Online travel agencies (OTAs) are becoming increasingly competitive with direct travel suppliers (airlines, hotels, rental car companies, etc.) by eliminating or reducing fees for many types of travel transactions.

USA TODAY recently put the OTAs to the test for airfare, comparing offerings on Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity to the airlines' own prices to determine the best value for consumers. The results indicated that the old adage of booking directly with the provider to save a few dollars no longer applies, so I decided to conduct the same experiment for hotel bookings.

Currently, unlike flight transactions, the OTAs have not eliminated booking fees for hotels. However, many (such as Expedia and Orbitz) are touting fee reductions for hotel reservations, or no fees/penalties for hotel reservation changes and cancellations. Many also offer low-fare guarantees and/or price-assurance policies. However, OTA fee policy changes in particular have not necessarily led to a new savings standard across the industry.

So, does one company or travel supplier tend to offer the best values for hotels?

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