Hotel Reservation Websites — Grrrrrr

I’m in the process of making the hotel reservations for our upcoming trip to take our daughter to Grad School in Madison WI. We’re going to go out through Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska, and Iowa, and after getting her settled, visit friends in St. Louis, and then back along Former US 66. After booking a number of hotels, I just realized I’ve been confused by the websites, and some may have been prepaid, but I’m not sure — and I’m pissed at the confusion they engender.

I’ve been using four primary sites: Trivago, Expedia, Booking.Com, and AAA, with Trivago just sending me to either Expedia or Booking. I’m trying to make reservations and not pre-pay, but it isn’t always clear. For example, the cheapest rates you see on Trivago are typically pre-pay rates, so take them with a grain of salt.

  • For Expedia, there are three key phrases: Free Cancellation, Reserve Now Pay Later, and Non-Refundable. They don’t appear to have an explicit phrase for Pre-Pay, so if you don’t see Reserve Now Pay Later, it appears you are paying now (but may be able to cancel)
  • For Booking.Com, there are also three key phrases: Low rate – no money back, NO PREPAYMENT NEEDED – pay at the property, and FREE cancellation before …. If you dont’ see NO PREPAYMENT NEEDED – pay at the property, it appears you are paying now (but may be able to cancel).
  • What appears to have suckered me was AAA. Some of their rates have an explicit bullet: Pre Paid – Book Now, Pay Now. Clearly Pre-Paid. Others explicitly have Non-Refundable. Those are likely Pre-Paid. Then others have Book now, pay when you stay. Those are no prepayment needed. But what about AAA Rate? All they have is Exclusive AAA Member Savings. No “Pre Paid”. No “Pay When you Stay”. Are these pre-paid or not? I was assuming not, because they didn’t say “pre-paid”, but when I booked one, the receipt has some words about pre-paying the stay. Now I’m totally confused. [ETA: It is now a week after I posted this, and so far, none of the AAA reservations have shown up on my credit card statement. I’ve reached the conclusion that their confirmation messages and emails are in error when they talk about the reservation being prepaid, and that the AAA rate is really “Book now, pay when you stay.”.]

Ah, I’m begining to miss the old days with the books where you could call the hotel, and had just one rate.