick one website over another and those silly ads with Captain Obvious are not a factor. The ability to use a gift card redeemed with loyalty points and get a step closer to a future free night make Hotels.com a pretty good choice when you’re just looking for a budget stay in an area where there are few if any chain hotels.