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 and Hotel Engine are the best sites to check
goSeek has been 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 itself, 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.
- GoSeek not only searches a variety of private deal sites, it also uncovers rates available from more traditional travel sites using publicly available discount codes. For example, at the time this reservation was being made, Travelocity had a code "Savenow" that offered 10% of the rates of participating hotels. You could uncover these codes and find these deals yourself, but GoSeek makes it easier to uncover these and find the lowest priced option.
- 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.
- If you want to save a tiny bit more, you can use GoSeek to uncover the best deal and then go to the underlying site to make the actual booking (rather than clicking through from GoSeek). For example, GoSeek's rates on SnapTravel hotels are usually $1-2 more per night than they would be directly on SnapTravel's site. And in the case of many of the larger booking sites, booking directly through the site often lets you layer on some shopping portal rewards.
The site is easy to completely straightforward to use and offers bargain rates on a large number of hotels in a wide range of destinations.
It lets you compares their member-only rates to the regular rates available from several more mainstream travel sites.
Hotel Engine is a booking site that offers great discounted rates on a variety of hotels. We've compared rates against other hotel discount sites and, at least for now, their rates are overall the best we've found. Sometimes they are better than what you can find through GoSeek. Sometimes GoSeek uncovers a better rate on some other site.
- Hotel Engine is only available to businesses and organizations—but it is easy to get access. It isn't hard to do a web search for "Hotel Engine", find an organization that provides access, and use a button on their website to sign up for a Hotel Engine account. In many cases, you won't need to sign into the organization's website to get to Hotel Engine's setup page. There is no charge to either the organization or to you.
- Once you've gotten access, you need to take a small extra step to enroll in Hotel Engine's own reward program. Depending on your status level, you'll earn 10 - 20 points per dollar on each dollar you spend. Points can be used on any future Hotel Engine booking.
- Even better, unlike most other other members-only websites, you'll also receive benefits from most hotel loyalty programs: Hilton, Hyatt, IHG, Best Western, Accor, Choice, Radisson, Sonesta, Wyndham, and some smaller programs. The notable exception is Marriott. Hotels that belong to supported loyalty programs are flagged in the listings.
With Tripadvisor Plus Tripdvisor is trying something new in the hotel reservation business. They want to become the "Netflix" or "Amazon Prime" for hotels. The basic idea is that you pay $99 per year to Tripadvisor and they provide access to a highly discounted rates, and often extra benefits, from a large collection of hotels.
When you make a Tripavisor Plus booking, the hotel keeps the entire amount you pay. Instead of paying a commission to TripAdvisor, they provide a discounted rate to you. TripAdvisor makes no money on the individual booking and is content to collect its $99 per year.
- For now, they simply don't have enough participating hotels to join on a proactive basis. They only have a handful of participating hotels in many destinations. We primarily mention them because we have high hopes that the service will become more useful.
- However, if you see a good deal, it can be worth it to join, even for a single stay. If you can then use it to take advantage of some additional deals over the course of the year, it gets even better.
- Deals may not be quite as good as they seem. In most cases, you won't see the actual total you need to pay until you've paid for your membership (although you can get a full refund in the first 30 days). But sometimes, you can see the deal ahead of time. For example, here's an advertised deal at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco.
- The hotels that participate in the program are often available through private deal websites for the same amount (or even less). For example, the Hyatt San Francisco is only $194 through Snaptravel (versus $222), without requiring paying Tripadvisor's membership fee.
For example, here's a deal for a highly-ranked hotel in Dubai. Instead of paying a total of $246 per night (including tax), you'd pay around 121 per night. Especially if you are staying for a few nights, this can easily be worth the $99 fee, even if you don't get any further use out of your membership.
First, the savings are displayed for the entire stay. In this case, the per night savings are $75. When you dig in detail, you can see that most of the savings is in the taxes and fees. The actual rate is only $37 per night less than the normal rate.
Looking at the fees on Hotels.com, you can see that the Tripadvisor Plus rate doesn't include the $29 "destination fee". I suspect that you'll still be charged the fee when you check in, dropping the total savings to $53 per night.
A couple of other good options
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.
If you search on GoSeek, you'll see that many of the great rates they uncover are Priceline's VIP rates.
Priceline VIP offers members-only type rates on a broad selection of hotels. To take advantage of those rates, you need to have achieved Blue status, which requires two reservations.
If you use Autoslash for your car rentals, this is easy. Autoslash has a deal where the rates they uncover are actually booked through Priceline and these reservations count for your Priceline status. We believe that booking once through GoSeek not only provides access to these VIP rates but also sets you up to get them on your future reservations.
Like SnapTravel, you should theoretically be able to check Priceline's rates as part of using GoSeek, rather than needing to search it directly. But, we sometimes see great rates through Priceline that don't show up through GoSeek. So if you are willing to spend some extra effort, you can check Priceline directly.
Somewhat less useful sites
Hotels.com heavily advertises their “Your Secret Price” hotels and the discount percentages sometimes seem significant, but the true discount is usually much less than it appears. When you compare their secret prices to the prices available on other mainstream websites, they are often the same or just slightly less expensive. That's great if you are just booking on Hotels.com anyway to take advantage of their reward program. But you can often find much better rates on our favorite secret deal websites.
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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