Q. I've been checking prices for hotels in the USA on a comparison website and there are some really good deals with Clever-hotels.com. But are they too good to be true?

Joanne Hill

A. Price-comparison websites can be the traveller's great friend, enabling you to check prices across a wide range of hotel rooms, airline seats or rental cars in a few seconds. But they can also constitute the worst kind of smoke and mirrors, leading you not direct to the hotel but to intermediaries who may add unexpected extras.

For example, I have just looked at a widely used site for hotels in Philadelphia - and found an apparent bargain at just £37 for a double room. Two problems: it isn't in Philadelphia, but in a distant suburb, and it isn't £37 - because the taxes are revealed in the smallest of print. So while I am happy to use them to get a sense of prevailing prices, I will normally try to book direct with the hotel.

In your case, I can't see any value in a British traveller booking an American hotel through Clever-hotels.com, a German company. The company says it "is committed to providing customers with worldwide hotel rates at the best possible price". But I made a test booking for a hotel I know well, the Travelodge on the seafront in Brighton, for the night of 18-19 March, and was quoted "49.00£".

Not a bad price - but not as good as the rate you get direct from Travelodge.co.uk for the same night, which is £44.  I have yet to find a remote third party popping up on a price-comparison website that offers good value.

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