16th Jun 2017

Travel SOS: do I save money by booking directly?

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Travel SOS: do I save money by booking directly?
Leon Della Bosca

 

Jackie wants to know if she’ll save money by booking her flights and accommodation directly, rather than through a third-party website, such as Hotels.com, Expedia or Webjet. In today’s Travel SOS, Leon guides her towards the best savings.


Q. Jackie
I’m in the process of booking a holiday to the States, and I was wondering if I’m better off booking everything directly with the hotels and airlines, or if I’ll save more money by booking through a third-party website, such as Expedia or Webjet?



 

A. Jackie, because you’re booking a trip to the States, you may well save money by booking your accommodation directly from the hotel’s website, depending of course, on the hotel.

 

Typically, third-party booking sites – or online travel agencies – such as Flight Centre, Webjet and Expedia, buy flights and rooms in bulk at a low rate, then resell them to you at a competitive rate. Because these third-parties have such buying power, they can often give you a better price than buying straight from the hotel or airline.

 

However, when booking through massive hotel chains, such as Hilton, Hyatt or Intercontinental Group, you can often get accommodation for much less than through a third-party site. In the US, a lot of hotels are owned by larger chains, so you’ll be more likely to find savings straight from them. In other countries, hotels are often individual entities, so you’re more likely to save by booking through a third party.

 

When booking flights, I recommend using a third-party site such as Webjet or Flight Centre to do your research and comparisons. Once you’ve found a flight that suits you, take note of the details. Then close your browser window and empty your cache or open a private (or incognito) window and search again (it’s a little trick to see if you can get a cheaper rate on the same flight – sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t). Once you’ve found the lowest price, head to the airline’s website and search for the same flight. You may find that the flight costs are the same, but you’ll save on a booking fee. It may only be $10 or so per flight but, as they say, every penny saved …

 

flight centre

 

It’s also worth hunting around for travel package deals. At the very least, they will give you a decent price point to compare. And although you may not get exactly what you’re after, you may also be surprised at the bargains that you can find. The savings may be worth the compromise.

 

A travel agent, online or otherwise, will save you hours of research but they’ll charge you a premium. In all fairness though, a travel agent can be worth their weight in gold and if you ever find yourself in a jam they will help you out of it. So, that can be worth more than you realise. You may spend a little more at the outset but if something were to go wrong, such as missed flights or incorrect bookings, your travel agent could save you a bundle down the track.

 

Travel agents also have the ‘hook-ups’ and can answer any questions about your destination, accommodation or transportation.

 

However, researching and booking your own holiday can give you total control and flexibility. You’ll only have yourself to rely on, but if you know your way around terms and conditions and you’re happy to rely on user reviews, then you can save a heap of money.

 

There are good arguments for and against travel agents versus DIY booking. The bottom line is that the best way to find savings is to do the research yourself. And if you find some really good prices, you can always go to a travel agent and see if they’ll match them. Often, they will match it or at least come close – and  you’ll enjoy the peace of mind of extra protection. I hope some of these tips help!

 

Related articles:
Beating the Qantas booking charge
Don't fall into this flight booking trap
Can I get a refund on a flight?





COMMENTS

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Travelling Man
17th Jun 2017
8:05am
If you book accommodation or flights through a third party and wish to change details after you sign up you will pay a substantial premium as you can only make changes through them. Expedia and Flight Centre are ruthless on this aspect, so make sure you are absolutely sure of your proposed itinerary before you go ahead.
Scottishlass
20th Jun 2017
2:59pm
No can change flights direct with airline even if booked through flight centre. Unsure about hotel bookings.
Scottishlass
20th Jun 2017
2:59pm
No can change flights direct with airline even if booked through flight centre. Unsure about hotel bookings.
Scottishlass
20th Jun 2017
2:59pm
No can change flights direct with airline even if booked through flight centre. Unsure about hotel bookings.
Scottishlass
20th Jun 2017
2:59pm
No can change flights direct with airline even if booked through flight centre. Unsure about hotel bookings.
Illuminati
17th Jun 2017
8:48am
Last year Qantas introduced flights to San Francisco at $995 return. I booked through Bestjet and got them for $919. Same airline, same flight.
MICK
17th Jun 2017
11:39am
That's a great deal and cuts out the LA hub, which I have to say has improved remarkably. Last trip through was a breeze and even the cancelled Spirit connection I found out about as I arrived at the counter still did not dampen the trip through LA.
I am eagerly awaiting direct flights to Denver in the future with the longer long range aircraft now starting to come online. That'll cut at least 5 hours out of the trip for us.
MICK
17th Jun 2017
11:36am
Just booked Europe flights for 2018. Got the airline I wanted and the price I needed. Scoured the web and waited until a bit of a price war. It ended up that a couple of website were offering the same deal which the airline direct refused to match. So I went to FlightCentre and they price matched. Done.
Of course there are costs if you decide to change your itinerary but we have been able to stick to what was planned for the past 7 years so it's the model we go with.
Alexii
17th Jun 2017
11:54am
I always search the web first for prices and then go to Flight Centre. I find them always good to deal with. We've had non-refundable tickets but last year due to serious illness we had to cancel and got over 50% refunded then insurance paid me the rest. This year similar happenings (a bad 2 years for wife and me) and we got about 25% refund and have put in claim on insurance.
MICK
17th Jun 2017
1:56pm
This is my first time we have booked with FlightCentre. Their rack rates are the same as other online sellers but they made us an offer we could not refuse plus nil credit card fees.
Unlikely we will get the same sort of deal with FlightCentre next year. I often take up the issue of rewarding regular travellers with Virgin, Qantas and Emirates but these companies do not so they do not always get our business. Their loss. We never fly Virgin any more either.
Old Dog
17th Jun 2017
12:25pm
We travel overseas at least once each year. after floundering with sites such as Webjet etc. we now book with a travel agent that we have found who gets us comparative prices and save us a huge amount of work. Fully recommend them; Lyons and Turner, Travel Associates, Wagga Wagga.
MICK
17th Jun 2017
1:50pm
FYI Travel Agents just get online just like you and I can. They have no special deals. That is why I avoid them.
Having said that I did book with FlightCentre a couple of weeks ago because they matched the price of a website I really did not want to do business with and they then charged no fees on my Amex card.
Use the system for how it works. I nearly always book my own deals but on this occasion the airlines concerned (Qantas and Emirates) did not want ot price match so I used a third party and came out way ahead.
GreyViper
18th Jun 2017
6:30pm
Sorry Mick, that is not correct. Travel agents have access to lots of wholesalers that you and I do not have access to. My wife and I have done a fair bit of travel over the last few years and we often do all the shopping around we can to find the best price on flights, hotels, excursions, etc. and then we call our travel agent. More often than not she is able to match or beat our prices and sometimes by quite a sizeable margin. Also when booking a cruise they sometimes have access to deals which include on-board credit or other extras that you will not get if you book directly with the cruise line. Last year we did a tour around Scandinavia that started in Copenhagen. We tried to book a few extra days at the hotel before the tour started at the same hotel. I was shocked by the price! I rang the travel agent and she was able to get us a couple of extra days in the same room and saved us over $300 compared to the price I was able to obtain.
You just need to find a good one and develop a good relationship and they can save you a lot of money! They can't save anything on just flights only but if you are putting together a package they can find you some really good deals. Also we turned up at the airport in Budapest for a flight to Prague and our flight was nowhere to be seen on the flight departure board. I jumped on the phone and rang her and in a minute or two she was able to tell me that it had been delayed by nearly 4 hours. I could not get any help from staff at the airport and it was great that she was able to put my mind at ease. I think a good travel agent is well worth it.
Jim
17th Jun 2017
8:56pm
I have found most European hotels seem to be more expensive when you try to book direct, we travel to Europe almost every year and have found that we get a better deal through 3rd party agency and quite often you can get a few extras thrown in such as transfers or breakfast, it always pays to check yourself, I have occasionally got a better deal by writing to hotels directly. A good point that has been mentioned already is to book a package holiday if it suits, there can be considerable savings.
Scottishlass
20th Jun 2017
2:57pm
Changes on bookings was no easier when booked through flight centre. I could get same help directly with airline. And flight centre still charges for time and airline fees for changing flight. So benefit of going with travel agent was not there. They charge for using credit card also. Don't agree with this.


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