To Reserve or Not to Reserve – Booking with Online Services vs. Hotel Websites

As you’ve seen, HostelTraveler.com has been raising some controversial questions and issues in the online world of travel. Here’s some more food for thought:

When booking your trip online, is it better to make your reservation on a hotel’s own website, or on an service that deals with many hotels and destinations?

While we would never tell you NOT to book on your chosen hotel’s website (we avidly support small-busines), why not consider what you’re signing up for before you make your choice. When you book online, you will likely be making a payment in advance, or committing to a payment. If you are using an individual hotel’s website, your are committing to making payment to the hotel. the terms and conditions of payment and cancellation will be displayed before you book. Let’s say you have to cancel prior to arrival for any reason. You are now bound by the cancellation terms you agreed to when you confirmed your reservation. This likely means you owe some cancellation payment to the hotel. Or, if you receive a credit, you will only be able to use the credit if you travel to the given hotel in the given city at a later date. If your plans are permanently altered, you lose this value.

Now let’s say you made your reservation on an online booking service that guarantees your reservation at your chosen hotel. While payments conditions are usually be defined between yourself and the hotel, the booking service is experienced in dealing with cancellations. If you have to cancel, you may be offered a credit or value towards another booking in the future. With the online booking service, this credit can be applied to a booking anywhere you decide to travel in the future. You are not tied to a payment at the original hotel, which if you cancelled your plans, you may never visit again.

Of course there are other benefits to using the online booking service. They can better deal with language differences, and in the event of disputes with your hotel, will often assist in mediating.

So, next time you plan on booking your travel online, consider the benefits of booking with individual hotels yourself, or using a reputable online reservation service like HostelTraveler.com.