Online booking portals: Tips for booking travel on the Internet

If you want to plan your trip on your own terms, you will find countless offers on online booking portals.

There are offers for flights, rental cars, hotels and private accommodation. But online booking portals are not always the best choice.

There is a risk that you may be tricked by confusing prices, misleading reviews or artificial time pressure. In case of problems during the booking process or deficiencies during the trip, it is sometimes unclear who to contact.

Booking portals: who is my point of contact?

Only the operator of the booking portal is responsible for problems related to the booking process. You should find the address on the website in the imprint.

However, if something is wrong with the booked travel service, such as a delayed flight or a completely dirty accommodation, the platform operator is usually not responsible. Instead, you have to contact the company that offers the travel service, not the agent.

In case of defects in the private accommodation, this would be the landlord.  This applies even if you have paid via the booking portal.

Price search engines: This is what comparison portals do

The price for the same service can vary considerably on different platforms. In such cases, comparison portals such as trivago or momondo can be helpful. They keep an eye out for the lowest prices by browsing through the offers on the booking portals and other websites.

Thus, travellers can, for example, get information about where a certain hotel can be booked at the cheapest price and the best service.

Important in this context: you can not book on comparison portals. You will only be forwarded from there to a booking portal or a provider.

Tips for booking on an online portal

  • Take your time. Read and calculate everything carefully.
  • Don't let the providers put you under artificial pressure. Providers often do so by claiming, for example, "Only 3 seats left". This is to make it appear that you need to buy immediately.
  • Do not blindly follow the portal's recommendation. The offers listed at the beginning are not necessarily the best choice. Offers with so-called affiliate links ( = with agency commission) are often placed high up.
  • Compare the prices. Small details can determine the price. In the case of a flight, this could be the departure time, in the case of a rental car, it might be the (special) equipment or in the case of a hotel it can be the question under which conditions the customer can cancel free of charge. Also pay attention to additional costs. Additional services can also affect the price of the trip. It is best to compare prices on different platforms and also obtain information directly from the provider or the local travel agency. The prices might even be cheaper there.
  • Risk of wrong evaluation. Remember: positive reviews can be bought and are used to deceive customers. It is difficult to tell whether a review is honest and credible. Trust your feelings and be critical.
  • Delete cookies. The use of different terminal devices or browsers used can result in different products and prices. Therefore it is worthwhile to delete the browser history and to activate the ingkognito or private mode of the browser.
  • Avoid double bookings. If the booking process has been canceled or has hung up, you should under no circumstances book again immediately. Instead, wait a moment or contact the booking portal. Occasionally, the booking confirmation email is delayed. Also check your spam folder.


There is no 14-day right of withdrawal for travel services.

Booking portals for private accommodation and holiday apartments

Renting holiday apartments and holiday homes is very popular. However, cases of rental fraud are reported again and again. We explain what to look out for.

In search of a trustworthy offers

  • Take a look at the reviews and the description of the property. The presence of many photos creates trust.
  • Avoid bargains when you are asked to pay the full rent or a large deposit in advance.
  • Be careful if an extremely cheap apartment is fantastically located and luxuriously furnished.

In case of doubt:

  • Can the address be correct? Is there a residential building there? → Enter the address in Google Earth.
  • Has anyone already warned about the offer somewhere? → Copy the ad text and enter it in the search engine.
  • Are the photos real? → Use the reverse image search on Google. Scammers like to use the same photos for different offers.

If you are already in contact with the landlord:

  • Make sure that the booking and everything else only takes place via the platform. This is especially important for the paying process!
  • Under no circumstances you should accept sending money with Western Union or MoneyGram, as these methods of payment allow to hide where the money is really going.
  • Check with the landlord how you’ll get the keys. Do not participate if, for example, the handover should take place in a parking lot or if the key should be sent to you for cash by post.

Tips for paying an accommodation on booking portals

  1. Only pay via the booking portal.
  2. At best, pay by direct debit or by credit card.
  3. PayPal and paydirekt are also considered secure payment systems.
  4. Avoid instant bank transfers and cash transfers (e.g. Western Union).

If the guest cancels the accommodation

Depending on the cancellation conditions and the time of cancellation, the host will charge cancellation costs.

This also applies to the event of illness. A travel insurance, taken out in advance, can help.

Saved expenses, e.g. for the cleaning of the apartment or the further rental of the accommodation (which is not always easy to find out in practice) must be offset.

At best, pay by direct debit or credit card.

The guest should reckon with service fees, paid at the time of booking, not being refunded. In addition, some online portals charge an additional processing fee in the event of cancellation.

If the landlord cancels the accommodation

The platforms provide information on what to do if the landlord no longer provides the accommodation.

Usually, the guest receives a full reimbursement and assistance in finding a replacement accommodation via the platform. In some cases, portals are also accommodating regarding additional costs for the replacement accommodation.

The following applies to tenants and landlords: the cancellation must take place via the platform.

If defects occur in the private accommodation

When it comes to shortcomings we are not only talking about mold, vermin or dirty rooms.

The following applies: What has been promised must be kept. Request the landlord, in writing (e.g. by email or WhatsApp), to remedy the defect. The deficiencies must also be reported to the booking portal. Take photos.

If something gets broken during the rental period, the same applies: take photos / videos.

Contact the host and the platform. Do not wait until the trip is over. Request the repair of the damage in writing.

If the landlord does not remedy the defect, you have the right to reduce the rent. Reclaim money that is overpaid.

Damage and liability

Anyone who culpably causes damage to the rented apartment is liable for it.

There is no difference between renting a holiday apartment and renting a room in a hotel. It is advisable to take out a private liability insurance that covers the damage.

Before you travel, check whether your liability insurance covers such cases. If not, you should take out extended coverage or a separate policy with another insurance company.

Important: Always inform the landlord in the event of damage.

Evidence in the event of damage

Make a handover report with the landlord. This gives you something to rely on if he blames you for damage you did not do.

By the way: the liability insurance will check to what extent claims and demands are justified.

Damage caused by the landlord

If you come to harm or are injured, for example by a loose door that breaks off its hinges, the host is liable in any case.

German booking websites

If you are planning a holiday in Germany, it is possible that you’ll visit German booking sites to learn about the various package tours or travel deals that you can purchase.

If you are not cautious while using these sites, you may accidentally book a trip without realizing it. Even though they are just intermediary sites, you can still order travel packages through them.

If you enter the names of the guests who would potentially be traveling to a certain location, along with the dates of your travel and your current address, and press a button that says “Jetzt kaufen”, you are agreeing to pay for what you have selected on the website.

Once you click this button, the purchase is validated, and you will receive a booking confirmation and invoice for the trip.

Examples of these buttons include:

  • Zahlungspflichtig bestellen
  • Kostenpflichtig bestellen
  • Kaufen
  • Zahlungspflichtigen Vertag abschließen

If you want to cancel because you did not intend to book the trip, the travel agency may charge a cancellation fee of up to 50% of the total trip amount, or even more in some cases. 

If you plan to travel in Germany and want to search and compare different trip options online, proceed with caution so that you do not accidentally book a trip!

Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Innovation Council and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Executive Agency (EISMEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.