It’s worth remembering however, that, just as flight comparison sites are useful to give an overall picture of flights and fares to a particular destination, specialist hotel sites are a vital tool in narrowing down the location, cost and availability of accommodation. Once you have found the best option, Naomi Leach, deputy editor of Which? Travel, advised calling a hotel directly. “It will often secure you the best price or at the very least they’ll throw in a freebie like a bottle of wine or a room upgrade,” she said.
As well as testing fares and hotel rates Which? also surveyed its members’ experiences of using both comparison sites and booking sites. This threw up some counter-intuitive results with some companies which had performed poorly when it came to finding cheap fares doing well when it came to customer service, and vice-versa. Among flight booking sites, Expedia had the highest overall customer score of 70 per cent. Respondents awarded it three stars for value for money, ease of finding flexible fares, transparency of fees and site functionality.
By contrast, Opodo was the lowest ranking flight booking site in the survey with a customer score of just 28 per cent and a one-star rating for customer service, with difficulties getting hold of customer service agents being a frequent complaint. One respondent said the site offered “zero customer service”.
Among hotel booking sites, Booking.com performed best with a customer rating of 73 per cent. Google Flights came top of the price comparison sites with a rating of 64 per cent. Respondents gave it four stars for functionality – the highest of any comparison site rated in the survey.
Telegraph Travel’s key booking tips
Packages provide more protection
Booking flights and accommodation independently has its attractions, but it also has risks. Packages that include both give you far more legal and financial protection through the Atol scheme (caa.co.uk/atol-protection). Some online agents, including Expedia, offer this protection when you book a flight and hotel at the same time.
Be wary of clicking through
When using price comparison sites for flights, be very wary of clicking through to book with a suggested agent. You are better off using them to check your options and then going straight to the airline’s site. Remember too that comparison sites won’t normally show you fares that include checked bags.
For long-haul flights, seek specialist advice
Which? did not break down its flight results between long- and short-haul routes (it said it tested a mix of both). But while short-haul fares are easily compared, it is worth remembering that long-haul itineraries can be much more complicated. There are, for example, so many different options and deals to destinations such as Japan or Australia that they are ill-suited to search-engine algorithms.
I would always phone a couple of specialist agents such as Trailfinders, Flight Centre or DialAflight to talk through your options before booking. You will also probably be able to ensure that your booking is Atol protected (see above) if you book through such agents – be sure to check this point specifically before you commit.