Find Lower Room Rates on 'Private Deal' Websites
Many travel websites claim to offer low hotel rates that you can’t find elsewhere. Sometimes, it’s even true.
“Private deal” websites often offer rates that are far better than what you can find on more conventional travel booking sites or even the hotel’s own website.
For example, you can save $150 per night off a $450 per night hotel room on the beach in Maui, get a $300 New York City hotel room for almost 50% off, or simply shave $50 off a $130 hotel room in downtown San Antonio. Prices consistently beat what is available from major travel websites like Expedia and Hotels.com.
Private Deal discounts vary greatly from hotel to hotel. If you haven’t settled on a specific hotel, you may want to choose a hotel that has a highly-discounted private deal, rather than choosing your hotel first and then seeing if a private deal is available.
How do these sites work?
Hotels typically control the pricing of their rooms on other websites, so that you’ll see the same “best available rate” on the hotel’s own website, as well as third party websites like Expedia. “Best Rate Guarantees” help keep hotel pricing consistent across the web.
- “Membership” based sites don’t have to stick to these standard room prices. They are free to kick-back part of their normal commission. Hotels also sometimes allow these companies to offer special promotional rates to more price-conscious shoppers, while maintaining higher rates on the more mainstream sites.
- Members-only rates are often fully refundable. When you see how low the members-only rates sometimes are, you might expect that they must be non-changeable, non-refundable rates. However, that often isn't true. Make sure to check because it differs on a case-by-case basis.
- In most cases, if you book from one of these sites, you won’t be able to take advantage of the hotel’s loyalty program. Just like when you book on websites like Expedia, you aren’t entitled to your loyalty program benefits and won’t earn any points on your stay.
- Each site offers a distinct set of deals—it can be worthwhile to search more than one. While there is plenty of overlap, each “Private Deals” website has its own set of discounted rates.
Sometimes, the "private deals" for a hotel's are only a little bit less expensive than the hotel website's rate. For these hotels, we prefer to book chain hotels directly and participate with the loyalty program; and non-chain sites through some other site to get some sort of bonus points, cash back, or other benefits.
goSeek is the best single site to check
goSeek is our single favorite website for finding members-only rates. It revolutionized our ability to get find excellent hotel pricing at many hotels.
goSeek is not a booking site per-se, but a meta-search engine that searches several different private deals websites. In other words, while you can search for members-only hotel deals on goSeek, you’ll book them through a partner website.
The site is easy to use and offers less expensive rates on a large number of hotels in a wide range of destinations. It even compares their member-only rates to the regular rates available from several more mainstream travel sites.
goSeek offers a premium membership for $20 per year that provides access to even lower rates for some hotels. If you use this site on a semi-regular basis, it is easily worthwhile. However, since goSeek shows everyone when a premium-only rate is available, there is no reason to sign up until the first time you want to take advantage of a premium-only rate.
Kayak can show private deals alongside its regular results
Kayak isn’t as good as goSeek at uncovering private deals, but it has the best members-only offers of any of the mainstream travel sites. You can uncover these deals at the same time you are checking the prevailing hotel rates at your destination. Simply by being signed-in to the Kayak website or app, you’ll see “Private Deals” for a handful of hotels alongside the regular results. These rates are often cheaper than you can find anywhere else.
SnapTravel sometimes offers better deals, via a messaging user experience
We've also found some very good deals through SnapTravel. In some cases, these deals show up via goSeek. But sometimes, they are inexplicably only available when you access the SnapTravel service directly.
SnapTravel works via Facebook or text messaging, rather than through a website or app. You send a message to their service and they reply with a link to view their deals. We find that this can be more cumbersome than using the other services. But having access to the additional deals makes it worthwhile.
Somewhat less useful sites
Hotels.com heavily advertises their “Your Secret Price” hotels, but they are pretty sparse; and when they are available, they aren’t usually as good as you can find on the sites above.
Club 1 Hotels is a fee-based website that claims to give you great wholesale rates. They got a lot of press when they launched via an effective blog-outreach program coupled with “free” charter memberships. We find the site difficult to use, and once you factor in their hidden booking fees, it generally doesn’t offer better rates than what you can find on the free websites mentioned above. The service may improve over time.
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