Looking for free or discounted stays? I recommend getting a credit card or booking directly with a hotel chain (Marriott, Hilton, etc.). Here is why:
When you create a profile with a main hotel chain, you earn status with them every time you book directly. Now I have noticed sometimes booking through a third party is cheaper but I no longer do that. Orbitz and Expedia give you points or cashback on purchases but are not necessarily giving you status with the hotel chain. When I book directly, each night counts towards a status, which sometimes equates to early check-in, late check-out, complimentary breakfast, or even free airport transportation!
Before comparing the two, I was an Orbitz and Expedia Platinum member. I was informed that I would get access to free things like complimentary breakfast, early check-in/late checkout, etc. So I would book and arrive at hotels and none of them ever offered anything. I did ask a few hotels and they said it is all based on availability and that they could not honor my status with “Orbitz” or “Expedia”. That is when I realized it wasn’t worth it!
Another benefit of booking directly with the chain is cancellation policies! When booking with a third-party website, you have to contact them for cancellation and they can be very unforgiving sometimes. Considering the current climate were in, flexibility is a necessity when traveling! I booked with Expedia numerous times and during COVID, I was placed on hold for over an hour all because the room I booked on Expedia was not the room the hotel was willing to give me. You avoid all of these nuisances by simply booking direct! Never realized how much of a difference it makes when booking directly! I have also received complimentary early check-in quite a few times, even before signing up for a hotel-based credit card! Trust me, it does make a difference!
I have noticed a lot of third-party companies giving out coupons more than major hotel chains. It is ultimately up to you to decide which one works for you! There are benefits to both. I have not done the calculations to determine if it is worth booking to get coupons versus building status with a hotel chain. Considering that I do travel a lot, I prefer to book with chain hotels! By all means, I still use Expedia! Some destinations I go to do not have certain hotels or if I want a more authentic experience, I will stay at a local branded hotel.
Hotels see this as loyalty and sometimes reward you for that! If you opt for the Marriott Bonvoy or Hilton card, you can rank up some great points that can transfer and be redeemed for free stays! I have seen people on Youtube stay in The Maldives for free because of their points! We’re talking about Five-star resorts like the Four Seasons and JW Marriott! The Marriott also has other prestigious partners like The W, St. Regis, Ritz Carlton Reserve, and many more! My personal favorite Is the W hotel!
First, look at each hotel chain and see if they suit your taste! If they do, continue to book with them. I am aware in certain countries, people want an organic experience so they book a nonchain hotel, which I have done before! If it is significantly cheaper, by all means, by the nonchain hotel! But I have noticed the customer service and experience with a chain hotel is a bit better (In my opinion). Then, you will notice your status go up and get all sorts of discounts and freebies! It is worth it in the long. I once thought it wasn’t worth it until I saw my points grow! As your status grows with the hotel chain, you typically get VIP treatment, typically different lines during check-in. I don’t know about you, but sometimes check-in can be quite a long process! So these perks come in handy!
If you read my experience in Seychelles, you will understand the importance of staying at a reputable hotel and why it can be risky staying at boutique hotels! On the contrary, I have had great experiences at boutique hotels in other countries. Typically, it will be a hit or miss.