I bought our plane tickets to Guatemala (!!), after receiving an email alert from Scott’s Cheap Flights (SCF) that summer fares to Guatemala City were at rock bottom prices. If you haven’t read past posts, my family of 5 is heading there to attend La Cooperativa language school in San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala, for 4 weeks.
I made that sound so simple. It wasn’t. It actually involved me receiving the email one day, mulling it over for 18 hours, telling John about it the next day, deciding together to buy the tickets, checking prices on Google flights, checking prices on Momondo, checking prices on Interjet, poring through the info on SCF regarding third-party travel booking sites, googling the two cheapest third-party sites for reviews from other travelers, googling why the fares are higher when searching for 5 tickets versus just 1, re-checking all the prices, searching my favorite Facebook travel group for reviews regarding the two cheapest third-party travel booking sites, re-checking prices again (from a private browsing window this time), calculating the price differences for booking via the cheap third-party sites and directly through Interjet for all 5 tickets, and FINALLY booking the damn tickets! The whole process (minus the 18 hours of thinking about whether the prices were low enough to book the tickets) took about 2.5 hours, which is, frankly, ridiculous.
If you don’t know me personally, it might surprise you to learn that I’m actually pretty risk-averse. I’ll never go bungee jumping or skydiving, I hate ice skating, I think Bitcoin investments are terrifying, I don’t go to parties where I don’t know at least one person really well…I could go on. I’ve always been the spouse who creates the monthly budgets and harps on the other spouse for not bringing me every single receipt so I can keep track of our expenses as the month goes on. I like having a certain amount of security–physically, emotionally, and financially. I get that this seems in direct contradiction to selling all my possessions and traveling without a concrete plan for an unknown amount of time. I’ve often wondered myself why this doesn’t scare me more. I mean, there’s a certain amount of fear involved in leaving the only life you know, no matter who you are, but it’s far outweighed by my excitement. I’ve been waiting for the point where my risk-averse nature kicks in, and I’ve found it: booking plane tickets!
Here’s the deal with booking plane tickets: you can pay (sometimes significantly) less by booking on a third-party travel site versus directly from the airline, IF you’re willing to accept the risks that come along with it. These risks include:
- Having your booking cancelled because the site selling the fare waited too long to book your ticket with the airline
- Having the price go up for the same reason as above
- Finding out that the airline never got your booking (this can be avoided by confirming directly with the airline)
- Not receiving notifications of flight changes, such as delays or cancellations
- Inability to make any changes to your reservation or receive a refund/credit in case of emergency
- And several others, which are well-outlined here
Now, I know there are plenty of people who book through third-party travel sites and have zero issues. However, for every one positive review I read, there were at least two negatives. I just don’t have the stomach for it. Showing up at the airport, only to find that there’s problem X, Y, or Z, with three kids in tow, is just not my idea of a fun adventure. I want to know that my reservation is as secure as it can be, knowing that airlines change things all the time, but at least by booking directly through the airline, if there are any issues, I deal directly with them. I’m wiling to pay a bit more, with the knowledge that I did everything I can to make what will already be a challenging travel day, that much easier.
I am in no way saying booking directly through the airlines is the “right” way to do things. I paid about $125 more for the 5 tickets to Guatemala City by booking directly through Interjet. If the savings by booking through a third-party site had been larger, I would have had a much greater struggle. My risk-averse nature would have had a MMA-style smackdown with my frugal nature, and I have no idea who would have won; those guys are usually good buddies. Just know the risks, google the reviews, and weigh it out for yourself.
And know there are only so many risks that can be avoided. For instance, our flight to Guatemala leaves the USA at 12:40am. With 3 children. I didn’t even know there were flights that left at that time. I’d put the risk of more than one person having a major meltdown at “Very High”.
Have you ever booked your travel through a third-party site, such as those listed in the SCF’s post? Share you experience in the comments!