Hi @pinotgrigio: first and foremost, I see you are NEW to WBee… so a BIG Welcome to “the Hive”
Travel Nut here…
Mr TTR and I are semi-retired, and we travel a lot.
My best advice is do a lot of reading / research.
Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity etc… are all technically “electronic travel agents”… so 3rd Party Sites.
Like a Travel Agent in the 3D World … You are buying a product from them, that they buy from the source… they make a commission on the sale. They can pass along discounts or perks to you, if they are registered with the source as a Reseller, and meet a certain volume of selling with a particular vendor.
(WHICH IS WHY… sometimes a Travel Agent will try to push a particular product over another one… they make more commission etc)
MY BEST ADVICE…
Decide where it is you want to go, and how much you want to spend.
Do your on-line research, and make notes as to details on what is offered, and how much everything costs.
Then go to a Travel Agent and get their best Quotes.
Don’t make a deal right away… tell them you need some time to mull it over.
Then do your research one-on-one direct with the Suppliers to find out what is the BEST DEAL they can make you. Even look at calling their 1-800 numbers so you can speak with someone in person.
If their deals aren’t as good as those you found thru the 3rd Party Agents, be upfront with that info. Tell them who offered you a better deal, and see if they’ll match or better (most times they will)
Ok, now the WHYS
When you buy from a 3rd Party and not direct from the supplier you’ll find in the small print that in most cases their liability is small.
Something goes wrong (ie Brick & Mortar Travel Agent goes out of business) and you could be out your money. Book your airflight with Expedia, and your flight gets cancelled, etc, you could have issues getting rebooked, because you didn’t buy from the Airlines directly… you’ll need to be on the phone with Expedia, vs standing in the line at the Ticket Counter getting a NEW Ticket issued.
When you buy direct from a supplier and on a Credit Card, your purchase is insured. (More so if you have an AMEX Card)
When you buy a vacation from a Travel Agent (real or electronic) it gets more complicated in getting your money back, or vacation replaced etc.
All that said, as I said in the beginning do your homework / research. And buy from someone you trust / feel comfy with.
Hope this helps,
PS… Have more Travel Questions… just ask.