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There's a report on Skift, a travel industry news site, that says that a recent survey shows that about 2/3 of U.S. travelers think they can do better buying from the "brand" rather than an agency, and that only 15% trust online travel agencies to get them the best price.


Where do you fall in that spectrum? What makes you do what you do?


For myself, I hadn't thought too much about my own buying patterns until I read the article. But over the past 20+ years of traveling, I've seen the big shift from brick-and-mortar travel agencies and call centers to online shopping and online travel agencies such as Expedia.


Looking at my own patterns, I find a mix: When I buy airline tickets (other than awards), I always use the OTAs and search engines to find what's there, but then I switch to the airline's site for the booking; I'd rather not have someone in between if there are changes or problems.


Lodging I almost always book through an agency, either Airbnb or, depending on whether I'm looking for an apartment or a hotel. It's certainly a big plus over where I started, with trans-Atlantic faxes, scratchy phone calls and wire transfers!


And cars are a mix. Between AAA and USAA, I get good discounts from Hertz and a couple of others, but when the price seems high, I've used Priceline's Name Your Own Price bidding system to keep the cost low.


And while they're not a matter of buying the meal, I do love OpenTable and LaFourchette (The Fork) for freeing me from hours of calling and re-calling and sitting on hold for restaurant reservations.



The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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I never trusted travel agents before the freedom of the internet gave us access to cost information, and I would need a great excuse to trust them now.  Online travel purchasing gives us the freedom to have price information come directly to us, rather than to a middle man who may or may not have our best interests in mind.  


So flights I'll buy either through Expedia or from the airline directly (esp if they are having a "sale").  Rooms I almost get through, my favorite site because of the detailed information they provide on a property and because they've never disappointed me.  Car rentals are simply a matter of price, but I often book through Expedia or Priceline.

Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

I'd definitely agree about


They generally seem to have a much deeper inventory than Expedia, including the small local hotels I like. I also appreciate the fact that most of the bookings don't expect me to pay in advance and allow free cancellation.


Often, too, the price I pay through with those privileges is the same that Expedia offers as a "special" that must be pre-paid!


I would also be less than honest if I didn't mention that TravelGumbo receives a small but welcome commission when travelers book through the link on our site. Since our own experience of many bookings with has been so positive, I'm happy to recommend them!

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

Interesting topic and rather timely  as I am in the midst of finalizing my plans for my upcoming trip.


Hotels: This upcoming trip the first I've used  I have used a variety of sources in the past (i.e. Travelocity, Expedia, etc.) and have also found that booking directly through the hotel is sometimes cheaper...sometimes.  But, I love the option to be able to change or cancel my reservation, if needed. 


Flights: I prefer to book directly through the airline.  Have never used a booking site (Expedia, Kayak, etc.) and right now...I may have to due to carrier issues with airlines from Slovenia back to the States. 


Those of you who have used a booking site for flights - any issues?  By any possibility is there a freedom to choose seats?  If it was just me, the seat thing isn't an issue.  But traveling with a parent who needs the much-coveted aisle could prove to be a challenge.  I admit I'm a bit anxious over using one of these sites for flights and am hoping for a bit of ease of mind.

"All of time and space; everywhere and anywhere; every star that ever was. Where do you want to start?"

Hi TravelGirlJenn,


I've used Expedia to buy tickets a number of times, only once or twice with Priceline, never with Kayak.  The big advantage is that you get to see often hundreds of competitive prices, not just the few the airline sites directly show you.   And often they are cheaper than directly buying from the airline.


Whether or not you can pick your seat in advance is completely up to the airline, not to the online travel site (eg. Expedia).  Some airlines (eg. United, Alaska) do let you pick seats when you make your purchase.  Others do not, these usually being airlines that charge for seat selection anyway.  If your parent is elderly and has mobility issues, then I'd definitely call the airline after booking, explain this to them and get a seat assigned, even if there is a small fee.

Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

Last edited by DrFumblefinger

A reminder I used to post on other sites...when you book through an agency, with OTA or brick-and-mortar, the next step is to ask them for the airline locator number (that 6-digit string that goes on your reservation).


With that code, go to the airline's site and search for your reservation...doesn't matter if you didn't book it with them directly, you'll be able to find it with the code and your name. If not, call the airline! The reason for all this is to make sure that the agency did its job in getting you booked, and didn't make any date/destination/class errors in the process (can happen!). You want to know right away.


At that point you should also be able to choose seats, although increasingly at a price if you want to do it in advance...but in your case that might be worth it.


As for the buying: I'm basically a showroomer on Kayak and the like. I use them for research and then book with the airline, because I'd rather hear direct from them about any changes, problems, etc. Perhaps it's better now, but arriving at the airport for a flight everyone else knew would be on 5-hour delay, because they heard from the airline...

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

For accommodation, I almost always use an online travel agency now. I've found that the prices are usually  lower and i'm more likely to get an upgrade. There is also a recourse if the hotel tries to charge an undisclosed fee. is my favorite,  although I've been using Expedia, Priceline and Airbnb . Roger Wade had an interesting article about some of the reasons he thinks booking hotels online is the way to go now.

If you want a thing done, ask a busy man.

For my upcoming trip, after reading this thread, I did attempt to use an online booking agency for my flights when my attempts at booking directly through the airline's website kept giving me issues.  I kept getting an error. 


Expedia gave me the same error - could not confirm the flights.


Unfortunately, I ended up having to call the airline directly.  But, I did find out that Lufthansa at least has awesome customer service in that the agent tried his darnedest to get me the right flight for the right price - was on the phone with him for 45 minutes start to finish.


Wasn't very convenient and unfortunately did end up costing me some additional dollars to get the right flights for my trip.  Ultimately, the issue was with partner airlines being booked and their respective communications had not been updated.  I would have likely spent the same amount in the long run had I picked the right combination online.


But at least the agent proved that customer service isn't a completely dying art.  That's something.

"All of time and space; everywhere and anywhere; every star that ever was. Where do you want to start?"

I use the most for hotels and apartments because I can cancel. Sometimes I can't decide what part of town I want to be in, so I book more than one and keep researching until I have found the right spot. (I don't hold extra reservations long...just sayin'.) I love that now shows apartments and houses via because I always refer having a kitchen when I travel.


I, too, use OTAs to see prices and schedules, and then I go to the airline's web page for booking. BUT, I close my browser and clear my cookies twice before I search again if I did not book the first time. Too often have I seen those airline prices climb before I have the chance to book.


For cars, I am inconsistent. Sometimes AAA, sometimes the dealer, sometimes even through an airline if the deal looks good. I have never tried Priceline et al. for cars. Should I?


I use for booking European train passage because I like knowing I'll have a reserved seat on popular (an often crowded) summer train trips. Sometimes I buy Eurail Passes and sometimes I don't. I have had to wait hours, in Paris for example, just to validate my rail pass before embarking. That's less than fun. For local trains and short trips, I buy when I am in the country.



Hi HistoryDigger,


Priceline has competitive car rental prices, so I'd definitely check them out.


I also just discovered that the Costco travel page can have some great car rental prices.  Last car I rented was with them and it beat the OTA prices considerably.  So I'll check them in the future if you're a Costco member.

Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

Last edited by DrFumblefinger

Few more thoughts, following HistoryDigger and DrFumblefinger...


1. Definitely check all your affiliations on car rental; after years of getting better price through AAA than any  other way I knew, I recently found that going to the same vendors through USAA (my car insurance) gets me even better.


2. Not only does Priceline have good pricing on cars, I've often found I can get 30-40% lower through their blind-bidding (Name Your Own Price) service.


3. RailEurope is something of a red flag for me. Not only are they almost always the highest-price vendor compared to direct booking with the railroads, they also don't list all the discounts and sometimes not even all the trains...and they don't make delivery too easy, either. Unless you find a railpass that's a really good price point for you, you're most often better off booking directly, online, and printing out your tickets--which come with reservation where necessary and generally don't require validation because the time, date, train and seat are printed directly on them.


Mark Smith's, by the way, is super-helpful, with details of nearly every route and strategy. On my present trip, the rail leg between Vienna and Prague is costing us 22 euros; RailEurope wanted 44. Mark's advice included another saver: buying the tickets from the Austrian rail system, the would have cost 33 euros, but the Czech railroad sells the ticket for 22. Same train, same day, different price!

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

There's been no mention, that I noticed, of consolidators for multi-segment air travel.  I've had great success over the years using Airtreks and now, after a number of bookings, have a "relationship" with an agent there.  The only job of a consolidator is to find their clients the cheapest fares point to point and string them together to make a unique personalized trip.  They use airlines with which they have contracts for the lowest fares so, short of a spectacular sale, will, as far as I can tell, always beat the competition, including the airlines' own sites.  Sometimes you'll find yourself flying on an airline you've never heard of but it can have the advantage of getting you to places the others may not go.


To give you an idea of the sort of convoluted itinerary one can devise, on my last RTW I started with a flight bought with miles, business class transpacific, SFO to Shanghai.  Airtreks then got me to 2 more destinations in China.  Train to Hanoi.  Airtreks, Hanoi to BKK, BKK to Yangon and back to Singapore.  Ship to Malta.  Airtreks, Malta to Rome, then Rome to home a couple of weeks later.  There is hardly an itinerary you can think of that a consolidator can't accommodate.  The ones I've dealt with, 1 other, do only multi-continent trips but there are smaller ones, I believe, that will do a simple RT.  I have bought a simple business-class RT (AZ to Delhi) from Airtreks. 


For anyone with an imagination and curiosity about a number of places, I recommend looking into using a consolidator.  Airtreks has a "trip planner" on their website to use even when you just want to dream.


I'll second the Airtreks recommendation. I haven't used them, but on PortMoresby's recommendation gave their name to a colleague who had a family trip that moved several people from various places to Brazil, to other points in Brazil and then to Israel and back to the U.S.; he was surprised at the job they were able to do.

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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