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Booking international hotels on a 3rd party website?

I have never booked a hotel using Expedia or Travelocity 8 months in advance of a trip but the pricing of a few properties in Luzern, Switzerland looks almost too good to be true and these are for superior/deluxe rooms. Have any of you booked hotels using these websites so far in advance? In particular I'm thinking about the Ameron Hotel Flora.

I never buy airfare on 3rd party websites. I haven't used Priceline in about 5 years overseas because hotel pricing is no longer a money saver.

So thoughts on Expedia, Travelocity or other 3rd party websites for booking hotels so far in advance? Advice on which websites to avoid?

Thank you.

Posted by
6148 posts

I don't differentiate between domestic and international bookings since the booking process is essentially the same. I've used Booking.com, Splendia.com, and Expedia in the past (and maybe some others I can't recall right now). I've gotten burned only once using a (shady) site that I didn't vet properly, but that should be no issue with large established third parties. Even that "burn" was quickly remedied by my credit card company, so no major loss except I had to rebook again. I don't think I've booked any hotel room more than 6 months in advance. As with any third party booking, I recommend sending a followup e-mail to the hotel to ensure they have the third party reservation on your behalf and you have a paper trail of what you're getting, exact dates, etc. Third party sites have their own loyalty programs to compete with direct bookings on hotel websites, so watch out - you could get sucked in. They have silly designations like "Genius" on Booking.com or a free night after 10 paid nights on Hotels.com. Sites that have reviews from people who have actually stayed in those properties obviously engender more trust than those that don't.

An unfortunate development I noticed recently is more and more "pay in advance" type arrangements or resort fees piled on top.

Compare across several sites. Sometimes there are price differences, and sometimes not. It depends how much leverage the third party can extract from the hotel in terms of pricing, even for the same type room.

Posted by
20599 posts

Do it all the time, especially Hotel.com and have never had a problem. Just book two night in Haarlum for next month. If the pricing is super cheap then it is probably a non-cancel rate. I generally take the high rate for a room that can be cancelled.

Posted by
2799 posts

I've booked many hotels and B&Bs in France using Booking.com, and never had a problem. And I've never even confirmed any of them with the hotel. I'm sure I've never booked 8 months in advance, but I know I've booked several months out.

Posted by
11677 posts

I see the same price for a deluxe single room at Hotel Flora for 2 nights next April. 152 CHF per night on the hotel website or $159 on Expedia. These are non-refundable, no-cancellation rates which I would not do 8 months in advance.

Posted by
2873 posts

I tend to use Booking.com initially as they show a good variety of small hotels and apartments, and I'm pretty good at understanding the aggregate review scores. That said, if you come across a very well reviewed hotel on Booking.com, it doesn't hurt to try to contact the hotel directly - you might save a few euro, or at least they will. But I appreciate the flexibility and customer service I've experienced with Booking and it's just easy for me to use.

Posted by
1424 posts

I will often book hotels on Orbitz.com, though before doing so I generally check the hotel-direct website. As stated above, they will often offer better pricing or perhaps breakfast included instead of as an additional cost item. On occasion, the convenience of having my bookings in a central site, rather than spread across a variety of hotel websites, can simplify a multi-city trip.

I've never had problems with Orbitz bookings, regardless of timing, though I rarely opt for the cheaper, pre-paid offerings.

Posted by
304 posts

I've only used Booking.com to book hotels in European cities. I've never had a problem. I feel you can trust their reviews because only people who actually stayed there can post a review. I have not booked 8 months in advance, usually no more than about 4 months ahead. I would not book a non-refundable hotel room that far in advance, better to get the one with free cancellation, even if it is a bit more.

Posted by
2704 posts

I research on Booking, but sometimes find prices better on the hotel site. If not, then I have had no issues using that particular 3rd party site.

Posted by
3133 posts

Thank you for sharing your experiences. I am relieved to hear that third-party booking of hotels is reliable.

Expedia seems to offer better rates than Booking.com for Ameron Hotel Flora deluxe room plus these better rates are also 100% refundable which is why I thought about booking 8 months in advance.

Hence, it looks too good to be true.

The hotel caught my eye because besides the excellent location, starting with a deluxe room, it offers a “pillow menu“. I have a bad back condition and having the option of selecting thicker pillows also seems too good to be true!

Posted by
1216 posts

As someone with wonky spinal alignment, I've got to say I've yet to find a hotel pillow menu that seems to keep my neck and spine as happy as my therm-a-rest shredded memory foam travel pillow does.

Posted by
8573 posts

I have stayed at the Ameron Flora---twice. It's a nice hotel five minute walk from the train station and one block to the Chapel Bridge. Very nice breakfast buffet.

Understand the difference in third party bookings. Booking.com is like a travel agent. You book the hotel through their portal and pay the hotel directly. Booking.com then gets a commission from the hotel. If there is a problem or you need to change a booking once at the property, you deal with the property.

Expedia is different. Expedia negotiates prices with hotels. You pay Expedia and Expedia pays the hotel. Technically, Expedia is booking the room, not you. If there is a problem with a booking or need to make a change once you arrive, you have to go through Expedia. The hotel's hands are tied. (They may be willing to intercede but they have to contact Expedia.)

Many hotels have told me that if they are overbooked, the first guests to be "walked" are from websites like Expedia. And since the Ameron Flora gets groups, they may need to bump people for last minute changes to the number of rooms needed for groups. If everything works out, Expedia can save you a lot of money. If not, you will be on the phone with them.

I'm sure people will start arguing that they have used Expedia and never had a problem. I just wanted to let you know there is a difference in using the two websites.

By the way, I booked directly with the hotel and got upgraded to a nicer room because I booked directly.

Posted by
3133 posts

Frank II, thank you for explaining how both Expedia and booking.com work. I thought they were similar third-party websites but clearly that is not the case. I wondered why the pricing was so different. I was willing to pay everything upfront given the free cancellation but from what you say, it doesn’t matter if there are groups and they need the rooms. Now I have to wonder how popular group bookings are in April. So does Expedia put you in a nearby hotel of the same caliber or simply refund the payment? I can’t risk that given how much hotels rooms cost at the last minute. But hotels don’t bump those who reserve via Booking.com?

I guess sending a follow up email confirming the reservation as Agnes recommended would mean little if they need my room for a group?

That is a huge disappointment to me. So since Expedia owns Travelocity, may I assume it’s the same thing? Is Orbitz like Expedia too? I need to know which websites to avoid. Thanks for also letting me know how the hotel is. It indeed looks very nice and the location is terrific.

Selkie, I have only stayed in one property that had a pillow menu and that was a 4* hotel in the Seaport District of Boston by the exhibition center. I unfortunately forget the name because it was 5-10 years years ago. Their pillow selection was fantastic. So for me, when I see that a hotel has a pillow menu, I think it’s a plus especially considering so often when I travel overseas, the pillows are flat. Even the down pillows that look fluffy really don’t have enough feathers in them. One’s head just sinks and you still have to fold over the pillow

Posted by
11704 posts

Sometimes I use them. The negative lodging experiences I've had all seem to be with Booking.com and Hotels.com, so I avoid them as much as possible.

Negative experiences range from getting the worst room in the place to having my booking for a different date than I wanted. I discovered with Booking.com if you search for a date, it will show listings for the date. If you then ask it to search "near" something, the search changes to dates that aren't necessarily the date you wanted. If you're not careful, you end up with the wrong date. I'd chalk it up to just me if a friend didn't have the exact same issue.

Posted by
8573 posts

Continental...hotels rarely walk people but when they do they reward loyalty first. Loyalty is booking directly with the hotel or being a member of their frequent stay program if they have one. Loyalty booker's usually more often get upgrades and better rooms.

You could always contact the hotel directly and see if they will match Expedia rates.

Members of the Expedia Group are:

Expedia

Hotels.com

Trivago

Orbitz

Travelocity

Hotwire

Cheap tickets

Ebookers

VRBO

Carrental.com

Among others

Posted by
3133 posts

Brad, thanks for the heads up.

Frank II, one thing that confuses me is why wouldn’t a hotel also cancel a Booking.com reservation in order to make room for groups?

Posted by
11677 posts

Continental, what rate are you seeing on Expedia? I see comparable rates on Expedia and the Hotel Flora website for the deluxe room, whether a refundable or non- refundable rate. Actually the Hotel Flora rate is a wee bit lower than the rate in dollars quoted by Expedia, looking at today’s exchange rate. But that could vary depending on your credit card fees ( like foreign transaction fees).

If you book on the hotel website you would not have to worry about getting “walked”, according to Frank II.

Posted by
8573 posts

Continental.......once again I will tell you that getting walked is rare.

With Booking.com the hotel pays them a commission. No commission when booking direct with the hotel. The commission is still less than the discount they have to give the Expedias of the world.

I have used Booking.com a few times. I will never use the Expedias.

YMMV

Posted by
671 posts

I compare hotel ratings and reviews on booking.com and TripAdvisor, paying particular attention to both good and bad individual reviews; with the latter, I try to get a sense of whether the negative ones were just personal issues and not really the fault of the hotel. If a hotel is very highly rated on both websites, and has minimal - if any - negative reviews, I then book via the hotel directly. I have NEVER had a bad hotel experience doing it this way for at least 10 European trips, many involving more than one hotel.

Posted by
3133 posts

Lola, the significant money savings I saw with Expedia last night is now gone. Now Expedia is about $16 less for a deluxe double room in total price than the hotel’s price which to me is negligible. The benefit, however, of Expedia is free cancellation until 24 hours before I arrive. Now I’m questioning all of Expedia’s third-party websites given what Frank II wrote above.

One thing that bothers me about Booking.com is that it adds what it calls a “destination fee“ of CHF2.10 per night. What exactly is that? I don’t see the hotel or Expedia charging that so-called destination fee so I’m wondering if that is an extra money grab.

Posted by
6148 posts

This is not worth all this hand-wringing, it's just a hotel room. Seriously, the risk of something horrible happening is so small it's not worth worrying over. I've booked some 30+ times with some third party, mostly Booking.com, and didn't have any issues. That doesn't mean someone won't, but it's a risk/reward tradeoff. There are many ways to lower your risk like getting a paper trail with the hotel that you're confirmed. For really risk averse folks, I wouldn't recommend using third parties because doing so seems to produce more anxiety than the cost savings.

One thing that bothers me about Booking.com is that it adds what it
calls a “destination fee“ of CHF2.10 per night. What exactly is that?

It's either the City tax OR those "resort fees" I was talking about (https://www.wsj.com/articles/booking-com-takes-a-slice-of-hotels-lucrative-resort-fees-11561460400). The lodging establishments are adding them to their base rates to try to pad their profit and escape the third party commissions they've agreed to (on that resort fee amount as well as the base rate), mistakenly thinking that third parties like Booking.com would not fight to extend their commission on the "total" cost of the room. It's a silly game and hopefully it will go away, but only if the public reacts negatively to those fees. The hotels have a love-hate relationships with the third parties and they're constantly trying to fight with them over the commission pie. But they signed a contract with them willingly to get exposure and unload unsold inventory which would sit empty otherwise. So they can't have it both ways. Each party wants to keep more in profit for themselves.

Posted by
11677 posts

Odd. Apparently you are seeing different pricing on Expedia than I am. The prices I see for any category are virtually the same between Expedia and the official hotel site.

Or perhaps the difference is with the Hotel Flora website? I am using it in German with prices listed in CHF. I see you are giving a price in $ for that site too.

Posted by
12091 posts

I only use one, ie booking.com when I resort to using a 3rd party instead of booking directly using the hotel website or calling up the hotel on the phone, the old fashion way.

I've used booking.com for bookings in London, Germany, Paris, Vienna. If I don't get the info I want, then I call up the hotel itself and reserve over the phone. Never had a problem with booking.com and the credit card, the transaction always went through

The others, Trip Advisor, Expedia, Travelocity, and so on I never use and would not either.

Posted by
3133 posts

Lola, the hotel website allows you to choose which currency and I verified yesterday or the day before that the exchange rate they use in real time is nearly the exact exchange rate I found in XE.com. So that’s why I put the amount in USD.

Agnes, only booking.com had the “destination fee“ added in addition to the base rate. Maybe I am overly concerned but as I look at the currency chart for the last 10 years, the USD seems on the strong side now which is why I am thinking about booking a hotel this early especially one with a great location and one in which I have some control over the pillows. With my back disability, what seems like a small thing like pillows is really a major one for me.

Fred, when you use Booking.com, do you pick the higher rate to allow yourself free cancellation protection?

Posted by
6148 posts

Just for kicks, I'll give you a concrete example. NYC lodgings have ramped up their resort fees in hotels that didn't used to have them, and both Expedia and Booking will show them (as well as the hotel's own website). Look up either Pod 39 or Pod 51 using either booking engine (places I've stayed at before they put in resort fees) and you'll see a small line item that references the separate fee. It's the lodging places that set these fees, and the third parties just pass them on (and attempt to make money on them as well). When booking direct, those two particular hotels call them "facility fees". For all intents and purposes, they are the same thing.

The bottom line is which booking channel will give you the lowest total cost, inclusive of everything (taxes, fees, etc). All other things being equal, I'll avoid hotels with separate resort fees unless it's a true resort (not simply a nice hotel), the fee is some kind of "value added", and/or the total cost is still less than the alternatives.

Posted by
595 posts

I usually use Booking.com and recommend it. Only people who have stayed at the hotels can write a review. I NEVER use 3rd party sights which want payment through them. I always pay the hotel directly. However, keep in mind a few things about 3rd party sights. Some hotel owners will give you the "less favored room" if it comes through a third party. Prices may be cheaper on the hotel's own website.

Posted by
3133 posts

OK, this is definitely a TGIF moment and I am laughing hysterically! Agnes, I know Pod 51 because it is in my neighborhood and I have recommended it to many of my friends from Germany who are teachers when they visit. Their budgets are tight.

If Pod 51 is a resort, then IHOP is Michelin 3* dining.

Threadware, I see what you’re saying about room choices. Thank you.

Posted by
6148 posts

"Resort fee" is just a marketing/ signaling label and a way that the hotels try to eke out more profit for themselves (and cover their costs) and try to shield it from third parties, which don't want to play that game (Booking.com in particular).

From the WSJ article:
"Resort and urban fees matter more than ever to hotel owners. About 70 percent of full-service hotels in New York City aren’t generating sufficient cash flow to fund reserves for capital replacement, debt service and return on investment, according to Bjorn Hanson, an adjunct professor at New York University’s Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality."

Posted by
3133 posts

I’ll check out the WSJ article. Thank you, Agnes.

Lola, I just received an Expedia email telling me of lower prices at the Ameron Hotel Flora. For the dates I am considering which are April 16-22, the deluxe superior room is now being offered at $809.70 not including city/local tax of CHF26.40. The Ameron website offers the same room type for $885.36 plus the same tax. That is a bit of a difference especially with free cancellation. I don’t know if April is a popular month for group bookings. If it is, then I take a risk of booking with Expedia.

Posted by
12091 posts

@ Continental...If the Mrs and I are traveling together in Europe or the US, outside of Calif., she picks the rate with the cancellation protection. She insists on it. When I travel solo in England and Germany and if I use booking.com to reserve, then I pick the cheapest rate possible, the non-refundable rate.

Posted by
66 posts

I used Booking.com for hotels in Bern, Lucerne, Lauterbrunnen, Innsbruck, and Reykjavik for a three-week trip in June of 2018. I booked them in January of 2018. No issues whatsoever!

Posted by
3133 posts

I still haven’t booked my hotel for 6 nights in Luzern. I really want to use Expedia because of the 100% cancellation up until 1-2 days before arrival. I do understand that Expedia books the room as a third-party vendor. I have used Priceline and Hotwire and I believe they are similar 3rd party vendors as Expedia. I have never had a reservation canceled using a third-party vendor, Booking.com or booking the hotel directly.

Yet I am concerned about what Frank II said upthread that if the hotel I want is booked with a tour group or more, will they cancel the reservation made via Expedia last minute in order to get an extra room needed for a tour group?

Posted by
5288 posts

Regarding hotel cancellations to make room for a tour or group -- that is a chance you also take holding a reservation on an airline flight if a passenger with elite status wants to fly on that flight.
I have used both Booking.com and Hotels.com for fully-cancellable rooms many times, no problems. As others have said, having all booked reservations on one site simplifies planning.

Through January there is a special promotion (10x points) for bookings made through the site Hotels.com/venture and paid at booking with the CapitalOne Venture card -- still cancellable, money to be credited back to the card. I make sure prices are equivalent to Booking.com before hit the "pay now" button.
(Will report after the trip how this all worked out.)
EDIT - I cancelled two hotels because of problems associated with the French strike -- amounts were credited to my Venture card the next day. Booked replacement lodgings on the same site. All places were excellent.

Posted by
3133 posts

Whoa....I have never had that problem with an airline. I make 3-4 business trips per month and on the airlines I fly in which I don't have elite status, I have NEVER lost my seat because someone did had elite status. I also ONLY book directly with the airline app or website.

I do not know of Delta, where I have elite status, removing someone to put ME up front on a flight for example.

Posted by
11704 posts

I stopped using Booking.com and Hotels.com because, out of dozens of bookings, they were the ones where I had repeated problems. I've never had an issue with Expedia or Orbit (or a bunch of others). My European friends rely on TripAdvisor for last minute bookings, so I've started following suit. TripAdvisor pushes you to various booking websites or the hotel's direct sight. I try to use the hotel's direct sight as often possible and, now, ignore any room that would send me to Booking.com or Hotels.com.

Posted by
3133 posts

Thanks Brad. The hotel wants more money (not a lot) but those rates are nonrefundable. That's the problem.

Posted by
11502 posts

Loyal booking.com customer here. Have yet to have an issue, not that it couldn't happen.

Posted by
3133 posts

Update.

Yesterday, I booked with Expedia for the Ameron Luzern Hotel Flora. Probably because I waited I did not get the larger room I wanted as it was no longer available but I did get the Single "deluxe" room for what was probably the same price as the larger room. We actually used Expedia for a long weekend in Boston Thanksgiving weekend and that worked out fine. So I'm hoping things will be fine when I arrive in a few months.

In the confirmation on the Expedia app, it gave me the opportunity to message the hotel which I did to request extra pillows because of my spinal disability. Since Expedia is the one making the reservation, I'm not sure if they'll even know who I am this soon. So I'll email them later directly.

Anyway, thanks for the assistance. I'm very much looking forward to my visit to Switzerland!

Connie

I always use those sites to find a hotel I like. Once found, I will check online bookings sites and the hotel's website and compare the prices and conditions of those prices.
I never book that far ahead if there is no cancellation possible. Cause you never know what will happen.

Posted by
7641 posts

For Europe, I use www.hrs.com though I have used booking.com on occasion. I prefer booking directly if possible, though there are hotels where this is not possible.

Posted by
3357 posts

I’ve booked several hotels through Expedia and now use both Booking.com and occasionally Expedia. If it’s a smaller hotel, I try to go to their website and book directly, so they’re not losing money. Most of my reservations are made 7-9 months ahead.

I’ve never had an issue with a missing reservation, etc. but I have had a couple of hotels (over 10 years & multiple hotels per trip) in both Europe and US where they tried to have me pay again at checkout for a prepaid room. (It happened again last September in Paris.). I always bring my credit card statements with me with hotels paid highlighted as proof.

Posted by
3133 posts

That is a good idea, Jean. I will. I booked with Expedia as it offered cancellation with a full refund up until 48 hours before arrival. The hotel didn’t offer a free cancellation option and its pricing for the same room type was more expensive.

Posted by
28 posts

I've used Booking.com for a month of traveling in Australia and never had a problem. Like you would anywhere, I cross reference the feedback on multiple sites including the hotel's own site. I typically book the free cancellation option since anything can change. However, some hotels will limit how soon you can cancel, e.g. 2 weeks before, etc. We rerouted ourselves at the end of our Australian trip and ended up eating one night's fee at a hotel but we knew this would happen with our decision. For local trips booked through booking, I always put the cancellation date on my calendar just to double-check myself that we are still going on the trip.

Posted by
112 posts

I have used Booking.com for several European trips and have never had a problem. Their prices do seem to be comparable to booking direct with the hotel. I often book around 6 months in advance. I like the convenience of having all my bookings stored together and the site does generate a guide for each destination if you want ideas about what to do and where to eat. I have also booked using my airline (Qantas) frequent flyer partner hotels. This did seem slightly dearer but let me use my reward points.

I have also used Expedia and TripAdvisor in the past for European cities but prefer how booking.com organises my bookings. For my upcoming trip I made several special requests and each time got a response direct from the hotel within 24 hours.

Posted by
910 posts

I've used Booking.com and the hotel websites and haven't had issues though I only book refundable reservations.

Had friends who've had bad Expedia experiences when things go wrong so I tend to stay away. YVMV

Posted by
1510 posts

We almost exclusively use booking.com (95%) Since we live in Italy, we have done more traveling here in the last 18 months than the average person. If I’m not finding what I’m looking for in terms of location, price, availability and dates, I look elsewhere (Expedia, city lodging websites, Bed and Breakfast Italy app, or direct with hotel.)

Since Oct 2018, we stayed at 36 booking.com properties and currently have another 26 reserved. (Excludes the dozen or so cancellations.)

Here’s why I prefer booking.com:
1. Pictures are accurate. If there aren’t enough to get full idea, I skip (Expedia pictures are kind of cloudy, making it look like they are hiding something. Have only booked 1 hotel on Expedia
2. We always book free cancellation unless we are within a few days to a week, then if non refundable is cheaper, might book that.
3. Easy to modify reservation with new dates, and/or room type. Booking let’s you know if you are double booking and give you option of canceling the previous reservation.
4. Never had a problem with a cancelled room not getting cancelled
5. All reservations in one spot.
6. Easy to communicate with property in the message app. Since we have our dog, I always message to confirm they allow pets, and if there is a charge
7. Filters - you can add multiple filters to tighten up your search (pet friendly, price, review rating, etc.)
8. Use the map to look at properties in a specific location. Just found an apartment in Split this way.
9. Reviews are by actual guests. If you start seeing the same complaint that is objectionable, move on.
10. You can save a property to a list for a specific town. So as you are finding possibilities, you can later go back look again, then select. Yesterday I had a dozen favorites for Budapest and decided on the best price with good location (based on Rick Steves advice), balcony. AC, and washing machine.
11. If a property is booked, the app gives you suggestions for available dates.
12. Immediate info on availability. No waiting for email response from a property (that may or may not be responded to)
13. Booking price is inclusive for your stay including taxes, cleaning, etc. Might be misleading to compare to another site like Expedia. Booking might say apartment is €340 for 3 night stay. Expedia might advertise same for €90 a night, but in the fine print or final reservation you find out there is a €10/night tax and €40 per stay cleaning fee. So the same as booking.
14. Only on a couple instances were we asked for a deposit, and able to negotiate out if it, explain GLNG that we are 60ish and would treat apartment like our home.
15. Last, I like the fact that apartments listed are vacation rental businesses, not someone’s home that they are renting out. I’ve never booked on AirBnB.
16. In our 60+ reservations (stayed, cancelled, or booked) have never had one issue with communication, entry into apartment, bait and switch, cleanliness etc, etc.), charged wrong amount, or double charged. One apartment had a water leak in the bathroom and musty smell, and we were moved to an alternative larger apartment on the same floor first thing in the morning.

Posted by
3133 posts

Thanks for sharing. In 2019, I booked domestic hotels for personal trips using both Expedia & Booking. Had no problem with either. I don’t have multiple hotels on this upcoming trip.

I chose Expedia to book for my trip to Switzerland in three months.

Posted by
10909 posts

Frank II, thanks for the explanation. Generally speaking I haven't found a great deal of difference between the hotel website and Expedia or Bookings and I figure the hotel might like me a little more so I book through the hotel 90% of the time. I also noticed that Expedia often shows sold out when the hotel still has rooms. I guess they allocate so many to the Expedia types and keep the rest for themselves.

I just checked the rates on two places in Budapest that I know very well, they are a tiny bit more expensive on Bookings.com vs the official website.

I will keep doing what I do. First I figure out where in town is best to stay. For me its all about location. I want to walk out the door and be in the middle of it. What ever "it" is. I dont want the 20 minute metro ride to save 10 euro/night.

Then I go to Google Maps, Orbitz, Expedia and Booking to see what pops up in the area I am interested in for the dates I have. I always choose to show me booked hotels too. I pick out maybe 4 or 5 that look interesting and go to their websites. Like I said, I think only a few times has anything been more than a few dollars cheaper than the official website. That may have something to do with the type of hotel I like or how far in advance I book or ???? Dont know. Just works that way.