The cost of a trip away to the same holiday cottage on the same dates can vary by hundreds of pounds depending on who the stay is booked with, according to Which?.
A snapshot investigation from the consumer group looked at six different holiday cottages listed across multiple booking platforms in order to find how prices and booking terms compared between companies.
Varying prices across the same property
Which? looked at properties across a number of popular holiday booking websites, including Airbnb Booking.com and Sykes, and found a disparity in prices across listing - even for the cottages on the same dates.
The group also found significant variations in the booking terms across sites.
In some cases, customers had to pay more upfront in order to ensure greater flexibility if they had to change or cancel plans at short notice, whereas other booking platforms had more robust refund policies in place relating to Covid.
This allowed guests to rebook or cancel if they developed or tested positive for Covid, or if they were subject to local or national travel restrictions.
A three-bed holiday cottage in Suffolk listed on Kid & Coe was found to cost nearly £650 more for six people for the same dates if booked through Airbnb, due to the service charge that is applied per guest.
Alongside this, Which? found that Kid & Coe charges around £375 to cancel the booking up to six weeks before check-in, whereas Airbnb allows free cancellations for this cottage up to 24 hours before check-in.
Another example found that a one-bed cottage in Cumbria was listed on both Expedia and Vrbo for £787, but guests were only able to cancel free of charge up to two months before check-in.
Love Cottages and Good Life Lake District Cottages also showed the same listing for £150 less, but guests booking through these two sites would be subject to a £50 admin fee if they wanted to request a date change.
‘Always check the terms’
Which? is advising those considering booking a holiday cottage this summer to do their research beforehand and check the terms of any potential stay, only going with a company that offers a generous refund and flexible booking policy.
Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said: “Many people might assume a UK holiday would be risk-free compared to taking a trip abroad this year. But while the risks may be lower, that doesn’t mean they’re non-existent – and not all providers will protect you.
“The best way to ensure your money is protected when booking is to make sure you choose a provider that offers a robust refund policy. Some companies that claim you can book with confidence actually offer very little flexibility, so always check the terms.
“Travel insurance can offer some additional protections, but UK cover is often limited so it pays to do your research – and for added protections in case your cottage isn’t as described, up to standard or isn’t provided at all, book with a credit card.”