when I made our reservations back in May for our trip this past November, I found the prices to be less on the Couples website than on the travel websites. The only thing I would watch is the price of the room plus airfare through this website vs direct. I think we could have done a little better to book the flight direct, but I had never stayed and felt it might be easier with the pickups at the airport if we did it all through Couples. But there might be times when it is all a better deal. That is the only caveat I would have.
Yes, there is an advantage. When you book directly with Couples, you've made the reservation yourself and paid the money directly to Couples; you don't have to worry that a third party made the wrong reservation (wrong room or wrong resort) or failed to forward your deposit to Couples. The latter happened a couple of years ago. A popular online travel agency accepted money from clients to make reservations but never sent the money to Couples. There were a number of people on the MB who were affected by it; they lost their money and their reservation. There was at least one couple that paid in full, only to find out that they did not have a reservation and that the travel agency had pocketed their money. It wouldn't have happened if they had booked directly with Couples.
I know everything, and I'm always right (just ask my husband).
Also, Couples will let you change your dates without penalty if you book directly with them. This can help especially if you're booking air separately (or direct with the airline) and need to change dates to get better airfare pricing.
Another big plus (as I see it) with booking with Couples is that if you need to change your dates they don't charge you a fee, and your full deposit is refundable up to 45 days out. Most other sites, you lose your deposit in full if you have to cancel, and you can't change dates without a (big) fee. Even though booking through the Couples website is slightly more (for us anyway) we think it's worth it.
Plus, we're one of the Couples that got caught in the travel agency nightmare two years ago and let me tell you.... Once bitten, twice shy.
We were also scammed by that travel agency 2 years ago, to the tune of over $4000, American Express covered our loss, but we had to rebook our vacation less than 36 hours before departure. Not a cheap thing to do. Couples was very supportive and accomodating. They let us book our room at the original rate, and we only had to spend an additional $300 for the airfare. I will personally never book with anyone but Couples ever again. The price has always been the best(if you find a rate that is about $200 lower somewhere else, remember that Couples prices include travel insurance, while other sites offer this as an add-on at check-out), and it allows the most flexibility. Last year, about 2 weeks after we booked our vacation to CSA, Couples ran a new special and we were allowed to rebook at the reduced rate with no trouble at all, a savings of almost $500 for the week.
I have found that if you use the preferred travel agents listed on this site you will get the best deal. They can get discounts that nobody else can. I have booked 2 trips to csa through an agent listed on here that saved me about $300 compared to booking direct. Even with trip insurance I still save money. Not all agents can get these deals so shop around and even go in person if you can. That way they can show you specifics of the trip and you get the confirmation right then. Our agent even requested an upgrade for us at no cost.