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What's the catch? Checking out discount travel ads

Posted: 8:10 PM, May 15, 2018
Updated: 2018-05-16 02:11:07Z

My email is full of them.

Ads from websites promising rock bottom prices for stuff I actually want to do: travel.

So what's the catch?

I took a look an email offering $14 Las Vegas hotel rooms.

It's from Booking.com but doesn't specify which dates are available for that price even when you get to the website.

I chose a random Tuesday in two weeks.

Out of the 243 result I found no room for the advertised $14 but got close. Circus Circus Hotel is going for $17 on that date, but expect to pay a resort fee as well.

Want to go up on a Friday? Nothing less than $50.

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Another ad from Travel Zoo showed $179 for a stay in Sonoma wine country. 

That price is for one night and you have to arrive Sunday through Thursday by July 31.

The price goes up to $499 for a weekend stay.

This one appears to be as advertised, as long as you go during the week.

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The third ad we looked at came from Hotels.com and promises to give me access to "secret prices" of up to 50 percent off.

My secret price for Hotel Le Lavoiser in Paris is $179. But good luck figuring out which date it applies. Secret prices seem to change from day to day.

Monday June 18: $227.
Monday July 2: $227.
Tuesday July 24: $150. 

Great! But are you really saving anything?

In this case, yes.  When booked directly through the hotel that $227 secret price jumps to $334.

The catch? The advertised price is usually only available during the week.
And check directly with the hotel before booking to see if you're really saving anything.