By Holly Thomas, Personal Finance and Consumer Journalist
Gone are the days when you’d have to pop down to your local travel agent to book your holiday. Thanks to the Internet, we all have a lot more choice!
This has opened the door to competition and innovation in the travel market – helping to drive down prices for the consumer.
Online travel agencies and comparison websites were born out of the online revolution – giving holidaymakers the power to quickly and easily find the best deals.
But what’s the best way to book online? Here are six things to consider before you make up your mind.
1. Easy Booking
Online travel agencies sell flights, hotels, car hire, activities and packages to customers directly through their website.
Most comparison sites simply display prices and then you have to go elsewhere to make the actual booking. However, some comparison sites now offer “instant book” where payment can be done directly on their site.
2. Customer Service
As one of the leading online travel agencies, Expedia offers personalised customer service at the time of booking and during your trip. Additionally, Expedia gives customers the ability to give direct feedback to hotels during and after their stay.
Comparison sites tend to take a step back from any follow-up service. It’s “no-frills” in exchange for cheap deals.
3. Knowing What You’ll Pay
Comparison sites give consumers a view of flight and hotel prices from across the market. Be wary, however! Once you make your booking and leave their website, their responsibility ends.
Also note that the price you see on the comparison website may exclude additional fees that can be added when booking.
4. Looking For The Catch
Comparison sites promote the cheapest fares first but often these apparent great deals involve long layovers and multiple stops. Be careful to check what you’re committing to, or you might spend half your holiday in an airport!
5. The Real Deal
Comparison sites enable you to search the whole of the market for what appears to be a good price.
Expedia negotiates special, often exclusive, deals. By booking flights + hotel together as a package, you can discover discounts that aren’t available elsewhere.
6. Not all Online Travel Agencies are the Same
In addition to savings, Expedia packages offer choice, flexibility and transparent pricing. Expedia is committed to transparent pricing and will always show the complete price (inclusive of all fees) within its search results.
Some online travel agencies will list cheap flights, but the price will jump when you click to pay. Other deals are available only if you pay using little-known forms of payment such as prepaid credit cards like Entropay with large extra fees added if you want to pay by more common debit or credit cards.
The charges are revealed only at the end of the booking process, so watch out for these tricks.