Bundled pricing can be very appealing when you're trying to get the best vacation value. But as with many other great deals, a bundled vacation bargain may come with a price.
When you search for flights on any travel discount sight, even on the airline sights, you're often encouraged to save money on your trip by booking the air and hotel together. The secret to the discount is in the actual cost of the hotel room.
Travel industry expert Steve Danishek says airlines and travel operators negotiate deep discounts for hotel rooms and buy them in volume.
"Hotels have more of an ability to be discounted than air fares. Airfares are fairly firm," Danishek explained.
By bundling air and hotel together, promoters can offer you a package deal and still make a profit on your room. The same goes with rental cars specials. But when you're checking the bundles, Danishek says it pays to check the best prices for each piece individually, without bundling so you know how much of a deal you're really getting
"I encourage everyone to shop at least a couple of airlines. If you find it on one site, test it on a another site to make sure it's legitimate," he said.
And pay close attention to the flights. Right now there are lots of bundles offered for Hawaii, so I asked Danishek to crunch some numbers on flights from Seattle to Maui with air, hotel and car.
For travel the week of June 20th:
Package: All About Hawaii (wholesale): $3,275.80
Expedia by the piece (totaled): $3,427.86
Expedia Bundled: $3,030.77
Travel Agent by the piece (total): $3,150
For travel the week of October 20th:
Package: All About Hawaii (wholesale): $2,851.80
Expedia by the piece (totaled): $3,204.64
Expedia Bundled: $2,747.03
Travel Agent by the piece (total): $2,886.96
The bundled Expedia package in June was least expensive, but travel involved stops in San Francisco both ways.
I found another bundled deal to Maui that came with a 10-night stay at a high-end Maui hotel, the Wailea Grand Waldorf Astoria, for a total of just under $3,000 per person, which is a declared savings of more than $1,800 each. But the flight involved two stops and more than 13 hours just to get there and another stop with more than eight hours travel coming home.
"If you're going be on a non-stop to Hawaii and they're giving you a one-stop or two-stop to get there and back, it may be cheaper, but are you really saving anything? " said Danishek.
They key to saving money on vacation bundles is to be flexible. Search multiple sights including the airline sights, and price each piece separately -- air, hotel and rental car -- so you can really compare. By bundling, you can find a screaming deal that fits your schedule, but in some cases it may be worth it to pay a little extra for your hotel or car to get the flight you really want. If you don't do your homework, what you save in cash- could be costing you valuable time and pleasure.