While the decision to hit the road and get out of town may be easy, planning on how to get there and where you’ll stay when you arrive can be anything but simple. From trying to get a good deal on flights to making sure you’re not overpaying for a place to stay, there are plenty of things that can go wrong while making arrangements for your trip. Fortunately, the internet has made it easy to research and book travel options in a few simple clicks. But if you’re planning on hitting the road soon, experts warn that there’s one website you should never use to book a hotel room. Read on to see what you should avoid when you’re looking for lodging.
No matter what type of traveler you are, everyone loves the convenience that comes with making travel arrangements online—especially if it looks like you can save some serious money. Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) such as Expedia, Orbitz, and priceline.com have capitalized on the convenience of organizing everything from flights to car rentals in one place. As a result, they now make up about 40 percent of the travel market, according to research from the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA).
But even though they may seem convenient, experts warn that you should never use these third-party sites to book a hotel room if you want to ensure you’ll have the best stay. That’s because OTAs typically charge hotels a commission fee of 15 to 30 percent for any reservations made through their site, which can put your reservation lower on the priority list when it comes to getting a desirable room.
“A lot of hotels punish people for booking through third-party sites,” Shane Lambert, a former hotel manager, said in a post on a Quora forum. “They don’t like paying the commission and would rather you booked with the hotel directly. The consequence is that you get the worst room within the room category you book a lot of the time.”
Even if you’re not overly concerned with top-of-the-line amenities or a spectacular view, it can still be safer to book a room directly with a hotel than through a third-party site. Since booking receptionists and managers often use separate emails or tracking systems to coordinate incoming reservations from OTAs, it’s more likely that your booking could get lost in the shuffle—or placed at the very bottom of the priority list in a flood of new reservations, according to Frommer’s. This can be especially true if you’re booking accommodations for a large event such as a festival or sporting event that’s bringing large crowds to a specific city or area.
While OTAs might make it easier than ever to book yourself a hotel room, they can also make it much harder to get rid of them if your plans change. Experts warn that rooms booked with third-party sites are often severely restricted when it comes to modifying the dates or requesting a refund for a canceled trip—which can be incredibly daunting in the era of COVID-related travel snafus. On the other hand, reserving a room directly with a hotel typically subjects you to more lenient policies as many properties won’t charge you a deposit until you check in for your stay.
Just because you’re looking to save some money by booking through a third-party discount site doesn’t mean you can’t take advantage of a good deal. Experts say that most hotel chains will often match or even beat rates advertised on OTAs—and will even sometimes offer extra perks such as complimentary breakfast or WiFi by choosing to book directly. If you’re curious about whether a lower rate will be honored, try calling the hotel and asking if they offer any rate matching deals or discounts for direct bookings.