If you need to reserve a hotel room in advance of your arrival, there are more than a few options simply because on line shopping involves other options. Like which on line site to use? Use an ‘auction’ site? A corporate or franchise site? A Third Party “discount” site? The other option is to call directly to the hotel.
Call directly: The advantages are plentiful. You can easily get directions for driving or for shuttles, immediate confirmation numbers, ability to ask the front desk agent or reservation taker some details about the property, etc. Different rates can be discussed. When times are competitive (summer, seasonal, sold out conditions in the area) there are less options on rates. Which is why it is good to TALK to somebody – you might find a week later the rate is 1/3rd versus your desired date. Always ask to get the lowest best available rate; be it Internet rate, on line rate, triple A, etc. One disadvantage is the cost of the phone call – unless the hotel has an 800 number. My travel advice is this is the best option, especially if you have questions about the hotel or area.
Book on line: Advantages: Generally the rate will be the lowest (at least as far as corporate and franchise direct sites go) than you will find anywhere. Most reservations are completely secure and credit card info protected. No need to wait on the phone for a human. Disadvantages: Usually more expensive than just showing up at the hotel or motel. May have to pre-pay for advance dates (doesn’t make long term financial sense) AND reservation may be non cancelable, even if months away. No communication with the hotel whatsoever so you can’t ask where the nearest 24 coffee shop is. Can’t even find hotel’s phone number on Third Party sites. Confirmation number given by Third Party sites is NOT the same number the hotels use, so checking on a reservation can be more difficult. Special Requests” are not always passed along.
There are valid reasons for using ALL of these strategies. The one that fits a majority of your needs (be it time, money or both) is the one to use even if it takes more of one than the other.