A Comparison of Priceline, Travelocity, Hotwire, & Expedia

Which travel site is cheapest?

We’ve all seen the commercials for these sites:  The catchy jingles spelling out H-O-T-W-I-R-E, Travelocity’s traveling gnome, and of course, the Priceline Negotiator.

These sites will try anything to convince you that they’re the best, but have you ever thought to analyze them against each other?

That’s why I’ve made it my mission to find out which travel site gives you the cheapest price, offers the most user-friendly website, and has superior customer service.

Who is Cheapest?

Cheapest Flight-Only Tickets:

So I did an experiment.  I pulled up each website and started booking the same exact round-trip ticket, from Dallas, TX (DFW) to New York, New York (LGA) with no hotel or car rental.

Results:

After fees and taxes, every travel site came to the same price, $382.80.

How can this be when Priceline and Hotwire make claims that they have no booking fees?  truth, they actually do.  Both companies raise the price on their plane tickets to appear like there were no booking fees.  So the “No Booking Fees” phrase is just a ploy to get customers to avoid shopping around and just assume their price is cheapest, when in fact, after taxes and fees, both Priceline and Hotwire exactly equaled the Expedia and Travelocity prices.

Cheapest Vacation Packages:

Since each site had the same prices for plane tickets by themselves, I figured I’d expand upon my initial experiment to determine if any of their prices differed when adding a 1-night hotel in the picture.

So in addition to our previous flight arrangements, our traveler will also be spending 1 night at the Hampton Inn NY at Laguardia.  Keep in mind these prices are subject to change.

Results:

  • Priceline: $678.00
  • Travelocity: $666.60
  • Hotwire: $664.00
  • Expedia: $646.43

As you can see, for the same vacation package, Expedia is the cheapest, nearly $20.00 cheaper than the second cheapest option, Hotwire.

Because flight-only prices are similar, comparing vacation packages and deals is the only reasonable way in determining who has the cheapest prices.  So congrats to Expedia, you’re the cheapest!

Who has the Best Website?

Having a user-friendly website is another comparable factor in determining which travel site you should book your trip with.

After reviewing all 4 websites, I’ve realized that nearly all 4 have the same layouts.  Somewhere on the front page, you’re able to fill out your trip information to get a quick price quote.  It’s a nice feature, but not unique to any one website.  So we’ll then look at how easy it is to find certain tabs and links.

Here are a few of my criticisms.

  • Priceline: It took a bit of searching to find the “Help” or contact us section.  Other than that, the website has a nice appearance and was generally easy to use.
  • Travelocity: Very easy to use layout, everything you need is right there on the top toolbar.  The site also has a “Travel Alert” bar is anything serious is going on, which is a really convenient feature.
  • Hotwire: This is just me being picky, but I like aesthetics, and Hotwire’s website is just boring.  To be fair, it is easy to use.  It just lacks any sort personality.
  • Expedia: Has a very nice layout and extremely easy to use.  They have a “Deals and Offers” tab which shows any current promotions going on.  They also have the “Travel Alert” section.

Based on my research, I’d conclude that Expedia.com is the most user-friendly, best looking travel website.  See for yourself!

Expedia.com

Who has the Best Customer Service?

So we’ve proven that Expedia has the best prices and the best website, but does it also have the best customer service?

After reviewing each website, I learned that all 4 travel sites offer 24/7 phone customer services representatives, not too surprising.   It’s difficult to judge a company’s customer service based on how they handle phone calls because generally the person is dealt with very quickly (obviously there are exceptions).

So to determine who has the best customer service, I decided to contact each site via e-mail.  The truth about e-mails is that a company can push them aside, something they can’t do with phone calls.  That makes this is an ideal way to determine who cares the most about their customers.  Do they make responding to your e-mail a priority?  How long does it actually take to receive a response?

I asked each company the same simple question at the same time of the day, making sure to be as fair as possible.

Here’s how each company did:

  • Priceline: Immediately after submitting my question via e-mail, they said, “We’ll submit your e-mail and do our best to answer you within 3 hours.”  The truth is, after 24 hours, I still have yet to receive any form of response to my inquiry.  Clearly they’re much too busy to bother with me and my e-mail.  FAIL
  • Travelocity: Within a few minutes of submitting my e-mail to Travelocity, I received an automated e-mail kindly saying they’d do their best to answer my question within 12 hours.  However it didn’t take anywhere near 12 hours, I got a personal e-mail, fully answering my question, only an hour and a half after submission!  PASS
  • Hotwire: Like Travelocity, I also quickly received an automated e-mail, this one saying, “We respond to most customer emails within two hours of receiving them.”  Sure enough, two hours later I see I’ve received a second e-mail from Hotwire support!  But Wait!  This 2nd e-mail is just letting me know they’ve just forwarded my e-mail to another department rather than answering it.  24 hours later and I still have no answer.  FAIL
  • Expedia: Can Expedia go 3 for 3?  Instantly after submitting my e-mail to Expedia, I received another automated e-mail.  It was a very pleasant message, thanking me for contacting them and that they’ll reply within 24 hours.  So it’s 24 hours later and guess what, NO answer!  Apparently they can give you the lowest prices and the lowest customer service!  FAIL

So as you can tell, Travelocity was the only travel site who cared enough about their customer not only answer their questions, but to do it in the time frame they promised.

Conclusion

So it all comes down to what you want…  If it’s cheap and easy, Expedia is the right site for you.  However, if customer service is what you’re after, Travelocity is the better bet.

Hopefully this comparison guide will help you decide which travel site is best suited for your trip-booking needs!  Happy Travels and God bless!

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net