So far I have introduced you to three of the four main ways to book travel online.
- The Travel Search Engine. Read that introduction here.
- The Online Travel Agent. Read that introduction here.
- The Opaque Booking Site. Read that introduction here.
The fourth way, of course, is to book your travel from a specific brand. For example, if you wanted to buy airplane tickets on American Airlines you would go to www.aa.com. If you wanted to book a hotel at a Crowne Plaza you could go to either www.crowneplaza.com or http://www.ichotelsgroup.com/h/d/cp/1/en/home.
Photo by Yodel Anecdotal
What are the advantages of going directly to a brand-specific website?
- No booking fees. When you book directly with an organization they will not charge you any fees. Typically, online travel agents will charge a fee. However, at the time of this writing most have suspended those fees.
- Bonuses. Many brands offer you a bonus for booking directly with them. For example, Northwest/Delta is offering 500 bonus miles if you book air travel from either www.nwa.com or www.delta.com.
- Cut out the middle man. At times a booking agency might misrepresent what a hotel is offering. When you visit the exact site you can get a more accurate introduction to what the facility has to offer.
- Some brands do not utilize travel search engines, online travel agents, or opaque sites. The best known example is Southwest Airlines which requires you to make bookings directly with them at www.southwest.com.
- A possible advantage is that many hotel brands have best rate guarantees. This means if you find a better published rate they will refund either difference, double the difference, the difference plus a $50 card, depending on the brand. I need to say that from what I read (and am currently experiencing with www.hilton.com), these guarantees are not all one might expect.
What are the disadvantages of a brand-specific website?
- The biggest disadvantage is that they are so specific you are likely to miss out on good deals with other brands. With that said, if you check out some other sites first and determine they have the best price, then by all means proceed directly to the brand’s site.
- Organization. If you travel often it is nice to have a site that manages all your bookings – air, hotel, and car. If you book through an online travel agent all your vacation information will be stored together.
All in all, using a brand specific website is a good idea as long as you have confirmed they have the best available price through the other mediums mentioned at the start of this post.