The lies inside Expedia’s package deals

I’m rarely a fan of hotel + flight package bookings. There are some specific use cases where they can make sense, particularly to escape advance purchase or minimum stay requirements on some airfares, but generally speaking I find that a DIY approach gets me better choices and more flexibility. Still, I never really expected that the companies pushing these deals were outright lying in the numbers. I was doing some research for a different story when I came across this tidbit from Expedia, “Book this flight with hotel, get 100% off your flight.” I was skeptical but at that point willing to see just what the company had in mind. Needless to say, my skepticism was validated.

A deal from Expedia too good to be true? You betcha!
A deal from Expedia too good to be true? You betcha!

I chose an itinerary from Geneva to Frankfurt with a week in Germany. The flight was $255.

Decent flight price and times; I'll take it.
Decent flight price and times; I’ll take it.

In the booking process there is a call to action to add a hotel and save so I clicked through. Adding on the Maritim Hotel (Expedia’s featured “deal of the day”) brought my total to $855 with an advertised savings of $190. That’s 80%ish off the $255 flight price so not 100% but reasonably close. Maybe Expedia was telling the truth??

Look at that Expedia package savings! Nearly covers the full cost of the flight.
Look at that Expedia package savings! Nearly covers the full cost of the flight. But…

Alas, that savings of $190 assumes a full price of $1,044 for the hotel and the flight combined. As previously noted the flight was $255. Booking the hotel separately came in at $706. That’s a total price of $961, not $1,044. And both are for the same room type/bed assignment and the same exact flights.

Turns out the hotel is cheaper than what the Expedia package advertised. Oopsie!
Turns out the hotel is cheaper than what the Expedia package advertised. Oopsie!

Yes, there is a savings for buying the package deal. But I cannot figure out how Expedia is getting a “base” cost $83 higher than what it is presenting as the full price to consumers. And that’s all sorts of shady. Also, this isn’t meant to single out Expedia for less than stellar behavior. It happened to be the portal I chose this time around but I’m betting others pay similarly dirty.

By all means comparison shop packages as part of your purchase process, especially if willing to consider non-chain hotels. That’s where larger savings are likely to be found. But also make sure to understand the numbers you’re comparing against. Because apparently the vendors don’t.

Extra bonus: I went back to confirm the numbers and check some other things. Guess how shocked I was to learn that the “deal of the day” was a different hotel this time??

Like I said, shady stuff.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


    1. Problem with “never” is that this package actually does save money. Many packages do, depending on the circumstances.

      But in this case the numbers being used exaggerate the savings beyond reality.

    2. I rarely ever check expedia anymore. There have been some instances where it saved money, but I’ve found those to be rare. I see it saved money, but the math they are using are alternative math.

  1. Now you know the truth behind “50% off hotel deals” advertised every day. Expedia does calculate savings on the sticker price.

    1. What “sticker price” is used? I cannot find any way to get the hotel price to be the “right” number to make that discount correct.

  2. Yeah, I recently got 10 nights of two-bedroom suites for (essentially) “free” with an Expedia package (same price for all that including airfare as cheapest airfare alone)… can be excellent deals… but you definitely have to do your own math.

  3. I for one will NEVER book with Expedia again. Last year I booked two tickets for a flight ( business class ). Within minutes found a cheaper fare. After months of contacting them , providing the proof they required, and back and forth and a Miriad of excuses from them and a call to their customer service ( at their suggestion ) I finally gave up. And BTW customer service told me they don’t handle this kind of issue. Now I check what company owns who and if it’s in any way affiliated with Expedia I won’t book.

  4. I’m always shopping hotel prices until the last minute, changing as I find better prices so a package would not suit me. I guess packages provide a sense of security to the less frequent travelers

    1. I have a habit of booking hotels while on the shuttle from the airport. Last minute can save a TON of cash in my experience. ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

  5. Expedia packages have helped me save some decent $$$ on my trips to DC, but I ignore their fuzzy math and always double check.

  6. I went to Antigua about a year ago on an Expedia bundle. Saved about $800, which basically equated to “free” flights. The cheapest hotel only rate I could find was $50 less than Expedia’s hotel + flights and flights were ~$850 for 2 pax.

    We both got upgraded on the flight, too!

    I’ve never seen it work that way since, though.

  7. 1. Yes, you can often save money, epsecially when the air advance purchase deadlines have passed.
    2. Yes, always check the numbers separately, to see what the savings actually are.
    3. It’s likely a topic for another post, but understanding of loyalty earnings on these packages is important. When I used to purchase them a decade ago, I always got full earnings for the air portion, but never got any credit on the hotel side (even for chains that didn’t yet require direct booking). That made sense, since air earnings was mileage based, and that was easy to calculate, but hotel earnings were spend based, and expedia doesn’t provide the breakdown of what the hotel cost is in the package. But now that airline earnings are also spend-based, I’d be curious to know how each airline credits you for these flights when the spend amount is hidden , both RDM and EQM.

    1. Decent chance they’re considered consolidator fares and still earn on the distance charts. Or they don’t. But I’ve stopped obsessing about the points side of flight earning especially since earning via travel is now far less lucrative compared to earning with partners. And whatever the adjusted earn rate may be it almost certainly isn’t worth giving up the cash savings realized.

  8. Always wondered how they do packages. Some combination of consolidator fares and net rates at hotels (and then marking them up to still-less-than-retail prices), offsetting the price of the package with some of the hotel commission (which can be 20-30% in some cases), or are the OTAs just big enough that they can pull strings and negotiate super-cheap prices with the suppliers?

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