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Booking.com or Direct with Hotel: Which is Better?

When planning a trip, one of the things I agonize over most is what hotel to stay at. And then once I finally find a great place to stay, I need to decide how to make my reservation. In other words: Booking.com or direct with hotel. 

Let’s face it, it can be a pain to check multiple websites for the best price on a particular hotel.  

Sometimes it’s worth it though, and you can score a particular deal or special perks using site over the other. 

If you’re also facing the decision of whether to use Booking.com or book directly with the hotel, then read on. This post will thoroughly compare the two options so that you have all the information to make the best decision for you and how you like to plan your travel.

This post includes affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. See disclaimer.

Quick verdict: Using Booking.com vs direct with hotel 

If you’re interested in trying a variety of unique accommodations like small, locally owned inns, “mom & pop” B&B’s, homestays or apartment rentals, then using Booking.com is a great way to go. 

If you’re more interested in building loyalty with one particular hotel brand. Then I would recommend you book directly with the hotel. 

Many (I dare say most) hotel brand loyalty rewards programs don’t offer points on stays booked through third-party sites. 

You also wouldn’t have the option to book a room through Booking.com with your points or a free night certificate. 

Side-by-side comparison of Booking.com vs direct with hotel 

Can book rooms onlineYesMost of the time. There are some very small properties that don’t have a way to book online.
Offers rates with free cancellationYesYes
Offers rates with free breakfastYesYes
Offers hotel brand loyalty pointsNoYes
Can book room with hotel brand loyalty pointsNoYes
Offers best priceSometimesSometimes

What are the advantages of booking your stay online? 

I love booking hotel stays online. It really makes travel planning convenient, especially if you’re like me and might be doing your travel planning late at night or early in the morning. 

Read More → Complete Guide to Planning a Travel Itinerary 

Now before you say “Well of course you book your hotels online. I mean, who calls the reservations line anymore?” 

Not all hotel booking portals are created equal. And anything that’s tech related can break, or experience an outage. And usually at the most inconvenient time. 

In addition, some hotel brands are not set up well to handle unique booking situations and you might find yourself needing to make separate reservations for each night to continue booking online. 

All that to say, I’ve made many hotel reservations using both Booking.com and directly with hotels. Overall, you can’t really go wrong with either. 

  • Both are safe ways to book accommodations online for your trip. 
  • Both offer ways to save money on your stay by prepaying on a non-refundable rate. 
  • Both offer rates with free cancellation. 
  • Both may offer rates that include perks like a breakfast included. 
  • Both offer ways to communicate directly with hotel management if you have questions. 

Read More → Creating a Travel Budget that Works for You 

But there are some distinct advantages to each, which I’ve lay out clearly for you below. 

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A couple using a laptop to plan their travel with a text overlay that talks about the best way to book your hotel

What are the pros of using Booking.com?  

  • Booking.com offers a price match guarantee. If you find a better price elsewhere online, you can put in a request with Booking.com to get the difference refunded to you after you book. There are a few caveats, so read the policy carefully before booking.  
  • You can get special mobile-only discounts if you book your stay with the Booking.com app
  • You can send messages to the hotel management, home owner, etc. Through Booking.com’s message center. This works for any kind of accommodation from tiny B&Bs to large, major-chain hotels. 
When trying to decide on using Booking.com or direct with hotel, remember can you get mobile-only discounts on the Booking.com app.

I feel like I do need to say that Booking.com provides travelers the opportunity to make reservations with a small inn or B&B that doesn’t offer a way to book reservations through their websites, but they do list on Booking.com. 

For example, hubby and I booked a tiny B&B owned by a husband and wife on the Otago Peninsula on New Zealand’s South Island. The only other way to make that reservation would have been to call them on the phone from the other side of the planet. 

What are the pros of booking directly with a hotel? 

  • You can earn loyalty rewards points with your preferred hotel brand. 
  • You can use loyalty rewards points or free night certificates to book your room. 
  • It may be easier to make special requests with the hotel for your room. 
  • You might be able to get a better rate on your room if you are a member of the brand’s loyalty program. Booking.com’s price match guarantee doesn’t cover those kinds of “member-only” rates. 

What are the cons of making a hotel reservation with Booking.com? 

  • The information for a particular property is not always presented in a user-friendly way on Booking.com, so you have to be careful to make sure you’re getting the room you want at the price you want with the cancellation policy you want. 
  • You may end up spending more money if you don’t take the time to comparison shop and then ask for a price match. 
  • You (more than) likely will not be able to earn any loyalty reward points with your preferred hotel brand. 

Read my review for a full discussion of whether it’s worth it to use Booking.com for your next trip. 

Screenshot showing the map view on booking.com website.
Booking.com vs direct with hotel: Booking.com can overwhelm you with options and information that can be challenging to wade through.

What are the cons of booking directly with a hotel? 

  • Sometimes you can end up paying more when booking directly with the hotel if you don’t comparison shop. 
  • Depending on the way the hotel website is set up, the rate quoted for the room may not include all applicable taxes and fees leaving you with a larger bill at the end of your stay than you were expecting.  

So, there you have it.  

In short, sometimes using Booking.com will be the best option for you. Sometimes booking directly with the hotel is clearly the way to go. 

Which do you prefer: making your reservations on Booking.com or directly with the hotel? 

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A couple using a laptop to plan their travel with a text overlay that talks about the best way to book your hotel

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