When you are planning your perfect trip and looking for the best discounts, many people use websites like Hotels.com, Expedia, Travelocity among others. I have used them myself when I first started traveling, and I still do use Hotels.com to book some of my trips depending on what it’s for, as I like to collect those free nights. However, all of this has it’s pros and cons you need to be aware of.

First off, these 3rd party sites can be great for building up a free room or other goodies. However, they do charge a fee and often times you are paying more than you would if you went direct to the hotel’s website. Not always, but I found it’s true many times when I cross reference before booking. The fee charged can vary based on the cost of the room.

For example, I had booked a trip to Miami through Hotels.com and at the time, I received a better deal than their website offered for my selection on Ocean Drive. However, I went back a few days before my trip and noticed their price had dropped literally $250.00 compared to what I had paid for that same room! I contacted the hotel, and they like to give you this excuse… “You booked through a 3rd party so you have to take it up with them. We can’t help you.”

Another example was a number of years back when I had went to Vegas for a conference. I had booked through Hotels.com versus direct for whatever the reason. I think it was because I had a longer trip and wanted to collect nights for my account. That said, I had gambled a little bit and wanted to get some casino credits toward my hotel/food bill based on my length of play. While they did credit me for my room service and resort fees, they could not do anything for my room because I booked through a 3rd party. You must book direct if you are going to do any length of gambling where you would qualify for some credits at the end of your stay.

I have heard this excuse before, and it’s one of the drawbacks to using a third party site if you should run into issues on your trip. If you read a lot of reviews sites like I do, you will see this is a common complaint for those using these kind of sites when they run into any sort of issue once at the hotel. You just get pushed off to deal with it at the 3rd party site, which can be very frustrating.

Hotels.com has a price match guarantee, so if you can find it cheaper and provide them proof (i.e. screenshot), they will give you the lower price, even if the hotel you are staying at refuses should you contact them directly. That is one of the pros if you are using a good 3rd party website. They may be able to help resolve those issues.

Another benefit of a 3rd party website is if you get to the hotel and upon arrival it is terrible. The room location, or cleanliness whatever and you simply refuse to stay there. If you were to contact a Hotels.com for example, they will actually help you move to another hotel and apply your balance paid to that stay instead. Whereas you most likely would not get a quick refund at the hotel otherwise.

When traveling, you have to consider these kind of pros and cons, as there are going to be plenty along the way on how and where you book. When, not if, you run into an issue at some point, how do you want to deal with it? Do you have extra money if the hotel does not want to refund you? Do they price match? What about on resolution of any problems?

I still use Hotels.com for some of my more formal vacations, versus when I travel alone unless going to a conference. A couple of longer stays can get me a free room fairly quickly. I also have more to risk on a formal vacation, so I want to be able to get a resolve should I run into problems. I do not use them so much when I am solo traveling, as I am looking for the best prices to make my trips longer so that I can explore my destination.

In summary, pick wisely.