Founded in 1996 by Microsoft, Expedia has amassed tends of millions of consumers in that time by offering everything from car rentals to cruises.
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.
This long list includes TripAdvisor, Hotwire, Hotels.com, Venere, Orbitz, CheapTickets, 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. Flights are listed by lowest price, but can be filtered by departure/arrival times, flight duration, and even number of stops.
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.
But keep in mind that Expedia’s Best Price Guarantee only applies to exact itinerary matches, which includes airline, cabin class, hotel and room type, rental car company, vehicle class, and ship and cabin category.
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. Unlike a hotel, which typically makes it east to change your reservation, many customers have complained this isn’t the case with Expedia. Specifically, many stated that customer service quality can vary (including outsourced support)—some even claimed there were unable to speak with a representative at all.
Poor customer service. In addition to the above, we found many customers complained about frequent transfers to different departments until someone attempts to even address your issue.
Getting the worst rooms. When it comes to hotels, the more you pay the better your room will often be. Since you’ll likely be paying bottom dollar for hotel rooms booked through Expedia, this means you might be assigned to a less-than-stellar room (e.g. on a lower floor, near an elevator, in an area that’s under construction, etc.). And if the hotel needs to balance their inventory, the intermediary’s (in this case, Expedia) rate will likely put you at the bottom of the list for possible upgrades.
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. In other words, what you might gain as far as convenience from using Expedia, you could forego valuable loyalty points (hello elite status!).
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 planning a vacation with multiple legs, a hotel, or excursions? Check out 4 Times You Should Use A Travel Agent 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.