Mistakes people make when booking travel through third-party websites

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Expedia. Sky scanner. Booking.com. Trip.com. Price line. These days, there are countless third-party platforms for booking flights, hotels, rental cars, and other aspects of the travel experience.

While these websites can make the planning process more seamless and convenient, there are some potential downsides that are important to understand before making reservations.

Below, travel experts share common mistakes people make when booking travel through a third-party service―and their tips for avoiding these mistakes when traveling.

Assuming they have the lowest prices

Travel booking websites can be great for comparing prices from different suppliers and possibly finding exclusive deals. But you’ll often see the same costs across all platforms, including the travel provider’s direct website.

“You shouldn’t assume that online travel agencies have the lowest prices,” said Phil Dengler, co-founder of The Vacationer. “While coupons and other promotions can make you feel like you’re saving a lot of money, you should always check with the airline or hotel directly.”

When booking a flight, you should check prices on airline websites, as well as results on search engines like Google Flights. When looking for accommodation, compare rates on hotel websites and third-party reservation systems.

“In many cases, hotels guarantee the cheapest rate when booking directly with them. In some situations, third-party booking sites will hide resort fees until the very last moment or put them somewhere easy to miss.

Loss of 24 hour cancellation options

“You shouldn’t book airline tickets through an online travel agency if there’s a chance you’ll take advantage of the federal 24-hour cancellation rule,” Dengler said.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has required airlines to allow customers who purchased tickets at least seven days before a flight’s scheduled departure to cancel their reservation and receive a full refund without penalty within 24 hours of reservation.

“Unfortunately, the flight must be booked directly with the airline,” Dengler noted. “This means that third-party booking sites are not required to follow the rule, which means you might be out of luck if you are looking to cancel within 24 hours. If there is any chance you need to cancel your flight, check with the third-party booking site before you book to see if it meets the 24-hour cancellation rule.

Don’t read the fine print

“Always read the fine print so you know their return or refund policy,” said Ciara Johnson, travel blogger at Hey Ciara. “For added protection, book with a travel credit card that has insurance in case something goes wrong. If you’re not booking for an offer, it’s always best to book directly through the company’s website. is probably cheaper to book direct anyway!”

Ravi Roth, a queer travel expert and host of “The Gaycation Travel Show,” echoed that advice. He pointed out that he was aware of any additional charges or inconvenient policies regarding cancellations, itinerary changes and refunds, so you should be sure to read and save your confirmation email with the details.

“I recommend using trusted sites like Orbitz for hotels and Airbnb to book experiences. For flights, I’d try Skyscanner, but when booking make sure you stick to the major companies airlines,” Roth noted. “Sometimes people can find a flight super cheap, but in the fine print there are charges for overhead and checked baggage. I can’t stress enough about reading the fine print.

Missing loyalty points

If loyalty points and hotel or airline status are important to you, using a third-party booking site may not be the best solution.

“Many online travel agencies allow you to insert your frequent flyer number or hotel rewards number, but that doesn’t mean you’ll earn status points and credits,” Dengler explained. “Some airlines and hotels will allow you to get status when booking with online travel agencies, but you need to make sure first.”

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If you book through a third-party site, you probably won’t be able to change your booking through the supplier.

Trying to change bookings through the travel provider

“Third-party booking sites like Expedia, Priceline, and Travelocity are also known as online travel agencies, and they’re essentially middlemen between you and the airline or hotel,” Dengler explained. “In other words, your booking is with them and not the airline or hotel. This means you contact them for customer service instead of the airline or hotel.

So if accessing direct customer service with the travel provider is a big deal for you, avoid these third-party platforms when booking and instead use them as search engines for comparisons.

“While larger online travel agencies have better customer service than smaller ones, it’s always best to speak directly to the source,” Dengler said. “This is important for booking changes and cancellations. If there is a possibility of inclement weather during your trip, I recommend booking direct as there is a good chance you will need to change or cancel your route.”

Since canceling or changing an itinerary can be more complicated via third-party platforms, be sure to be very careful when making your reservation.

“Travelers should just make sure to double-check all of their information, such as travel dates, name and contact details when booking through third parties,” said Casey Brogan, consumer travel expert at Tripadvisor.

Choose a travel supplier that does not allow third-party sales

“Be aware that several low-cost carriers, including Ryanair in Europe, technically do not allow their tickets to be sold by third parties,” said Marek Bron, travel blogger at Indie Traveler. “If you book their flights through a third party anyway, it is done through a workaround which is not supported by Ryanair.”

Therefore, making cancellations or changes through the third-party site may be more expensive or more difficult than it would have been if you had booked directly through the airline. Make sure you can actually get official confirmation from your airline or other travel provider when booking through an external system.

Do not read reviews

Not all third-party booking sites and travel agents are created equal. As such, it is important to read the reviews of these services before booking through them.

“Check the reviews of these third-party sites, like on TrustPilot, before booking because some of them are best avoided,” Bron said. He advised paying close attention to customer service notices, as you might need them to handle subsequent changes or cancellations.

“If you’re working with a travel agent, make sure they have the right qualifications and double-check your reservations with airlines and hotels,” Jessica van Dop DeJesus said., travel media specialist and blogger at The Dining Traveler. “Also, look into travel insurance and check with your credit card to see if they provide travel insurance services.”

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