Quick Points: Save big by catching hotel and airline price drops

Oct 1, 2021

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TPG’s Points and Miles team has been writing weekly posts in its new Quick Points series. This series aims to help you earn points, redeem miles and maximize your travel with bite-sized 500-word posts.

In today’s Quick Points post, I’ll tell you about how I check for hotel and airline price drops — and why you might want to, too.

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Let’s be honest: Whether you are traveling domestically or internationally, there’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding travel right now. I’m still booking a lot of trips, though. After all, as TPG’s Summer Hull elegantly put it: Travel is a lifeboat through the pandemic. But with all the uncertainty, it’s best to book travel you can cancel without any fees.

Luckily, most hotel award nights are freely cancelable until shortly before your stay is scheduled to begin. And you can often find good-value cash rates that allow you to cancel until a few days before arrival. Meanwhile, some airlines allow you to cancel award flights — and in some cases, even paid flights — for no fee.

Related: Pre-pandemic to now: 8 ways I’m booking travel differently

Naviglio neighborhood in Milan, Italy
(Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

But being able to cancel flights and hotels for free doesn’t just give me flexibility if I decide not to travel. It also lets me cancel and rebook if I find a better deal. So, I have a reminder every two weeks to check for price drops on upcoming reservations. I also check some programs more frequently since I’ve been amazed by how often I’ve caught drops.

Of course, you’ll have the most luck catching price drops for paid rates and in programs that use dynamic pricing. I frequently see price drops in my IHG Rewards award nights, Hilton Honors award nights, Marriott Bonvoy paid nights and Southwest flights (both award and paid). For example, back in April, I booked a five-night stay for August at the Four Points by Sheraton Bogota for $262. But, shortly before my stay, I was able to cancel and rebook for $220. The lower rate even included more perks and let me save $42 on my stay.

I’ve also caught some price drops in Marriott Bonvoy awards when one or more nights of a stay drop from peak pricing to standard or off-peak rates. For instance, I booked a two-night stay at the Category 5 Le Méridien Maldives Resort & Spa back in May for 70,000 points. But, earlier this month, I noticed the price dropped to 60,000 points, so I rebooked and saved 10,000 points.

Related: Airlines that offer you a credit if the price of airfare drops

Southwest airplane
Southwest makes it easy to change to a lower fare. (Photo by Summer Hull/The Points Guy)

Some programs let you quickly change a current booking when you see a price drop. For example, it’s easy to reprice a Southwest flight when the fare decreases as long as you don’t have a Southwest Companion Pass companion attached to your reservation.

But some programs don’t allow you to change your existing reservation to a lower price and you might have to get creative. For instance, if a loyalty program allows you to make duplicate reservations (and you have enough points or miles to do so on an award ticket), it’s best to book at a new reservation at a lower rate before canceling your existing reservation at the higher rate. Otherwise, you’ll need to decide whether the risk of a price jump between when you cancel and when you rebook is worth the potential savings.

Catching price drops can save you serious points and cash. So, I recommend setting aside time every few weeks to check current pricing on your freely cancelable bookings. If your experience is like mine, you’ll likely see more price drops than you expect.

Featured photo of the DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Hotel Fiji — Sonaisali Island by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.

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Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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