Making a hotel reservation online is akin to going down a rabbit hole. You always feel as if you have to check just one more site to see whether there’s a better hotel or a better rate.
Though psychologists say the best part of a vacation is the anticipation, arranging a trip can be total buzz kill.
So I decided to try Tingo, a booking service from TripAdvisor that promises to refund you the difference if the price drops on a room you reserve through the site. (Tingo can be accessed on the Web or via the TripAdvisor app’s search function.) Tingo’s Web page recently boasted that the largest price drop refund in San Francisco was $1,034. I don’t make reservations at that kind of hotel, but I was sold.
My family was planning yet another college trip this fall, and I welcomed the chance to book a room without hours of research. I looked at options near the college we were visiting and went for a Marriott because we belong to its rewards program. The price, taxes included, came to $140.61.
I could save $20 on the Marriott site but only if I made a nonrefundable reservation, which I wasn’t comfortable doing – plans can change abruptly when a teenager is involved. But the lower rate, plus a note that said the hotel’s prices had fallen 110 times in 30 days, made a price drop seem possible.
The same day I made the reservation, Tingo sent me an alert that three nearby hotels of the same quality offered rates about $12 less than the one I’d booked. I didn’t bother changing the reservation.
A week later, I got an email saying, “Savings Alert on your Reservation!” I excitedly opened it to find a savings at a different hotel . . . $1.29.
We wound up staying at the rather noisy Marriott for the original price, which was fine until I realized we wouldn’t get any points. I hadn’t read the fine print on either the Marriott or Tingo sites saying you don’t earn points if you book through a third party.
Although I hadn’t merited a refund from Tingo, I received an email promising a $25 credit on my next trip if I took it in 60 days. So, I looked for a room for our upcoming Thanksgiving trip to Rehoboth Beach. Unfortunately, only some of the hotels in the area were partnering with Tingo. I clicked on the nicest (read: most expensive) – after all, I could save $25 and perhaps get a discount – only to be told that there were no “money back” rooms available at that hotel.
Perhaps there’s no escape from the rabbit hole. But now that I know about Tingo, I’ll probably check it out while I’m down there.