You hear it everywhere, especially these days when travel savings websites are so hot:
“Book flight and accommodations together and save!”
“Reserve your hotel and tour together and save!”
“Rent your car and room together and save!”
But is it true? Can travelers really save money by bundling their entire vacation?
The Short Answer: Yes
All it takes is an hour or so of generating itineraries, digging through website price data, and performing some simple comparisons to determine that the deals are not unreal. By bundling various aspects of your trip, you can almost ensure that your vacation will cost less.
As proof, here’s a look at a typical honeymoon to Hawaii, which hypothetically lasts seven days and includes two guests departing from Los Angeles. Using prices from Delta’s website, Hilton’s Waikiki Beach website, and Travelocity, we uncovered the following bundling savings:
Airline website price: $637
Hotel website price: $1,610
Bundle website price: $1,231
By applying basic math, you can see that by bundling your vacation together, you can save upwards of $1,000 — not to mention an incredible amount of time and energy too. The same is true of vacation activities: You can usually save some cash by scheduling some of your experiences through your hotel before you arrive. For example, Niagara Falls packages, which include tours of wine country, kid-focused water park adventures, and more are much more affordable purchased through Niagara’s Marriot on the Falls rather than bought individually.
We managed to dig up evidence of the truth in bundles with just a few fake vacations; you can do the same with your real upcoming trips. However, there is more explanation necessary to understand how travel savings sites can produce such low prices and how you can make the most of these discounts.
The Long Answer: Still Yes
For frequent travelers, this is a veritable revelation, and one that cannot be ignored if you hope to perpetuate your travels economically. Still, you shouldn’t take for granted that every bundle is best. Though travel savings websites are profitable because they purchase large blocks of rooms in advance at a discounted rate and pass those savings onto individual travelers. However, some websites earn commissions on their bookings because they function as hotels’, activities’, and airlines’ advertising and sales centers. In these cases, the bundle might not be the best price.
Thus, when you are planning a trip, you shouldn’t immediately disregard booking sites — but you shouldn’t immediately accept their prices as lowest, either. Here are a few good rules of thumb to use when shopping for vacation flights, accommodations, and attractions:
Pay attention to more than price. If you don’t look at the details before you book, you might end up with accommodations several miles from where you want to be or lacking the amenities you want and need. For example, the best prices for hotels near Washington, D.C. tend to be in Laurel, Maryland — which is 22 miles from the city — and Fredrickson, Maryland — 50 miles away.
Consider using suggestions or top picks. Travel savings websites often use editors or users’ feedback to refine results for certain regions. Typically, these suggestions include the most convenient or most luxurious options on the site, and by filtering for “best value” you can also ensure you get a great price on these top picks. A trip can easily be ruined by a poor-quality hotel or a bad tour guide, so it is critical to get feedback from other frequent travelers.
Weigh peak-season and off-season packages. High tourist seasons in any destination is going to cost you, but bundle websites make traveling during peak season more affordable. Because the sites tend to have pre-negotiated rates, their prices aren’t as variable as the prices that come directly from airlines and hotels. Still, even when shopping for busy season vacations, you must remember the golden rule: Always double-check bundle prices by visiting airline, hotel, and attraction websites directly.
Booking a vacation is thrilling, but you shouldn’t let your excitement overtake your judgement, especially when it comes to costs. Equipped with greater knowledge of travel savings, you can spend less on the necessities of your trips — the flights, the rooms, the attraction tickets, etc. — and spend more on making memories that will last your lifetime.