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Which is the Best Online Site for Scoring Travel Deals?

By (view all posts by psutton)
at 7:54AM Tuesday October 11, 2011
under Money Saving Tips

Everyone seems to have a favorite travel site: Expedia, Kayak, Priceline, etc. Can there be an all out winner I wondered?  Would one site give better deals on airfare and another on hotels?  How would package deals rate among the popular travel sites?  My theory was that there would be only slight differences because all of the sites are trying to negotiate the best deals, and all of the hotels and airlines want to give the best deals they can to everyone. 

I started a very unscientific search for the answers to these important questions.
My first experiment was conducted on a Friday with three travel sites: Travelocity, Orbitz and Expedia.  I choose the long non-holiday weekend of Nov. 17 to Nov. 20 as my test dates.  The cheapest package (flight plus hotel) that each site offered was documented as was the package offer for the Bellagio.  Listed is the cheapest Bellagio vacation package. 

Travelocity's cheapest package deal with flight was for $415 at Hooters Casino, which is just off the South Strip.  The package for the Bellagio was $624.

Next up was Orbitz.  Their cheapest package was for $437 and the hotel was Fiesta Henderson, which is far from the action of the Strip.  $655 was the cost for flight and hotel at the Bellagio with Orbitz. 

Last, but not least, was Expedia with the least expensive deal.  At $404 you could stay at the Vegas Club Hotel in Downtown.  The Bellagio package was $631.  My first experiment was done and there were no clear answers.  Each of the least expensive deals were at very different locations. Travelocity was the winner for the Bellagio.

The second experiment was for a specific hotel in San Diego.  I choose the 3-star Holiday Inn San Diego - On the Bay, with a check-in date of 11/7 and checkout 11/10.  Expedia was my first travel site. Monday night was the most expensive at $153.  Tuesday and Wednesday were both $123 per night.  The nightly average was $133. 

I plugged the information into Orbitz and got the same exact results.  Travelocity also gave the same rates.  Priceline was the last site I tried and it gave the same overall price, but it showed each night as costing $133 instead of Monday being more expensive and Tuesday and Wednesday costing less.  The results of this experiment were surprising.  I never expected each of the sites to have the same exact prices.  This is where a coupon code can make a difference!

My final test was on airline flights only.  I decided to try the busy Thanksgiving Holiday for my travel dates.  Departure was from Denver, CO on Wednesday Nov. 23 to New York City.  The return flight was Sunday Nov. 27.  We had a clear winner in this contest.  Travelocity offered the least expensive flight priced at $506 on United Airlines.  This flight had one stop.  The least expensive direct flight was for $540 also with United Airlines.  Expedia's cheapest flight was on American Airlines for $543 with one stop.  Orbitz was $551 on multiple carriers.  Priceline's least expensive flight was on Delta for $543.  I also tested Kayak and the rate was a whopping $572 for their best-priced flight. 

My conclusion should come as no surprise to all you savvy shoppers:  Shop around for the best price.  It may be easier to book on Expedia because all your information is already in their system, but it doesn't take that much longer to peek at some of the other sites for their rates.  The time it takes to compare a few sites is about 20 minutes and you may save up to $100.  Not a bad rate if you look at it as a penny saved is a penny earned.  And don't forget to use a coupon if one is available.

Happy Travels!