Who doesn’t love a one-stop-shop? Hotel bundles can be a great way to save time and perhaps even save you a few bucks. We are going to break down the good and bad of flight and hotel bundles.
I for one never book using bundle deals, they don’t accept points that I earn. I only travel for next-to-free using my points, so no bundles for me. [now that my personal bias is out there] For those who don’t have points or would rather just book in one place and be done with it, let’s look at some sample itineraries and see what makes the most sense.
Who doesn’t love Hawaii? If you haven’t been, GO! As you are well aware, it is not cheap to get to Hawaii, so is bundling the best option?
I found a 5 night + flight bundle for two, grand total $1,834. That includes two flights from Phoenix to Honolulu and 5 nights at the Waikiki Marriott Beach Resort.
If booked separately:
Flight #1: $458
Flight #2: $458
Hotel: $1,035 ($207 x 5 nights)
$1,951 if booked separately. Bundling saves you $116 in this example.
So with this particular itinerary, with double occupancy, you will save $116, or $58 per person. This is of course assuming you want to stay in a hotel and not an AirBNB or vacation home. (more on that below)
What about a bundle deal to Florida?
A sample booking on Expedia offered me a three night stay at the W Fort Lauderdale (which was amazing by the way) and two round-trip flights on American Airlines, Grand-total = $1,706
Here is the break-down of the costs if booked separately using the same dates, hotel, and flights:
Flight #1 $365
Flight #2 $365
Hotel booked on Trivago: $942 ($314 a night x 3)
$1,672 If booked separately. Bundle price on Expedia = $1,706. In this case it would make NO SENSE to bundle since you lose out on many other benefits and it costs more to do so (like 24 hour cancellation on your airline ticket)
What are the down-sides to booking in a bundle? There are a few unfortunately..
1. Most third-party booking sites that offer bundles have STRICT cancellation polices. The fine print on Expedia says that you cannot change or cancel the hotel. For your flights, there is a $200 per person charge for any changes to the flight. If you book the hotel standalone, you should be able to cancel with no penalty up to 24 hours before the stay. If you like flexibility or are betting on prices to drop, don’t book a bundle deal. (you are locked in)
2a. You will not earn ANY points on the hotel stay. Almost every hotel out there will only offer you loyalty points if you book directly from their website. If you are spending $1000 on a hotel stay that could mean you are missing out on a good chunk of points.
2b. You should earn the points for your flight, but each airline has their own fine print on how you earn points from heavily discounted fares. To be 100% sure you are going to earn the miles for your flight (around 5,000 award miles earned from the west coast), it is best to book directly with the airline. You can always call or email your airline and ask if third-party discounted flights will earn you miles.
3. Generally only major hotels are offered in the bundle deals, this means that you cannot take advantage of the deep savings and experience of staying in an AirBNB or vacation home on VRBO.com. In this case the hotel has a resort fee of $31 per night, that will be charged upon arrival and is in addition to the bundled price. Most high-end hotels in Waikiki will have a resort fee, which leads me to alternative lodging options which can’t be booked in a bundle, like VRBO and AirBNB. (more on that below)
Since the Waikiki bundle above is charging you $918 for the 5 nights at the hotel, let’s see what type of lodging $900 (or less) can get us in Waikiki for the same dates.
For $828 you can stay at this condo on VRBO.com, just steps away from Waikiki beach. Keep in mind, the Marriott hotel in the bundle has a $31 a night resort fee which is IN ADDITION to the bundle price. You also will have no kitchen in your Marriott hotel which means you are going to be forking out a lot of cash to eat out every meal.
Obviously the condo won’t offer all the amenities that the Marriott will have but you are paying $90 less for the base room plus saving $150 in resort fees. In the condo you are a mere 300 feet from Waikiki beach, what other amenities do you need? You will also save a few hundred bucks by preparing your own meals in the Condo, all-in-all, you could easily save $400-$500 between food and the cost of the hotel.
What about AirBNB?
AirBNB is a next-generation lodging site that allows anyone in the world to list their couch, room, or house. You can choose to get a place to yourself or book a room and have the host cook and guide you through the city. Did I mention it is almost always cheaper than a hotel? AirBNB hosts over 500,000 guests PER NIGHT. They are huge.
This private condo, about a two-minute walk to the beach, is only $607 for the five nights. That will save you $311 compared to the Marriott + $150 in resort fees. Add in the savings of preparing your own food in the kitchen, you could easily save over $700. You know what I would do with the $700 saving? Stay three more nights 🙂
So the question remains, to bundle or not to bundle? Personally, I like to have control over every aspect of my travel, so giving it all up to Expedia or Orbitiz – with no cancellation policy – is not for me. If you don’t have a lot of time or energy to go around and find the best deals by mixing and matching, bundles may be a good option for you.
Remember, with bundles it is hard to earn points and impossible to use your existing points to cover the cost which means you are going to be out-of-pocket for everything. Why pay for travel when there are so many ways to earn points?