If you're booking a trip online, chances are that Expedia is one of your first stops—and with good reason. Founded 15 years ago by Microsoft, used by tens of millions of consumers, and stocked with everything from car rentals to cruises, Expedia is a trusted one-stop shop.
For international packages in particular, it appears that deals abound. And, despite its longevity, Expedia boasts a friendly and modern website and excellent mobile apps—both of which are helpful when comparing prices on the go.
In fact, Expedia is so popular that it’s only outranked by MapQuest and Google Maps, in terms of travel websites that get the most traffic.
However, the time that it takes to compare prices on alternate travel websites might be less well-spent than you think: Expedia’s continued popularity has allowed its parent company, Expedia Inc., to acquire so much of the competition that you could use the current playing field to level a picture frame.
Some of Expedia Inc.’s acquisitions and partnerships include TripAdvisor, Hotwire, Hotels.com, Venere, Orbitz, and CheapTickets — plus TripAdvisor subsidiaries CruiseCritic.com, BookingBuddy.com, SmarterTravel.com, SeatGuru.com, AirfareWatchdog.com, and IndependentTraveler.com.
Perhaps it’s because of their many partnerships that Expedia can continue to guarantee that you get the best price when booking through their website. How do they do it?
How Expedia Works
You can use Expedia to find deals on many aspects of travel, including flights, cars, hotels, bundle deals, cruises, and even things to do when you arrive at your location.
Expedia returns search results relatively quickly. By default, flights are listed by lowest price, though you can sort by number of stops, duration of flight, or departure and arrival times. Expedia also wins points for displaying the final cost of your flight or trip in large font, as opposed to hiding taxes and their own fees until the moment before checkout.
Here’s where Expedia’s Best Price Guarantee comes into play: If you find a cheaper flight, vacation package, rental car, cruise or activity within 24-hours of booking, Expedia promises to refund the difference—plus give you a $50 travel coupon for future travel.
For hotel bookings, there’s even more leeway—finding a cheaper rate up to two days before your check-in nets you a refund of the difference, plus the same $50 travel coupon for cheaper travel.
However, Expedia’s Best Price Guarantee is only available for exact itinerary matches. For example, the specific airline and cabin class (First, Business, Premium Economy or Coach/Economy), hotel (including room type), ship and cabin category, rental car company and vehicle class, applicable refund policy, and the exact same dates and times of travel or service as booked through Expedia.com.
To check that the booking is an apples-to-apples comparison, use Expedia’s Best Price Guarantee checklist.
There are a few other rules that might limit your use of Expedia’s price guarantee and travel coupon reward, including:
- Comparison rates must be available to the general public. This means that a lower rate that’s only available through a membership program or a corporate website doesn’t count.
- Changed or canceled bookings aren’t eligible to receive a coupon.
- Additionally, to collect the $50 coupon, you must have an Expedia Account with an associated email address and password combination. If you booked using a guest account, you would only qualify for a refund of the difference in price.
Getting a Price Guarantee Comes at a Cost
It’s important to keep in mind that websites like Expedia are almost like travel agents—making suggestions and packaging vacations tailored to your priorities. And, just like the travel agent down at the local strip mall, they take a commission from any booking you make.
Conversely, since airlines and hotels control inventory, they should have the best idea of what prices and volumes are available and 99% of the time will offer the best price.
There are, however, instances in which price compare websites are especially useful—generally when you’re planning a particularly complicated trip by combining a series of tickets into one itinerary, or when putting together a big vacation. Even then, don’t discount your favorite airline’s ability to give you a similar deal.
Why You Shouldn’t Use Expedia For Hotels
Hotels have to pay a hefty fee to online travel agencies like Expedia. As a result, many hotel chains and boutique locations are attempting to buck the system by bribing guests to book directly with them instead.
But there’s a trick: Travel comparison websites like Expedia insist on rate parity, which means a hotel cannot offer a rate cheaper than it gives Expedia the chance to do. However, this rule only applies to rates posted on the web.
How to take advantage of potentially substantial savings?
You must call a hotel to book your room directly. By doing so, you can score incentives like free room upgrades, beverage and food credits, and in some cases a flat 10% discount to undercut Expedia. Even better, plan ahead next time you want to book by subscribing to that hotel’s newsletter for chances at an even better rate.
As for airlines, they have intensified their war to win direct bookings and are doing it by making many important things easy to do on their websites.
Want to select your seats now? Done. Want to buy upgraded seats? Done. Want to buy discounted entry to an airline club? Done. Want to buy Wi-Fi, often at a rate much lower than you will pay onboard? Done. And, while you are at this, remember you can up the ante by paying with an airline-linked credit card that typically brings free baggage check, priority boarding, or other perks.
What Customers Are Saying About Expedia
- Zero flexibility changing your reservation. If you book with a hotel, it’s fairly easy to change your reservation. You can call the hotel and most of the time (unless you're past the change/cancelation policy) they’ll generally be helpful sorting out your new dates. Many customers complain that, when attempting to do the same through Expedia, they found customer service to be a hit and miss process. Sometimes the issue cited was an outsourced customer service department, while others found that they were unable to reach a live representative at all.
- Poor customer service. As mentioned in the point above, Expedia seems to have outsourced their customer service departments, meaning that your standard of service is bound to suffer. From personal experience, it is very common to be shuttled between departments before someone even understands your problem.
- Getting the worst rooms. Hotels assign their rooms on the basis of rate, meaning that the more you pay, the better room you’ll get. If you book with Expedia, your room will be assigned last, usually to a low or un-renovated floor. In addition, when hotels need to balance their inventory, they provide complimentary upgrades to certain reservations, which are also determined on the basis of what rate you have paid. The worst thing about the situation is that you are actually paying almost the same rate as most other people, as the intermediary pockets the difference between what they pay the hotel and charge you. However, in the hotels eye's, your rate is equal to the intermediary's discount rate, no how much you actually forked out.
- And the worst seats. Most aircraft have certain seats that are considered undesirable for some reason or another. Perhaps they’re too close to the bathroom, have an inch or two less leg area, or don’t recline due to being in front of an emergency exit row. When you book directly through an airline’s website, they will notify you if the seat you’re about to choose is considered less than awesome—Expedia won’t.
Another downside of dealing with Expedia? A lack of rewards.
Sure, it might take a little bit more work to forgo booking on Expedia, with their exhaustive combinations and one-stop convenience. But, if your end game is to earn loyalty points and snag elite status through a specific rewards program, then the only way to do that is by booking directly on a hotel or airline website.
Bottom Line: Think Beyond One-Stop Convenience
When Expedia opened its doors in 1995, they offered a never-before-heard-of level of convenience for those looking to take control of their vacation plans by comparing airfare among multiple carriers.
But, 20 years later, it might be time to rethink the now-dated travel habit of purchasing airfare and hotels through online agents. According to travel specialist Brett Synder, there are two final reasons to avoid Expedia:
- Hidden Fees. Let's say you're about to buy a ticket and want to check the baggage fees for your flight. If you go on Expedia and click on baggage info, it just opens up a huge, long list of airlines and what their fees are, as opposed to booking directly, where the correct baggage information is always available.
- Airlines aren’t accurately compared. Take Spirit Airlines, for example, who are notorious for slapping flyers with fees. When searching on Expedia, Spirit’s fares might look like a bargain. However, many fliers are in for a rude awakening when checking bags in at the airport—or even attempting to talk to a real person without paying Spirit’s $10 fee.
Bottom line? If you’re just trying to get from point A to B, go ahead and use Expedia to compare which airlines offer flights on your travel dates, since online travel agents are great for checking an average of available price points.
But, then you might be better off biting the bullet and booking on the airline or hotel's website, instead. It’s a better place to view fees, customize your booking, gain rewards points, and guarantee your service.
Are you you planning a vacation with multiple legs, a hotel, or excursions? Check out 4 Times You Should Use A Travel Agent (and How To Choose One) for a potentially better way to book.
2 out 2 people found this review helpful
Good website for picking a flight
Besides the fact that I usually have my booking websites preferences when I'm traveling from specific locations, Expedia is the website I use when I can't find something worth at any other websites. And I have to say that quite often I was able to find a good ticket here!
Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this to a friend
1 out 2 people found this review helpful
Bait and Switch
I booked a flight on 12/8/14 for my son. I went through the entire process and waited for the confirmation not hitting the back button as instructed. When my son nor I received a confirmation after 20 minutes I tried calling, but the customer service number informed of technical difficulties.
So my son wrote an email through which this morning provided another number. When I called I was informed that though Expedia had all my information indicating that I'd booked a flight it was not "confirmed." And though the flight was still available as booked, the price would now be $300 more and there was "nothing" the representative could do about it.
My son predicted this very eventuality because it has happened to him before through Expedia. Consequently, I will never use Expedia again.
Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this to a friendView all 1 commentsHide comments
Oct 15, 2015
Yep, I agree with this assessment. I have never been happy with Expedia. I particularly dislike the fact prices seem to continually creep up the longer you dally searching and looking for fares. When you log into a different browser using either no account or a different one, the prices are all at the original fares again. Not good.