Buckle up y’all…it’s storytime! We didn’t know the risks of booking with third party sites at the time and coming home from our amazing Europe trip, we ran into a multitude of issues. Our plane in Edinburgh was late to take off, and that made us late getting to Dublin. When we got to Dublin, we were informed that we missed the two hour requirement to check in and get our tickets to board the plane. Then when we tried to get Delta to put us on the next flight, we were informed that they couldn’t help us because we booked with Expedia.
So, the next logical thing for us to do was to call Expedia, right? Well it took 45 minutes to actually get a phone number that worked, and then another 30 minutes to get someone on the phone. All for them to tell us that they couldn’t help us either. That they weren’t required to book us on another flight and because we already used the first tickets to get to Europe, our second tickets were considered voided and they couldn’t give us a refund on that either. They could, however, book us a different flight at $1,050 (USD) ONE WAY plus a $150 cancellation fee from Delta. It was complete and utter ridiculousness and we have COMPLETELY learned our lesson.
We will NEVER book through a third party website or app ever again.
So…this begs the question…what should you do instead of booking with third party sites? Also, what steps can you take if you’ve already booked with a third party or if you can only afford to book with third parties?
Horrible Customer Service
Most people wouldn’t consider this part of the risks category, but third party customer service departments are atrocious. They don’t care about their customers, and will straight up tell you there’s no way they can help you, and hang up the phone. Expedia overbooked our hotel in Ireland and then called us to tell us they were moving us hotels and that they would “waive” the difference “just this once”. Then when we got to the hotel they rebooked us with, it was completely under construction and about 30 minutes outside of Dublin. When you book directly through the company that you’re flight or hotel is through, you’re more likely to get better customer service and representatives that don’t sound like they hate the entire world.
Lack of Perks
Not necessarily considered in the risks column, but I hate paying full price for anything. Most importantly, when you book directly through the company, they more than likely have a rewards program that you can sign up for to get discounts and other offers. Third party apps don’t usually have this, or it takes forever to get the equivalent of $1. My sister only ever uses the direct site when she books her hotels because she racks up points QUICK. I don’t think she’s paid full price for a hotel in years!
You remember the saying “you get what you pay for”? This is definitely true when you book with a third party site. That’s why I’m including it in my risks column. A third-party website is going to offer the cheapest prices for a hotel, flight, or car, however, in order to do that, they’ll list rooms, seats, or cars that are on the undesirable side of a traveller’s opinion. If you decide to use a third party, the lower price means you can’t expect to be booked in a suite, enjoy priority boarding, or drive away in a new model vehicle.
What You Should do Instead
To us, the risks outweigh the the good parts of booking with a third party site. However, while we don’t recommend booking with third party sites, they are a good negotiating tool. If you find a price on Expedia or Kayak, jot down the information and the prices. Then go directly to the companies site. Sometimes the fare is the same if not cheaper than the third party price. If it isn’t, then call the company of the fare you found and tell them the fare you found, but that you would much rather book through the company directly. Tell them you want to book directly so that you can get the best support there is, and they’ll more than likely price match the fair you found. If they can’t match the fare exactly, they tend to get you as close as they can.
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO IF…
You’ve Already Booked with a Third Party Site
Make sure you purchase insurance! I know sometimes it can be a little expensive, but it’s better to have it and not need it than to not have it and something go wrong! However, I don’t recommend purchasing your travel insurance through the third party site. It typically doesn’t cover anything and you’re still left with a mess.
Try booking through an independent travel insurer or look into your credit card perks. Most major credit cards come with travel insurance.
You Can Only Afford to Book with Third Party Sites
If you can only afford to book through a third party site, I completely get it. Just make sure you protect yourself by purchasing insurance, reading the fine print, check to make sure the fees aren’t astronomical, and do your due diligence by checking other sites before purchasing.
My last tip: If you can manage it. ALWAYS book with a credit card. If something happens, the third party site more than likely won’t help you. When that happens, you can dispute the charge with your credit card company. Most of the time they have their own travel insurance that will cover you if you have any mishaps along the way. BUT!! Make sure that you’re on top of everything, because most credit card companies only give you 20 days after the incident to file a claim!