Any special request or difficulty with your reservation will go better if you book direct rather than through a third party website.
“There ain’t nothing you can’t do better online’’ is the way some modern people think, if not speak. That’s especially true for young people brought up to believe the Internet is the answer to every question.
However, when it comes to making travel plans, the Internet stands in the way of standard business practices and the advantage of human contact. Don’t let it do that to your trip.
In a story written by Karina Martinez-Carter for USA Today’s Travel section, there are six reasons why it is better to book hotel stays with the hotel directly rather than use the travel websites like Expedia, Orbitz, hotels.com or Kayak, just to name a few of the dozens that are available. In many cases, human contact can get you either a reduced rate or better service.
Accountability: Have you ever booked a room with a third-party website only to find out the accommodations don’t match your desire? The hotel can point to the booking agent to explain away the problem. That cannot happen if the reservation is made with the hotel itself, or through the hotel chain’s booking service.
Price matching: Hotels want your business beyond the price of the room, and getting you into the room is the first step. So they will match whatever price you can conjure up on third-party booking sites if you can prove you found a cheaper room rate, which is not difficult to do, even over the phone. Marriott promises to match any price with a guarantee, and also offers a discount in many cases.
Room choice: Here is where human contact is key. Travel sites offer some, but not all, possible room arrangements, and are severely limited in offering rooms on the same floor, or connecting rooms (which families often find desirable). Also, hotels keep their best rooms for themselves and offer the lesser rate rooms to the third party sites. The hotel will gladly give you that tiny room you booked on the third party site, but aren’t likely to do so if you booked through it directly.
Flexibility: With some third party deals, flexibility is non-existent. You make your reservation, you pay that price for the night you originally wanted, and if you need to change anything related to your stay, it is either complicated or impossible. Hotel booking agents are trained to handle such requests.
Service and perks: Operating on the theory that hotels will give the better rooms to guests who book directly with them, it is certainly believable that the hotel staff knows which rooms those are and handles the guests in those rooms differently. Upgrades are more likely for a guest who booked directly, and very unlikely for a third party service booking. Any call down to the front desk is investigated to see what kind of booking is involved, and service is rendered accordingly. Also, hotels often run specials on room rates and services, including such perks as free breakfast, but do so only on their own websites or through their own agents. Third party reservations are simply getting you a room.
Points: Discounted rooms through third party services often do not allow for acquiring hotel chain reward program points. Likewise, upgrades and bonuses for reward points programs only come into play when the rooms are booked through the hotel directly.
The article suggests using the third party sites as a jumping off point to determine which chain might have the lowest rates for a particular stay. But if you want the stay to be special in any way, it’s best to make a phone call directly to the hotel chain.
Kent McDill is a staff writer for Millionaire Corner. McDill spent 30 years as a sports writer, working for United Press International and the Daily Herald of Arlington Heights, Ill. From 1988-1999, he covered the Chicago Bulls for the Daily Herald, traveling with them every day through the nine-month season. He also covered the Bulls for UPI from 1985-88, and currently covers the team for www.nba.com. He has written two books on the Bulls, including the new title “100 Things Bulls Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die’, published by Triumph Books. In August 2013, his new book “100 Things Bears Fans Should Know And Do Before They Die” gets published.
In 2008, he resigned from the Herald and became a freelance writer. The Herald hired him to write business features and speeches for the Daily Herald Business Conferences and Awards presentations.
McDill also writes a monthly parenting column for the Herald’s Suburban Parent magazine.
McDill is the father of four children, and an active fan of soccer, Jimmy Buffett and all things Disney.