The hotel booking market is a crowded place, yet among the major sites you rarely see a significant difference in pricing. Worse yet, booking direct through a loyalty program actually often nets you the best overall value, making these sites redundant in a number of situations.
So there’s a lot of room in the market for a new player to come in and really shake things up with a model that offers genuinely deep discounts that undercut the usual booking site rates. Enter TripSpin. The site’s marketing promises significant savings on both one-night and weekly stays all over the world, beating out all the usual booking site suspects on price while also offering you rewards points a la a hotel loyalty program.
How is this possible? Well, TripSpin operates more on a “membership club” or “travel club” type of model than the typical booking site setup. You pay an initial enrollment fee, plus an annual renewal fee, which is where the company primarily makes their revenue. In turn, this gives you access to their bank of privately-negotiated rates, which again if the advertising is to be believed, can be snagged for much lower rates than you’ll see on any booking site.
Fees: Paying To Play
After watching the TripSpin marketing presentation, it probably sounds too good to be true. Rates such as $209 for a week’s vacation at a nice hotel in Cancun are offered. How could this be possible?
Well, it sounds too good to be true because the membership fees aren’t ever mentioned. It turns out that a TripSpin membership will run you $308 for initial enrollment, plus $88.88 for every month thereafter that you maintain it. So for the first full year of the service, you’re looking at a price tag of a little over $1200, though that will drop to $1080 in subsequent years.
That’s almost certainly going to be prohibitively steep for the occasional vacationer of modest means. However, for the frequent high-end vacationer, or one who takes long extended vacations of multiple weeks periodically throughout the year, it is possible for the savings on bookings to offset the membership fees.
What TripSpin Offers
TripSpin is broken up into three basic sections — nightly bookings, “bonus weeks”, and “The Marketplace.”
The nightly bookings don’t function all that differently from the standard booking site. You simply enter your city and dates of choice, and TripSpin comes back with the hotels and resorts that it has listings for, showing you both the standard public price (the one usually listed on the other booking sites) as well as its own internal price (which is hopefully significantly lower). TripSpin claims to have relationships with over 400,000 properties worldwide at present to offer listings in just about all of the major cities and tourist destinations in the world.
“Bonus weeks” are listings of seven-day getaways at steep discounts, such as the aforementioned hotel for only $209 for a week in Cancun. TripSpin sets the general price range of these weeks at $99 or $399, though they do appear to go slightly higher or lower at times. In the marketing presentation, they explain that “bonus weeks” are weeks that the company directly owns the rights to, so they can set their own pricing. If they get desperate enough to offload these weeks, they might even reduce them to $50! Since these deals go up and down in real-time, however, you’ll likely have to be lucky in your timing and quick on the trigger to catch them.
Finally, “The Marketplace” gives individual timeshare owners a forum in which to list access to their properties in a style similar to eBay. When they place a listing, TripSpin members can enter a bid for it. They can then choose to accept, reject, or make a counter-offer to any bids.
Rewards points are obtained no matter what or how you book, but some special offers will give you the option of getting either extra rewards points or a partial cash reimbursement.
One final point of note is that the site does have a lowest-price guarantee; find a lower rate on the internet within 24 hours of booking and you’ll get 110% of the price you paid back.
Does TripSpin Make Sense For You?
As we alluded to earlier, TripSpin makes a lot more sense for those who spend much of the year traveling, or those who take a few long vacations and favor higher-end resorts and properties. For the traveler who only books one or two short vacations per year, the economics of the membership fees probably are not going to work out at all. If you fall into one of those higher-end frequent-traveling categories, however, TripSpin does look to be a legitimate service and at least bears some further investigation.