Ok a bit of background about me… so you know where I am coming from.
I am over 50, semi-retired… and travel a lot for both Business & Pleasure. (Mr TTR and I spend on average 60 to 90 Nights a Year on the road). So I’ve gained a lot of knowledge…
TripAdvisor is strictly a Travel Information Website… not a booking agent. So on TA you’ll find all kinds of great info on Destinations to travel to… and info is basically divided into 3 categories…
REVIEWS – Where you’ll see what other Travellers like yourself report of their own experiences with Hotels, Restaurants and Things to Do / Attractions
DISCUSSION FORUMS – Similar to these Boards we have here on WBee… where you can post Questions and get Answers from Locals and those that know a Destination best
TRAVEL GUIDE – Just like a printed Travel Guide… there are areas on TA where you can find out all kinds of info about things like… Weather, Currency, Geography, History, Transportation, National Parks… etc.
TripAdvisor is owned by the same company that owns Expedia. So when you use their website, it is strictly for Information purposes. IF you ask the Website to quote you any prices, it will actually take you to other websites for that info… naturally the links provided are part of the Expedia family of companies… so Expedia, Hotels.com, Booking.com etc. (And in many cases there is also the option to go directly to the Service Provider’s Company Website as well… so for example, Marriott.com, Hilton.com, etc)
Travelocity, Priceline, Hotwire, Expedia… are all on-line Booking Sites (think of them as virtual Travel Agents). The thing is tho that you are dealing with a 3rd Party… and not one-on-one with the actual Service Provider you may be interested in (such as Hotels, Airlines, Car Rentals etc).
Just like Travel Agents in the real world… these Booking Agents get a commission for selling you something. So they will offer you what they advertise as “preferred” rates on some things, in hopes that you’ll buy other stuff as well. (Discounts given by volume). So this is WHY you’ll find say a great deal on an hotel room. They’ll have promised the Marriott that they’ll sell so many 1,000s of rooms this month. Thing is tho, that when you are on their website you also book Airfare & Car Rental… and infact may pay more than you need to for those items (vs booking directly with the Airline yourself)
As well, when it comes to Hotel Rooms for example… these Booking Agents may be guaranteeing the Hotel that they can off-load their rooms that aren’t good sellers for them (in that every hotel has both good rooms & bad rooms… such as the one beside the noisy elevator or over the loading dock).
With a company like Priceline or Hotwire… you are bidding on “a hotel room”… you don’t know what room. And in some cases if it is BLIND BIDDING… you won’t even know what Hotel until you win the bid and get your confirmation. Sure you could end up snagging a room at a 5 Star Marriott for under $ 100 … but it could just as likely… be the worst room in the whole building… small, smelly, noisy, hot etc.
Problem is… if you have a problem… the Hotel doesn’t have to deal with you. As you didn’t book with them… you used a 3rd Party Service or a Travel Agent… so they can easily tell you… “Sorry your contract is with the Travel Agent… you’ll need to deal with them… such as in the case of a dispute, refund etc”
Pain in the butt, when you are looking at a Hotel Room… but a major problem if you are doing so with an Airline or Car Rental Company… it really sucks if you find out your Return Ticket is “almost” worthless now that your flight got cancelled (in that you can’t get the airline to change it / refund it… you have to go thru the 3rd Party Booking Website when you get back home)
What is that old saying…
Sometimes a Bargain is a Bargain for a reason…
IF it looks too good to be true… then it probably is !!
On the otherhand, if you book right with the Service Provider you have recourse thru your Credit Card… if something should go wrong.
As well, the Service Provider is far more invested in you the client, and making sure you are a satisfied customer. More so if you are a member of their Loyalty Program such as the ones where the Airlines offer air miles, or the Hotels give Reward Points (always advise folks to join these FREE programs… even if you never collect enough points for anything FREE… the company’s typically give their best service to those folks who have these cards and present them… including often for example, FREE Upgrades at check in for Hotels)
Not only is dealing directly with a Service Provider best from that point of view… but often times if you find a price on-line and then call the Service Provider directly, to do your booking, and tell them what you found on-line and where… they’ll honour the price you found on line.
Hope this helps,