At the beginning of each year, many people start to plan their holidays for the year ahead. Online (third-party) booking sites or intermediaries are proving an increasingly popular option, particularly for bargain hunters on the lookout for the best deal.
Read our article to learn more about what you need to know if you are booking a holiday using a third-party booking site, along with some of our top tips!
What are third-party booking sites?
Third-party booking sites are known by lots of different names. Here are some of the main types and the services that they provide.
- Online travel agents (OTAs) have their own supply of travel products and services, which they sell on behalf of suppliers/providers. Some of the best-known global OTAs are Hotels.com, Expedia, Travelocity, Lastminute.com, Hostelworld, Agoda.com, Airbnb, Edreams.com, LateRooms and Booking.com.
- Comparison websites collect data from the online travel agents above, as well as other third-party search engines and hotel websites, and combine them together so you can compare different offers. Examples of these types of sites include Google Flights, Skyscanner, HotelsCombined, It is important to know that some of these comparison sites are owned by online travel agents and are therefore not entirely independent.
Why use a third-party booking site?
- Price: The main benefit is that consumers can easily compare what is on offer. They can also benefit from special offers as the OTAs can pass on savings due to their scale.
- Choice: Through third-party sites you may have access to options that you wouldn’t have found simply by searching online.
- Convenience: They provide a fast way to find information, check reviews, and place bookings for multiple travel services in one go. You can also deal with one point of contact, which is easier.
- Security:They offer sophisticated online facilities that ensure the safety of users’ data, as well as secure payments and transactions between consumers and suppliers.
What you need to be aware of
- Headline offers: Attractive low-price offers may have additional charges that become apparent as you go through the booking system. The end result is that the final price at the end may be more than other offers or if you booked the services individually.
- If something goes wrong: As you have booked with an intermediary, it may be challenging if there is a disruption or cancelation in travel services. If this happens, it is best to contact the travel supplier directly.
- Contract confusion: When you make a booking, your contract will usually be directly with the service provider and not with the booking website, so you will be bound by the terms and conditions of the travel provider. The third party may also have terms and conditions attached to their service, which you will also be bound by.
- Terms and conditions: It is essential that you read the terms and conditions of both the third-party booking site and the travel provider’s contracts as you will be bound by both. Look particularly at what they say about amending or cancelling bookings, payment details and requirements around travel.
Our top tips
- No matter where you are booking, always check that the website provides complete contact details, including a geographical address, and confirm them with additional internet searches.
- Check the name and URL of the website in the browser address bar before you book so you know if you are booking directly or through a search engine.
- It is always a good idea to check for negative feedback and/or reviews left by other consumers. If an online travel agent has a record of poor communications or consistently refuses refunds, perhaps you should look elsewhere.
- Read the terms and conditions on the websites of both the third-party booking site and the travel providers site before you book.
- Be wary of any requests by a provider / actual supplier of the service to complete a reservation outside the booking platform of the third-party website. This is sometimes a sign of a potential scam and may leave you unprotected if something goes wrong.