Sunday, October 15, 2017

Enjoying the Expedia Experience

The opportunity to start writing about my travels finally surfaces!  I thought I would begin with how I book some of my travel.  My next blog post will be a little more about how I make the most of my holidays through some advanced planning, and then finally on to my actual trips—the latest one being Greece!  Thank you for following my blog as it develops into a travel focus—I truly appreciate your support!

There are a number of different third party services that offer discount travel that you can book on-line or over the phone.  I personally like Expedia as they have been consistent in their service and reward you for their usage.  I have been using them for a number of years now to book most of my travel.  The main reason I do so is because not only do I get discounts if I book a flight and hotel together, but I also see a variety of choices that I never knew existed before. 

Their on-line system is quite easy to use, so I start with my destinations, and scope out the hotels in the cities that I am travelling to first.  You can search by area, for example, London England is a fairly large city--so if I want to stay in a hotel on The Strand, then it will populate with just those hotels.  If I am going somewhere new, it’s great to have all the hotels in front of me, each with pictures, map, amenities and traveller reviews, all on one page.  It also gives you various rooms and price points, and allows you to reserve in advance with free cancellation, or book straight away.  If you reserve without paying, then you simply pay the hotel when you check out, in whatever the local currency is.  The price is guaranteed, but of course the currency conversation is not!  There are ways to hedge you bets with currency; however, that is a whole other post.

The cool thing is that you can see a wide range of hotels, and also read the reviews.  A word on travel reviews:  There are people who generally have a pleasant disposition when travelling (and in general), and then there are people who bitch about everything little thing.  If the bulk of the reviews have a high rating, then go with that.  Expedia also gives the hotel the ability to respond to reviews, which is something that shows me the hotel management cares about their guests' experiences.  As well, after your check-in, Expedia canvases you for an easy 10 second review, with that feedback going directly to the hotel.  

This may sound weird, but I spend quite a number of hours researching hotels--I am very picky about where I stay.  The location is key--think about the things you want to see and where the hotel is relative to that.  In Athens for example, much of wanted to see was in the area around the Acropolis so I chose a hotel that allowed me to walk everywhere.  I also choose the location from a safety aspect.  Typically I find that hotels closer to train stations may cost less, but if you're a single female traveller like me, you may want to steer clear of those areas.  When I was in Naples briefly, I found it hard to find a restaurant around the train station which felt safe--lots of shifty eyes my way--and on my camera!  Once you have booked a hotel, Expedia will provide you with a variety of activities that you can book through them.  I have done this several times as well, from car service to and from airports, to catamaran sailing in Santorini.  The prices for the activities are paid in your local currency and up front.

I also do my due diligence though by way of pricing to make sure that I am indeed getting the best deal when I book through Expedia.  Many hotels would prefer that you book through them direct, and provide offers to reward you for doing that.  The challenge though in booking direct is that you don’t have the option to pay in your own currency, and, if you are booking a flight, hotel and car for example, it is much less expensive to book that all together on a third party site like Expedia versus individually.  However, as I said, I always work out the math to make sure it makes sense—I can’t help myself given I am a Financial Planner—it’s in my nature. 

I often get asked if, because I booked through a third party, I get treated differently at the hotel (they can see that you did not book directly through them).  For the hotels, it is a form of marketing—they offer those prices through Expedia at a discount so they can gain business they may have never had.  There is no questions that the market for deep discount is growing exponentially on a continuous basis, so it would be smart for the hospitality industry to partake in that. I can honestly say that I have never felt any sort of discrimination of any type by using Expedia to book my hotels.  But then again, it might be thanks to what I do before I arrive.

I contact each hotel about 2 weeks before I arrive to confirm my reservation (including room type, etc), let them know I am excited to stay at their hotel, and how much I look forward to writing a fantastic review on Expedia and Trip Advisor about their amazing hotel.  That last point is key.  I was just in Greece, and Trip Advisor signs were all over hotels and restaurants there.  The competition is fierce, and guest reviews are playing more and more of an important role in how travellers make their choices on where to stay, where to eat, and what to do.  Also, upon check-in, I confirm everything to ensure it matches what I have booked, along with mentioning the great review I plan to give.  I always have my booking information on my phone through Expedia’s mobile app readily available in case there is any discrepency.  

Lastly, I find all the people at the Expedia call centre in Cairo, Egypt, an absolute joy to speak with.  I will usually plan everything out on-line and then given them a call (especially if I am booking multiple destinations) and have them put the package together so I maximize my savings.  Every single time I have called over the years, I have always spoken to a knowledgeable, professional, and patient (my trips can be complicated!) individual.  Their focus on providing outstanding customer service is one of the key reasons why I am a loyal customer.  In fact, when I go to Egypt next year, I will be stopping in to see them whilst in Cairo—that’s how much of a positive impact that amazing team has made on me.

Thank you again for your support in reading my blog.  Please feel free to make any comments or ask questions if you like—I am happy to chat anytime about my travels!


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