Whether reserving a hotel room, buying plane tickets or making other travel arrangements, these tips will help you get a deal that delivers what you are promised.
- Plan as far ahead as you can. Special deals on hotel rooms and airline seats often sell out very quickly.
- Be flexible in your travel plans. Hotels often offer better rates on days when they expect fewer people to be staying with them. After you get a fare quote from an agent, ask if you could save money by leaving a day earlier or later, by taking a trip on the same day, or using a different departure point.
- Check out the seller. Ask tour operators and travel agents whether they belong to a professional association, then check to see if they are a member in good standing. Contact your state or local consumer protection agency and the Better Business Bureau to find their complaint history.
- Comparison shop. Determine the complete cost of the trip in dollars, including all service charges, taxes, processing fees, etc.
- Beware of unusually cheap prices and freebies. It could be a scam and you could end up paying more than that of a regular package tour.
- Make sure you understand the terms of the deal. If you are told that you’ve won a free vacation, ask if you have to buy something else in order to get it. If the destination is a beach resort, ask the seller how far the hotel is from the beach. Then ask the hotel.
- Ask about cancellation policies. You may want to look into trip insurance for added protection. Travel and Cruise World offers pricing and policy information on plans from different companies and describes the different forms of policies available.
- Insist on written confirmations. Ask for written proof of reservations and dates.
- Pay by credit card. It’s not unusual to make a deposit or even pay in full for travel services before the trip. A credit card gives you the right to dispute charges for services that were misrepresented or never delivered. If a travel agent or service providers tells you that you can’t leave for at least two months, be very cautious—the deadline for disputing a credit card charge is 60 days and most scam artists know this. (See Resolving Credit Problems).
In some states, travel sellers have to be registered and insured. Advance payments for travel must be placed in an escrow account until the services are provided. Prizes or “free” gifts may also be regulated. Contact your state or local consumer protection agency to find out about your rights and how to file complaints.
Beware: Contests and Sweepstakes
Don’t pay if you are asked to give money to claim a prize or get something else free. If you have really won a sweepstakes, you pay taxes directly to the government, not through the company. Beware of invitations that include phrases like:
“You have been specially selected...”
“You have won...”
“A new car! A trip to Hawaii! $2,500 in cash!”
“Yours, absolutely free! Take a look at our...”
“Your special claim number lets you ...”
“All you pay is postage, handling, taxes ...”
More Consumer Information is available by visiting Consumer Information