Orbitz Shows Higher Hotel Prices to Mac Computer Users
Yesterday morning the Wall Street Journal announced that Orbitz shows higher hotel prices to Mac users than to PC users. Orbitz acknowledged this in a statement as well.
Before you start drafting an angry letter to their CEO here's an important disclaimer: they're not showing the same hotel at different prices—they're showing different hotels at different prices.
It's not a scam. They're doing it because they believe that Mac users want to see higher hotel prices. And they didn't come up with this idea after a three-martini brainstorming lunch either—they arrived at the concept after months of tracking user preferences. They found that Mac users are 40% more likely to book a 4 or 5 star hotel than a PC user.
This is one of the drawbacks (or benefits, as you see it) of tracking behavior online. If you're looking for upscale hotels, you might be grateful not to have to sort through all of the bargain properties to find what you're looking for. On the other hand, if you're looking for a bargain, you're going to have take an extra step to find it on Orbitz (fortunately it's easy—just select the "sort by price" option on the screen and they'll list the properties by price).
Nonetheless, all of this reminded me of how important it is to be smart about finding good deals—no matter what platform you're on. Here are some tips:
1. Shop around and keep your cache clean. Don't just visit one site and call it day. Compare prices in different places (Expedia, Travelocity, Cheapoair, Kayak). In between searches, clear your cache to keep sites from tracking your behavior.
2. Watch prices. Keep abreast of airfare prices via a site like FareCompare so you know how prices are trending and can recognize a deal when you see one.
3. Use new tools. Widen your net by searching with HotelSweep.com, a site that searches smaller, independent properties that aren't listed on major online travel agencies like Orbitz or Expedia. After you book, share your reservation with Backbid.com, a site that reaches out to nearby hotel competitors to see if any of them will extend you a better offer (or a nicer room for the same price).
4. Consider a vacation rental. Vacation rentals can be a great way to experience the local culture and save money at the same time. Two of my favorite rental sites are AirBnB and Roomorama.
5. Look for packages. Some resorts are still hurting and by bundling in airfare or car rentals, they can lower their prices while still preserving their brand integrity. If you do your research you can find some good deals.
6. Check out independent deal sites. Find great deals by using a site that will vouch for the savings for you. We do this in our Real Deals section where we find and vet deals for you. DealBase is another site that does this.
7. Be smart about when you book. Studies have found that airfares tend to drop midweek, so plan your booking between Tuesday and Thursday. If you can swing it, try to lock in airfare prices at least 8 weeks in advance. Hotels should be booked as soon as possible (tip: If you book on the site Tingo.com they will monitor the rate for you and automatically give you a refund if the rate drops).
SEE MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL:
Court Ruling Gives Europeans Option to Re-Take Vacations If They Get Sick
It happens to everyone at least once—you plan the perfect, relaxing vacation, but when the time finally comes you spend the week with a terrible cold or a nasty stomach flu. And you finally feel better just in time to go back to work. Well, if you lived in Europe, you would now be entitled to a vacation do–over. This new ruling, which stems from a suit brought by a group of department store employees in Spain, applies to workers in all 27 European Union countries. It allows workers who happen to get sick while taking vacation time to basically change that time off to sick leave and recoup the vacation days. Remember, the typical European gets four to six weeks of vacation, a perk that has long been the envy of Americans (who get an average of 14 days of paid vacation, and are less likely to actually use it). As reported in the New York Times, the Court Justice of the European Union said, “The purpose of entitlement to paid annual leave is to enable the worker to rest and enjoy a period of relaxation and leisure. The purpose of entitlement to sick leave is different, since it enables a worker to recover from an illness that has caused him to be unfit for work.” Exactly. What do you think of this new ruling? Have you ever wished you could get your vacation back? MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 6 Foolproof Tricks for NOT Embarrassing Yourself in a Foreign Language New Wales Hiking Trail Lets You Walk The Entire Coast Find Your Roots in Ireland
Study: Airlines Are Ripping Off Passengers with Inflated Fuel Surcharges
There should be an investigation. Airlines are covertly padding their revenues with fuel surcharges, according to a new study. Since April 2011, US airlines have hiked fuel surcharges by 53 percent on average, says a study by Carlson Wagonlit Travel, the corporate travel management firm. But the cost of jet fuel has only risen by 23 percent, having fallen from highs a year ago, as the LA Times' Hugo Martin was the first to report. The surcharges can add hundreds of dollars to the price of a plane ticket for a long-distance trip. No US airline has lowered its fuel surcharge this year, despite oil prices — which closely reflect jet fuel prices — having dropped 8 percent so far in 2012. Let's assume for a minute that the airlines are being dishonest. What's in it for them? Since January, the US government has stopped airlines from advertising fares without including surcharges along with taxes. One theory is that travel agents earn their commissions off the base fare, not the total ticket price. So airlines can cheat agents of a bit of cash by disguising some of their revenue in the fuel surcharge. Another theory is that fuel surcharges are taxed at a different, lower rate than the base rate, benefiting the airlines. If what the study suggests is true, then the airlines are probably breaking the law. The airlines have broken the law before. Last year, federal prosecutors found that airlines have done it before. Between 2000 and 2006, 21 airlines engaged in price-fixing. They made up for lost profits by artificially inflating fuel surcharges, and they agreed to pay enormous fines as a result. No major US airlines were charged. In April of this year, the British government said British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Airways engaged in price-fixing of passenger fuel surcharges and fined British airways millions. Maybe it's time to launch a fresh investigation about what's happening now with fuel surcharges by US airlines. Hey, Feds! MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL What's Your Biggest Pet Peeve When You Fly? (50+ comments) Court Ruling Gives Europeans Option to Re-Take Vacations If They Get Sick (14 comments) Why Airlines Should Bring Back Delicious In-Flight Meals (12 comments)
Online Travel Companies Accused of Price Fixing
If you use online travel–booking tools, you’ve probably asked yourself once or twice, “Can I really trust these guys?” The answer, apparently, is in some cases “no.” The UK’s Office of Fair Trading, a consumer regulator, announced last week that it was going to take action against several online travel companies and hotel chains, most notably Expedia, Booking.com, and InterContinental, for price fixing. The online companies are accused of trying to prevent hotels from selling hotel rooms below certain price minimums by threatening to remove the hotels from their sites. The UK newspaper the Daily Telegraph reported that Expedia admitted it “engaged in cartel conduct on breach of the law” and is now cooperating with the investigation. The Telegraph notes that Expedia will likely receive leniency for cooperating, and may implicate other online travel companies and hotel chains in the scandal. Online tools have become such an integral part of our everyday travel research, we’re wondering if this alleged price fixing among some of the major players will have any affect on your online booking habits. Does this news change your likelihood of using Expedia or Booking.com in the future? —Robert Firpo–Cappiello MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 8 Cool New Tools for Finding the Perfect Hotel 10 Most Useful Travel Websites The Ultimate Guide to Travel Apps
Airline Tweaks Baggage Policy after Too Many Complaints
Taking inspiration from fellow Irish airline Ryanair, the much-larger Aer Lingus rolled out a new carry-on restriction policy that limited passengers to one bag onboard (plus a small purse or or a "gents satchel"). But what passengers learned was that no additional bags would be allowed, even shopping bags. So no bottles of whiskey from duty free, no last-minute souvenirs you bought while waiting for your flight to board. And that's when people got angry—including the Irish government. In an article in The Irish Sun, Senator Catherine Noone urged the airline to rethink the policy, calling it “a backwards step" and unfriendly to tourists. This isn't the first time government has intervened when it comes to luggage policies. The European Parliament is attempting to pass legislation to force Ryanair to drop the one-bag policy (the European Commission will vote on it later this year), and the Spanish government already ruled that passengers can not be restricted to one bag. Also irritated with the policy: duty free vendors. The European Travel Retail Confederation reported that sales fell 70% in some areas where carry-on bags were restricted, according to an article in the Moody Report (which covers the travel retail and duty free business). They also found that travelers spent almost 30% more at the airport where there is no one-bag policy. The rules for Aer Lingus now state that you can bring on that addition small bag OR duty-free shopping bag. Progress? Of course, the airline itself says the move came for traveler convenience. Meaning that they were probably sick of people complaining about fellow passengers who bring multiple large bags onboard and hog all the storage space. Which passengers do partly because of high fees for checked bags (for international flights from the U.S. on Aer Lingus, the first bag is free but the second is $60 to check). So the circle continues. Are you as sick of confusing luggage policies as we are? If you had the power to pass a law to change an airline policy, what would it be? MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL 7 Common Expenses That Take Travelers By Surprise 11 Surprisingly Lovable Airlines 6 Graceful Strategies for Dealing with an Annoying Seatmate