Subject: Re: booking agency or hotel

I'm a person who likes flexibility and I tend to book a few hotels and then take the luxury of more investigation just prior to the trip and then cancel unwanted ones. That said, I hve only once used a booking service and was unhappy. (see end of message for details) 1. They often want payment up front. Why should they hold my money? If the rate goes down, I'm stuck already prepaying more. 2. They usually charge a cancellation fee. 3. In my experience the web fares have not been that much better than others.

When looking for a hotel, I get recommendations and make some initial hotel choices. Then I go to a hotel's own website, call their 800 number, call AMEX travel agency and finally go to a web booking

service. IF I find the webservice has a much better deal, I'll keep that in mind for closer to date. I can always cancel the others with no penalty and rebook with the web service close to the actual

trip....though it's yet to happen.

Onto to my web experience........

For a trip to Barcelona this summer, I booked a hotel 3 months prior to our trip by going to the Continental Airlines vacation site. I was put onto a nice site with good hotel descriptions and there were no cancellation penalities as long as there was a one week notice.

(others have a same day notice, but I could live w/ a week in this case).

About 3 weeks before the trip, we found another hotel that a group of friends were going to be staying in so we wanted to switch and cancel the first. I kept the confirmation email, went back to it and hit the reply button to make my cancellation. I was sent back an

automated message that said not to hit reply but to go to the

website. I then went back to the hotel site (as listed on top of the email) which now put me onto a differnt site ( or forget). I wrote them with my confirmation number and told them to cancel. They wrote back that they had no record of my booking and my numbers didn't correspond to their usual number

sequence, so it couldn't be their booking. I then called Continental

Airlines vacations.....they too had no record of their own website

from 3 months prior and had no idea how to cancel the booking. I could not find an email address for the hotel, so I faxed them. They faxed me back and told me that my cancellation had to go through the website I used and not them as the web service would charge me for the full stay if I didn't do that. We now had to call the hotel in Barcelona 3 times before we could get an english speaking person who could fully understand our situation. She said she would cancel the booking but that she couldn't guarantee what the unknown website

would do. I asked her to fax me her agreement to cancel, which she did. We then finally wrote a letter to our credit card company with a copy of the hotel fax and told them to dispute any charges that might come though for this hotel.

WHEW!!! You think this is a long post? You can only imagine the aggravation of all the work!

That said, there are many others who will tell you how wonderful

hotel websites are! I MIGHT be open to a popular hotel website for a domestic hotel, especially for a last minute booking.....but never again for a foreign hotel.

Candice NYC