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One of the most common questions we see posed by Las Vegas visitors on social media and travel forums is whether to book direct with the hotel or with an online travel agency (OTA) like Travelocity, Orbitz, etc. While incentives may sometimes exist to book with an OTA, we typically recommend booking direct with the property after signing up for their loyalty program. Even if you aren’t currently a member of a loyalty program, most programs allow you to sign up online opening the door to discounted rates for first time visitors.
Below we’ll dive into our rationale for booking Las Vegas hotels direct vs. employing third party websites.
Booking direct is generally cheaper than using an OTA
Players who are members of a loyalty program and have gambled with a particular chain of casinos book directly at a significant discount and often have their rooms comped. Once you have a relationship with a casino loyalty program, it will rarely, if ever, make sense to book with a third party OTA again. Even as a low roller, I’m able to book comped rooms at low/mid tier Caesars properties and receive steep discounts on higher end properties.
But what about visitors that have not been to Vegas and thus have not used a player’s card in the casino? First time visitors to Vegas can still garner benefit by booking direct with the property. Loyalty programs like MGM Resort’s M life, Wynn’s Red Card and Caesars Rewards allow you to sign up from home on the internet. Even as a first time visitor that just signed up for a loyalty program, rates offered by the resort directly can be 10-15% cheaper than you will find on an OTA site when booking a room offering free cancellation.
Below is a price comparison between third party OTA websites and booking direct with Caesars, Wynn and MGM (Bellagio) directly for the same room type on the same dates. The customer in this scenario just signed up for a players card online and has never played in a Wynn/Caesars/M life casino.
In the tables above and below we compared pricing on a random weekday stay (above) and weekend (below). OTA pricing on sites like Hotels.com, Travelocity and Orbitz were in lockstep with each other and were more expensive than booking direct for the exact same refundable room reservation.
While we displayed only a small sample size of room rate data to compare booking direct vs. with an OTA, we can assure you that the trend is consistent regardless of the dates you are looking to stay. Booking direct with resorts in Vegas is almost always less expensive than using a third party, even if you just signed up for their loyalty program 5 minutes ago.
Book a room with free cancellation
Room rates in Las Vegas fluctuate frequently and it’s worthwhile to check back every so often after booking in an attempt to snag a better deal. If the room price drops, or a more attractive room option becomes available you can cancel and re-book instantly realizing that savings. Additionally, a refundable room is like free travel insurance. If work interrupts or life happens, you can back out of your reservation with no financial consequences. When booking direct, most properties allow you to cancel your reservation up to 72 hours prior to your stay for a full refund.
OTAs also offer refundable reservations, but , as mentioned earlier is not usually as attractive as booking with the property.
Some OTA websites do offer non-refundable room options at a slight discount to booking direct with the property. While saving money is tempting, you’ll end up kicking yourself if the room price drops and you are unable to re-book at a greater discount all because you wanted to lock in a $6/night savings.
Personally, I can’t remember the last time I stuck with my original Vegas hotel reservation. Whether re-booking to take advantage of a price drop or jumping to another property or room type that I wanted to experience, half the fun (for me at least) is finding a better deal after the fact.
Upgrade options available after you book
Once you book with an OTA, your reservation is usually set in stone, however, when you book with the property directly additional room options and inexpensive upgrades may present themselves. Hotel loyalty programs frequently reach out post sale with enticing upgrade offers like a room with a better view, suites, and experiences/activities for a nominal up-charge.
Personally, I have taken advantage of a number of these deals, most recently upgrading to a room at Cosmopolitan with a balcony overlooking the Bellagio fountains for a meager $30 a night.
While it isn’t a hard and fast rule, most believe you are more likely to receive a complimentary upgrade at check in if available when you make your reservation directly with the property. Makes sense, as a direct booking is more lucrative for the resort than one through an OTA that charges a hefty commission. Additionally, rooms booked via OTAs are more likely to get an undesirable view such as an air conditioning unit, or a lower floor on the backside of the property. There are clearly exceptions, but if I’m a resort, I’m going to put my loyal customers giving me more lucrative direct bookings a more desirable room.
Earn loyalty points and status with your loyalty program
Earning tier and reward points within the casino’s loyalty program you are a member of (even if you just signed up online) is another perk of booking direct. Tier credits allow you to gain status within the program opening up additional perks as you elevate from level to level. Reward credits/points convert to cash allowing you to make purchases at the resort at restaurants, bars and convenience stores.
Using your casino loyalty program branded credit card can be a way to further benefit from booking direct.
- M life Mastercard offers 3x Tier Credits and Reward Points (cash to use at the resort) on purchases with the chain.
- Total Rewards Visa offers 5x Reward Credits (cash to use at the resort) on purchases within the chain.
Book now, pay later
When booking direct with a Vegas hotel loyalty program, you typically pay only part of the full cost of your stay up front. The rest you will settle up at the time of check in. OTAs will generally make you fork over cash for the entire reservation upfront.
You know your room will be there
It happens infrequently, but, there are horror stories of visitors booking through a 3rd party site, showing up at the front desk only to be informed there is no reservation on file. Adding a middle man can add additional complexity. When booking direct, you have a confirmation email from the property you intend to stay at which can be shown at check in if there are issues. I can assure you, the front desk worker won’t care that you have a Travelocity confirmation number if the booking never made it to their system.
Recently, a neighbor of mine showed up at the airport to depart for his Florida vacation booked via 3rd party. He had his confirmation code and itinerary printed out. Long story short, the reservation never made it to the airline, the hotel, nor could the OTA he booked with see any reservation associated with the assigned trip confirmation number. Money was refunded, but the trip didn’t happen. Talk about a letdown.
When booking through a 3rd party you are forced to deal with them directly if there are issues. The hotel cannot refund or change your reservation. It isn’t fun to battle through an off shore phone tree for assistance while the front desk staff is standing 3 feet in front of you unable to help.
While we feel booking direct carries more benefits to the traveler and is typically cheaper, there is still value in shopping around as you never know what deals are lurking out there waiting to be found! Happy shopping, and remember, no matter how you book, your Vegas trip is destined to be epic.