Which is better: booking via travel sites or hotel websites?

While booking online makes planning trips easier, the many options offered can also make it daunting. We compare for you which is better: booking via an online travel agency or directly through hotel websites.

Which is better: booking via travel sites or hotel websites?

When planning your travels, price, location and quality of service are prime considerations. While the Internet has helped ease this process, booking accommodations online can still be overwhelming and confusing.

Should you use an online travel agency (OTA) website? Or go directly through the hotel's website? We'll explain which is your better option and why one may be more suited for you than the other.

Booking your hotel with an online travel agency

There are several reputable online travel agency websites that you can use. A quick Internet search will turn up more than one good option for you to select.

Benefits:

  • Online travel agencies often feature guest reviews of the hotels in their listings. Most sites will also include pictures and list the nearby attractions and food options.
  • An online agent rarely asks for a deposit up front. Usually it just asks for a credit card to hold the reservation—nothing is charged until you reach the hotel.
  • Online travel agencies also offer exclusive deals found nowhere else, especially when you pair your hotel with tickets for local attractions, a rental vehicle, and/or plane tickets.

Risks:

  • Some guests have experienced arriving at a hotel and finding out that their room is not actually available or reserved.
  • Because you booked with a third-party agency, you may have to address your customer service issues to that third party—not directly with the hotel.
  • Online travel agencies often have complex booking mechanisms that will increase or decrease hotel prices based on your online activity—and even the time of day you’re booking.

Booking directly through a hotel's website

All of the larger hotel chains have websites you can visit for pricing, availability and booking information. What are the benefits and risks of making arrangements directly with them?

Benefits:

  • Contacting a hotel directly to book your room will ensure that room availability is up-to-date.
  • Most hotels will match (or even beat) prices listed on an online travel agency website.
  • Often, if you book with a hotel directly, they will give you additional secret perks they don’t list online, such as discounts or room upgrades.
  • You can always phone the hotel if you have other concerns. The person helping you will often be able to answer questions about nearby attractions and restaurants more accurately than an online agency.
  • Customer service will be handled directly by the hotel, reducing many possible conflicts.

Risks:

  • If you’re looking for last minute hotel arrangements during a busy travel season, hotels may not have great availability.
  • Some hotels require that you pay a deposit to reserve a room.
  • Most "package" discounts—like rental vehicles, attraction tickets and plane tickets—are not something that a hotel offers.
  • Unless you research your hotel ahead of time, it's questionable if website reviews about the hotel and service are genuine.

Whether you book through and online travel agency, or directly with the hotel, always remember to comparison shop first! If you don't feel comfortable with the person or online agency you're dealing with, trust your instincts. Happy travels!

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