Avoiding 5 Common Issues With Travel Sites

Photo (cc) by LVLights

Traditional travel agents are a dying breed, and yet Americans are increasingly turning to travel agencies to book their tickets and to make reservations. How is this possible?

People are using online travel portals, which are basically just highly automated travel agents. These sites, such as Expedia and Travelocity, trade the hands-on service of a traditional travel agency for rock-bottom prices possible through automation and volume. Unfortunately, these low prices can come at a cost. When a trip is booked on an online portal, there are several issues that can arise.

Here are five problems that users of online travel agencies can face, and some tips on fixing them or avoiding them in the first place…

1. Dropped bookings

CNN Money recently documented a case where reporter confirmed a hotel room through Expedia, only to find out that property couldn’t accommodate him. It was later revealed that Expedia’s reservation system wasn’t synchronized with the hotel’s, which had already sold out. Other travel sites reported these same problems happening on occasion, with the notable exception of Priceline.

How to avoid this: To ensure availability, contact the hotel directly to confirm your reservation. It’s always possible that even if you do this, there may still be a problem by the time you arrive. But it’s much less likely. And it helps to note the name of the person you spoke with, as well as the time and day.

2. Requirements listed as preferences

I prefer Coke over Pepsi, but I can’t tolerate having my family stay in a hotel room that reeks of smoke. Nevertheless, many online portals will list key hotel room choices – such as bed types and smoking rooms – merely as preferences that they won’t guarantee.

How to avoid this: First, scrutinize the fine print to make sure that the website guarantees the room you want, paying attention to weasel words like preference. If you need a nonsmoking room and the site won’t guarantee it, go back and reserve a hotel that’s entirely nonsmoking. If you’re already stuck with a reservation from a site without the right guarantees, call the hotel and ask a manager to set aside the type of room you need. They’ll usually do this – it’s harder to say no to a living, breathing, speaking person.

3. Receiving the worst room

Most hotels would rather have their customers book their rooms directly than have to pay a commission to online portals. These properties may look at customers who book through portals as being less profitable and less loyal. Therefore, they’re more likely to offer these customers less desirable rooms – such as those that haven’t been renovated or are in a noisy area.

How to avoid this: Before you leave home, do your research on sites like TripAdvisor that offer opinions on not just the hotel itself, but which rooms are best. Then, contact the hotel the morning before you check in and ask them to set aside one of the rooms you would like. Finally, the earlier you arrive, the less likely you are to be stuck with worst room in the house.

4. Finger-pointing

Your reservation says one thing, but the hotel (or airline or rental car agency) says something else. Worse, each one repeatedly pins the blame on the other. I see this often when an airline’s scheduling change affects a reservation or when I’m asked to sign a rental car contract with different terms than what was booked.

How to avoid this: Remember that the online portal is still your travel agent. You gave them money, and they pocketed a commission. The buck stops with them, and their guarantees are meant to assure this. For example, Expedia promises that your travel “will meet the descriptions on our site and in your itinerary…or we will work with our partners on your behalf to find a solution.” If your travel agent keeps telling you to call someone else, you will need to remind them that this is their job. As a last resort, you can threaten a chargeback if necessary.

5. Undisclosed hotel fees

Online portals should be prohibited from booking reservations that don’t include all mandatory fees. Merely stating in the fine print that prices may not reflect additional fees is not disclosure. This isn’t about taxes, and it’s not about optional fees such as parking. “Resort fees,” “energy surcharges,” and anything else that customers must pay later should be clearly disclosed – but too often they’re not.

How to avoid this: The only way to truly avoid these fees is to contact the hotel before booking to ask about them. If you want to be extra safe, have them send you an email listing any mandatory fees. Save a copy of the email just in case your bill doesn’t reflect what you were quoted. For more information, see our 6 Ways to Avoid Sneaky Hotel Fees.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
3 Good Things About Recessions
3 Good Things About Recessions

We don’t wish difficulty on anyone, but there can be an upside to a down cycle.

10 Mistakes That Cost You Money at Warehouse Stores
10 Mistakes That Cost You Money at Warehouse Stores

Wholesale clubs might have great deals, but these mistakes will cost you.

7 Steps to Keep Your Car Looking Like New
7 Steps to Keep Your Car Looking Like New

Take a few steps to preserve the beauty of your car, and you stand to get a lot more money at trade-in time.

15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It
15 Products You Need — Even If You Didn’t Know It

Discover some must-have products on Amazon that you didn’t even know you were missing.

21 Thrift Store Gems You Can Cash In On
21 Thrift Store Gems You Can Cash In On

Here’s what to look for at that overstuffed thrift store — and how you can make money from it.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership
How to Buy Gas At Costco Without a Membership

The warehouse club often has some of the cheapest gas in town. Here’s how you can get it as a nonmember.

10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home
10 Things to Stop Buying If You Want a Clutter-Free Home

If you like to keep things simple, avoid these purchases.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

Vacuums from this brand can last a half-century, if not longer — and they’re hot on the resale market.

A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today
A Simple Way to Silence Robocalls Today

A few steps can keep your phone from ringing when a spammer calls.

This Company Makes the Best Tires in America
This Company Makes the Best Tires in America

Driver satisfaction with tires is at an all-time high, but one brand stands out.

This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance
This Health Issue Can Hint at Dementia Years in Advance

One type of pain is especially associated with cognitive decline.

Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?
Can I Switch to Spousal Social Security Benefits When My Ex Dies?

Knowing when to claim can help you maximize benefits.

Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs
Medicare Will Not Cover These 6 Medical Costs

Don’t let these health care expenses catch you off guard in retirement.

8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon
8 Things You Should Always Buy on Amazon

The giant retailer shines when it comes to these things, from basics to hard-to-find specialty goods.

5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free
5 Ways to Get Amazon Prime for Free

Hesitant to drop $119 a year on an Amazon Prime membership? Here’s how to get it for free.

5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food
5 Ways to Fill Your Pantry With Free Food

Anyone can take advantage of these resources.

Beware This Hidden Ingredient in Rotisserie Chicken
Beware This Hidden Ingredient in Rotisserie Chicken

Something foul may lurk in those delicious, ready-to-eat birds.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

This iconic dinnerware is prized for everyday use as well as reselling for profit.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home
6 Reasons You Should Stop Hiding Cash at Home

Stashing money around the house is anything but harmless.

5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees
5 States With the Worst Health Care for Retirees

All of these states are located in the same region of the nation.

12 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
12 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic
5 Products You Should Never Buy Generic

Sometimes the brand-name version is clearly superior.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.