Online booking engines: Know before you book
Travel agencies used to be commonplace in most communities. When you wanted to go somewhere, you relied on the expertise and experience of a trustworthy travel agent to help outline your itinerary and book the best hotels, flights, cars and tours money could buy at the best prices.
Enter the Internet and booking engines like Expedia, Priceline, Travelocity, Bedandbreakfast.com and more. What the Internet brought to the travel scene was the opportunity for the consumer to take matters into their own hands. I won’t say it eliminated the middle man because essentially the middle man was simply turned into an inanimate computer program rather than a living, breathing person. But it did enable people to do live, almost instantaneous comparisons on price, quality, etc. It gave consumers a platform to decide, based upon consumer feedback, what the best bang for their buck was, and what would create the best travel experience for them. There is great value in that, but there are some things you should be aware of before you click purchase.
First of all, even if the booking engine claims to not charge any kind of booking fee, they are still getting something. Often the booking fee is taken as a commission off the back end, at the expense of the hotel or airline which in turn ends up driving up costs. Have you noticed a lot of airlines charging for luggage lately and hotels charging for Wi-Fi or parking? As they say, there is no such thing as a free lunch. You may not pay for it in one form, but you are paying for it in another. Hotels and airlines alike would prefer you book directly with them rather than through one of these booking engines, and they will often make it worth your while to do so.
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