Do you think it is better to book hotel rooms In Italy directly with the hotel website? Is there any advantage or disadvantage to booking through sites such as Expedia and Hotels.com?
My only consideration is the cost. Sometimes if I deal directly with the hotel I get a better rate. I'm not a fan of expedia because the first price doesn't include taxes. The total room cost only shows up several screens later. With the other sites, booking.com, venere.com hotels.com, etc. you see the total price right away. Also, sometimes one of the booking agents will have availability when the others don't, sometimes the hotel will have rooms when none of the agents do.
I've only ever used a 3rd party booking site once and it was a nightmare. With a 3rd party you may be unable to resolve any issues directly with the hotel, and often times you prepay, so if you don't like the hotel when you arrive, you don't have immediate recourse without calling the 3rd party. The one time we booked through hotels.com, I called the hotel a week before our arrival to let them know we would not arrive until midnight and to mark our reservation as a late arrival. They had no record of the reservation and then discovered it had been cancelled by hotels.com. After being on hold for 30 minutes with Hotels.com, they said they saw that they had cancelled the reservation but didn't know why. Finally straighted that out, and called hotel back to note late arrival. When we arrived at the hotel, there was only 1 room left and it was a smoking room. Since at that point it was 1 am, if we found another hotel, I doubt that we would have gotten a refund for the 4 nights from hotels.com. Room was absolutely disgusting and smelly, and not clean. After about 4 calls to the front desk the following morning, we were moved to another room that was acceptable. by the way, this was in the US, not Europe. Since then i ALWAYS book directly with the hotel, either in person or on their website. It not a national chain, I follow up with an email.
I've booked plenty of hotels with 3rd party sites and never had a problem. I've booked with Yeego, Alpharooms, Hotwire and everything has always been perfect. Not saying you'll never have a problem because screwups happen everywhere. There's one particular hotel in Paris that we really like, and I've rented 3 rooms on different occasions ALL from Yeego. The price was substantially less AND the breakfast was included as opposed to 10 Euro per breakfast that the hotel charged.
Thank you all for your helpful advice. So far, I've booked directly with the hotels. Great to get input from other travelers.
I usually book directly , but have used booking sites, had a problem with one hotel in Amsterdam and it was major hassle to deal with through third party. I prefer booking directly, but will check for deals through booking sites.
Julie, I use booking.com to research cities for hotel options (there are maps, descriptions, total price listings, reviews from guests who've recently stayed there). I also book new hotels through them. Once I stay at a hotel and know I want to return there, I book it directly. My experience with booking.com has been great, and on the two occasions that could have been a nightmare, the fact that the room was booked through booking.com seemed to make a difference at the front desk (on both occasions the hotels were overbooked and I was upgraded - and in one case escorted by the hotel - to another property). Chani is right, sometimes the booking service has blocks of rooms that aren't available directly, and sometimes the opposite is true. I travel for months at a time, and make approximately 25 reservations for each trip, so booking.com saves a lot of time for me.
Booking directly with a hotel has some advantages. You get a sense of the type of personnel you will deal with. Hotels can make reservations for you. My hotel in Florence arranged all my museum and other sites for the days and times I wanted. You can check to see whether they honor discounts for cash, having the RS guide book, and you may specify room preferences.
Robert is right about having contact with personnel, but in the past couple of years I've found that many hotels/B&Bs that I reserve through booking.com also send me an email directly, offering help with directions, etc. They would probably be happy to help with reservations, too.
Julie, I've worked as a manager in hotels for many years and I would strongly encourage you to book directly with the hotel whenever possible. From a hotel operator's perspective, they pay a substantial percentage of the rate you pay to Expedia, significantly more than even the commission paid to a travel agent. At the same times, most hotels can't afford not to be listed on Expedia because as you can see from all the responses you have most people search for a hotel through a 3rd party website and Expedia is one of the biggies ... if you aren't listed there, you are missing out on a lot of business. Most hotels are very conscious about what their rates are listed at on 3rd party websites and it is very rare these days to find a better rate on a website like Expedia than you would find at the hotel. In fact, most hotels don't list all their rates on Expedia so if you contact the hotel directly, they will often have better rates or specials available. From a hotel guest's perspective, the only disadvantage I am aware if is that when you book through a 3rd party website like Expedia the hotel will not be able to issue a refund or rate change for you if there is a problem or you change your reservation at the hotel. If you have any changes or rate problems you will have to contact Expedia. It is unlikely that you will find any other difference in the level of service you receive from the hotel no matter which way you book. So, I always encourage people to contact the hotel directly because they are most likely going to get the same or a better rate and the hotel benefits from not having to pay a hefty percentage of the fee to the 3rd party website. I hope this helps answer your question.
Wow! Thanks for all the great tips. I appreciate everyone's help.
Often, after I have book through an agent, I send an email to the hotel with a request - non-smoking, double bed, etc. Aside from any special request I may have, the hotel's response assures me that they have my reservation.
Just to add my two cents. Just today in the business section of our local newspaper they had an article about saving money on travel. One of the most important items was booking directly with the hotel to save money, get a better room (the 3rd party sites block the worst rooms to save money), and if you need to cancel, it's much easier dealing directly with the hotel than through a 3rd party. Most everyone agrees so far, it's better to book directly...
I always book direct with the hotel/aparttment. As mentioned above you get a feel for the people you will be dealing with when you arrive. Also the hotel or apartment owner has to pay a fee to the booking agent if you go that route. They are much happier if you book direct with them and exclude the agent. A good example was when we staying in Varenna last August at the Eremo Gaudio. We booked direct with them and were offered a 5% discount if we paid in cash when we checked out. They do not offer that if you go through an agency. Really helps to be on a more personal level with the ownner/manager when it comes to altering your reservation as well if the need arises..
Count me in under the column of "book directly with the hotel"
I find it's easier to get information, and more efficient if you are delayed in travel and have to notify them of a late check in, if they have had direct contact with you before.
My husband and I always book directly with the hotel, both in the U.S. and abroad. If it is any American chain, you can call directly to their 800 number. I know when we stayed at the Le Littre Hotel, in Paris, we were able to book a specific room. They offered just one special room, with a complete view of the Eiffel Tower. We could only book that room by going directly through the hotel. I booked it on-line through their website. Many times, the hotels offer better rates (and upgraded rooms) than the travel sites do anyway. Plus you have the option of getting a full refund. As others have mentioned, with travel sites, you don't always get to change the reservation or get a refund. Elaine