TravelPony is a new hotel booking website that launched in Summer 2013 that includes both U.S. and international hotel destinations. When we were first asked by TravelPony to review their website, Ethan said to me: “So what is so special about another hotel booking website? There are hundreds of them.” Their cool name convinced me to take a look. I mean who doesn’t love combining travel and animals in a website name, right? It turns out that TravelPony is different from other hotel booking websites in that they spend very little in marketing and are then able to pass those savings (sometimes up to 70%!) onto consumers. Instead of paying for marketing they rely on social media and good old-fashioned word of mouth from satisfied customers. This is great of course, but the big question is can you really save money using TravelPony when trying to book a hotel in X city on X date? Ethan and I accepted the challenge from TravelPony to find out in exchange for a free hotel stay to review their website. First, we’ll conduct a little experiment to explore whether TravelPony can really save you money by reporting hotel savings on TravelPony across a number of random dates and locations. We will take you through the whole process of registering, booking, and sharing the stay on social media as we book a hotel in San Francisco. We’ll even give you a link to earn $35 off your first booking of at least $200 with TravelPony! Finally, we’ll also share some great pictures from our stay at the beautiful historic Palace Hotel in San Francisco.
Can TravelPony Really Save Me More Money than Other Hotel Websites?
TravelPony strives to have the lower prices on great hotels compared to the other larger hotel websites. By saving money in advertising and marketing, they are able to pass on those savings to consumers which can be as high as 60% or even 70%! When searching for hotels, TravelPony will actually show you the current prices of other hotel booking websites such as Expedia and hotels.com so you can compare it to the TravelPony price. This all sounds really great, right? But how does it really work when you need a hotel in X town for X date, are these savings really consistent? Let’s find out!
So I randomly chose five U.S. cities (Nashville, Albuquerque, Salt Lake City, Myrtle Beach, and New York City) and three international cities (Rio de Janeiro, Cancun, & Paris) to test out the TravelPony cost savings. After selecting each city, I randomly chose a date and entered a stay for 1 room and two adults. Here are the results of those search:
Nashville, Tennessee – Top Savings: 12.1%
Albuquerque, New Mexico – Top Savings: 28.2%
Salt Lake City, Utah – Top Savings: 15.1%
Myrtle Beach, South Carolina – Top Savings: 22.8%
New York, New York – Top Cost Savings: 30.4%
Paris, France – Top Savings: 11.5%
Rio de Janeiro – Top Savings: 1.3%
As you can see in this mock test, the top savings ranged from 1.3% (Rio de Janeiro) to 30.4% (New York City). The average top cost savings across the 8 cities was 17.18%. If we remove Rio de Janeiro since there was only one hotel available, we have an average top cost savings of 19.44%.
A cost savings of almost 20% on average is quite a bit! Of course, as you noticed while the top few hotels for each city may be great deals, you might not book these because of location (Newark hotel when you want to be in downtown NYC), price (wouldn’t we all love to stay at Le Royal Monceau in Paris if we had an extra $1,000), amenities (no pool), etc. However, we noticed that almost every hotel listed on TravelPony is generally cheaper than competitors even if it is only a 2% savings. I also did a little investigation into the prices listed by TravelPony of their competitors and didn’t find any discrepancies larger than a couple of dollars so these seem to be accurate and up-to-date. So I think as far as cost, you are unlikely to find much better deals elsewhere on those hotels that are listed on TravelPony. During our random search, we didn’t find any of the 70% deals out there (we are sure they exist, but my guess is that they are not super common), but we found plenty in the 12% to 30% range which is reason enough for me to keep using TravelPony!
How to Book a Hotel on TravelPony
TravelPony is simple to use. Here is a quick guide that includes screenshots from my own registration and search for a hotel in San Francisco, CA for the night of February 16, 2014.
Step 1: Register on the TravelPony website for a new account
You can not see the hotel prices without first setting up a free TravelPony account. Just click on “Sign Up” and use either your Facebook login information or your name and e-mail to register. It’s quick and easy and you don’t need to include any payment information to search the website. Also if you know someone who is already a member you can automatically earn $35 travel credit off any booking of at least $200! Here is my link if you wish to use it (I earn a $25 credit but only if you make a booking): free $35 travel credit on TravelPony. Once you sign up, you can offer the same deal to your friends and family!
Step 2: Search for Hotels
Just choose your destination city, the dates of your stay, number of rooms, and number of people staying in the room. It is a simple, no frills hotel search engine. You’ll notice that there are only a select number of cities currently listed on TravelPony, but most major travel destinations in the United States are represented and the number of international cities is rapidly growing.
Step 3: Compare and Choose a Hotel
The best cost savings for my search was the Sheraton Fisherman’s Wharf hotel with a 22% savings (over $50!), wow!
I chose the Palace Hotel, not because it was the best deal in terms of cost savings (it was frankly the worst at only 5.0%) but I have always wanted to stay is this beautiful historic hotel. Prior to our stay, we’d actually been here a few times before to walk around, do a free tour, and had afternoon tea in their beautiful dining area. So when I saw it on the list, I just had to choose it. But a more wise person (and one without a complimentary booking credit) might have gone with another one of the deals. As you can see below, among the “Upscale” hotels (there are Standard and Upscale filters) even the hotel ranked as #11 in cost savings is still a 11.3% savings! This is pretty amazing and while “cheap” isn’t a word you can associate with pricey San Francisco lodging, there were lots of great hotel deals in San Francisco on TravelPony when you compare the prices to other hotel booking websites.
Step 4: Book and Share Your Booking on Social Media
Just book the hotel as you would normally on any other hotel booking website. The only difference is that you will be asked to share your stay on one of your social media websites (Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn). You can customize the social media message to say whatever you want before it is sent. If you do not have any of the listed social media accounts, or would rather not share a message, you can bypass this by clicking on the “Pony Promise” stating you’ll tell a friend about TravelPony. In addition to supporting TravelPony, there are financial incentives for encouraging your family and friends to join. As I mentioned earlier, by referring your friends, you can give them $35 in new user credit for free and you’ll earn $25 when they make their first booking!
Strengths & Weaknesses of Using TravelPony to Book Hotels
The Strengths of TravelPony
I think the main reason for using TravelPony is to save money. The cost savings for some of the hotels is quite amazing when compared to the prices offered for the same hotel on the same night at other major hotel websites such as Travelocity, Orbitz, Expedia, hotels.com, etc. The other major strength of TravelPony is the simplicity of their website and booking system. Signing up, searching for a hotel, booking, and managing your account are all quite easy. I also had a very good experience testing their customer service and received e-mail responses back within a business day and was able to connect with a representative on their online chat within a couple of minutes. Finally, the fact that you can earn account credits for referring friends and family (and get them free credit) is great and a good way for the company to encourage people to talk about this new website.
The Weaknesses of TravelPony
As great as some of the savings may be, TravelPony is not without its flaws. I think the major drawback of TravelPony is that you can’t use it for all destinations. For example, in our test only one hotel was available for the selected date in Rio de Janeiro. TravelPony is a young company and they currently only have hotel partners in a select number of cities. Similarly, they have a limited number of hotel offerings in each city and a limited number of rooms offered for certain hotels. However, they are expanding at a rapid pace and have now included most major cities in the United States and are quickly expanding their international locations. The second drawback is that you can not currently do advanced hotel searches if you are looking for a hotel with certain amenities (e.g., airport shuttle, swimming pool, pet friendly, Internet); however you can view the amenities offered by each hotel when viewing the hotel description and can filter the search by “Standard” and “Upscale” hotels. I have a feeling that both of these drawbacks will naturally be taken care of as the company grows.
Overall Evaluation of TravelPony
After doing my own test and then booking a hotel for real, I can honestly say that I would highly recommend TravelPony to someone looking to book a hotel online. I found that there will almost always be at least a small cost savings when you book any of their listed hotels, but for some hotels the cost savings are truly amazing! While the locations and number of hotels is currently more limited than the big hotel websites, I would recommend this as a first stop in your hotel search. Then if the destination you are looking for isn’t there yet or you are looking for a specific hotel not on the list, move on to another website but it is good to at least check here first given the potential cost savings. I also really like TravelPony’s business model. They save money on marketing and then pass that savings onto the consumer by being able to provide lower prices on the hotel rooms. I have no problem sending out a Facebook message or tweet to my friends in return for great cost savings on a hotel!
Our Stay at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco
Finally, a few pictures from our wonderful stay at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, CA compliments of TravelPony. This was our belated Valentine’s Day treat. If you want to read more about the Palace hotel, you can also check out our post about having afternoon tea in the Garden Court. We had a fairly standard room, but the property itself is just beautiful and filled with history. Quick tip: If booking a room here, ask for a room away from the swimming pool area as the smell of chlorine is fairly strong in that area.
What do you think about booking a hotel with TravelPony? Have you used it or do you plan to try it out in the future?
**Disclaimer: We were given account credit for one complimentary hotel booking in order to test and review the website; however, this article contains only our own honest thoughts and opinions. We did not receive any compensation for the writing of this post, do not work for TravelPony, and receive no commission for any bookings or clicks on any links in this post (other than the $25 credit for any hotel bookings made using my account link; however this is available to all registered users of TravelPony!).**