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It's time to get away -three ways to book your next vacation

What we'll cover

  • Pros and cons of three different methods of booking your vacation

  • How points and rewards could factor into your decision

  • The booking options that could cost you money

Everyone has their own style when it comes to vacation planning – some make arrangements months in advance while others prefer spur-of-the-moment getaways. Either way, your travel to-do list might look the same: get a hotel, buy airline tickets , reserve a rental car and so on.

The good news is, you’ve got lots of options for making travel arrangements. The best way to book vacation plans can depend on your travel style.

Book directly

Direct booking simply means you contact the hotel, airline or car rental company to reserve your rooms, flights and transportation. You can book directly online, over the phone or in person and compare rates to see which one has the best deals.

Direct booking can give you more flexibility if you need to make specific requests. For example, you might prefer a non-smoking room or need a car that will fit your child’s car seat.

Booking directly could also make sense if you belong to the hotel, airline or rental company loyalty program. You can  use points to book  and ask about any perks that might apply to your stay, such as free breakfast or premium Wi-Fi. You can also use accumulated points for an upgraded vehicle or a free flight or stay.

There’s one more reason to consider direct booking: to uncover hidden deals. Hotels, airlines and rental companies may run promotions for special rates or discounts that aren’t advertised online.

The biggest downside of direct booking? It can be time-consuming if you’re comparing rates. So, it may not be ideal for spontaneous trips.

Use a third-party booking site

Third-party travel sites save time when you want to review numerous options at once. For example, hotel-specific sites make it easy to compare rates at different hotels for the same travel dates. If you find a hotel at a great rate, you can make your reservation with just a few clicks. That’s convenient, especially if you’re making travel plans at the last minute.

Some travel sites cast the net wider and allow you to book hotels, flights and rental cars in one place. You might even be able to book cruises or vacation packages as well. However, this reservation option does have a few downsides. Third-party bookings may not qualify for airline, hotel or rental car rewards. If you’re hoping to earn rewards through a loyalty program, you might need to book directly to avoid missing out on points or miles.

You also need to consider the cost of booking with a third-party site. While some of these platforms attract travelers with the promise of discounted rates, you may find they’re not always cheaper than booking directly.

It’s also important to note the cancellation policy of any third-party site. You may be able to cancel your arrangements if your plans change, but there may be deadlines or limitations that differ from booking direct.

Book with a travel agent

In a nutshell, travel agents can handle all the ins and outs of booking your vacation. Using a travel agent can be an attractive choice if you prioritize convenience above all else. Simply tell your agent where you want to go, your travel dates, along with your interests or hobbies and they handle the rest, including:

  • Booking flights

  • Reserving hotel rooms or resorts

  • Reserving rental cars

  • Getting tickets or passes for entertainment and other events during your trip

  • Planning your itinerary

  • Providing insider scoop about your destination, especially for specialized locations such as theme parks or an island getaway

Agents might even have access to discounts or special promotions that aren’t available to travelers directly. If you need to change or cancel your vacation plans, your agent can  help with that as well as other high-stress situations like locating lost luggage or helping you find medical care if you get sick.

This service comes with a cost and that fee will depend on the agent and the specifics of your travel plans, so be sure to the weigh the cost against the convenience and potential discounts before you commit.

Saving early can eliminate travel stress

Deciding on the best way to book a trip is just part of the travel picture. It’s also good to have a strategy for how to pay for your vacations. Our  Online Savings Account  lets you create a travel  bucket , so you can have money on standby when you’re ready to book.

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