|by Sean O'Neill||Real Deals, Helpful Websites, Hotels||9|
Jacki Penn and her mother, Marcy, know all too well that booking a hotel room can be a drawn-out affair. Marcy, 66, qualifies for senior discounts and member rates from AAA, the American Automobile Association. On her recent search, Expedia fetched a short list of deals for an overnight from their Worthington, Ohio, home, but then Marcy then had to check with each hotel see if any might have a better deal for seniors and AAA members.
Jacki intervened when she heard about Room 77, a hotel-booking engine. A month ago, Room 77 added a tool that lets users compare the going online rates for hotels with AAA-member rates and senior rates. She found Expedia offering a night in early June at the Hilton Chicago O'Hare Airport for $159, while AAA listed the same room for the same night for $129—18 percent less.
Room 77 is the first site to clearly and thoroughly list AAA rates and senior discounted rates alongside prices available to the public. The site covers tens of thousands of hotels without annoying pop-up ads or other gimmicks. The discounts it quotes are provided by other organizations, not itself. For instance, many senior discounts are available to members of AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons. Other senior discounts are provided by hotel chains directly.
Don't assume that AAA-member rates and senior discounts will always give you the best deal. In a dozen trial searches, Travelocity recently delivered better rates for the same room on the same day than the AAA-discount rates as seen on AAA's own website. Interestingly, AAA members may qualify for money back from the auto club in such situations. AAA touts a 110 Percent Best Rate Guarantee on selected "Save Rate" hotels are the lowest available. AAA says:
"If you find a lower rate on another website for the same room, at the same hotel, on the same dates, within 24 hours of making your booking with us, we guarantee you that we'll match it plus pay you 10 percent of the difference in price."To make a claim for money back, fill out AAA's online request form.
What about Room 77? Yes, you may want to add it to the list of sites you check for deals. That said, it's not perfect. Case in point: Expedia, the country's biggest travel site, has a much broader selection of properties in the US and abroad than Room 77, among other differences. As always, you need to check out than one travel site to boost your chance of nabbing the best deal.
Clarification, added May 15: Room 77 is both an online travel agency (meaning it will book a hotel room on your behalf) and a metasearch site (it will refer you to other companies for booking the room). About 150,000 hotels are bookable through both Room 77 directly and referrals to other sites. In comparison, Expedia offers more than 200,000 hotels directly through itself. But Room 77 also offers an additional 50,000 hotels only through referrals to partner companies, giving what it says is a comparable breadth of listings to Expedia.
The bottom line: "tens of thousands" on Room 77 offer AAA and Senior rates, according to the site.
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