With Internet and social media usage on the rise, traveling has never been made easier than it is today. There’s no need to go out of your way to look for a travel agent to arrange your vacation. Now, you can book cheap tickets, hotels and tours with just a few clicks.
Online travel agencies have surely grown in popularity in the last decade, thanks to the great deals they offer that can only be availed of through the Internet! Yet, how can you tell if you’re scoring a deal or just getting ripped off? Here are a few tips on how to know for sure:
- Use flight comparison sites
Websites like Kayak.com, Cheapoair.com or FlightHub.com make it easy for you to see the cheapest flights for your destination. Just because Kayak.com allows you to see the price points of three different airlines doesn’t mean it’s the best deal there is. It doesn’t hurt to check how much the same flight costs in another flight comparison website.
- Check official websites
As it won’t cost you a penny to check the official websites of airlines, do it. They may be saving a few seats on sale at an even better price. Remember that online travel agencies actually make money through marking up airline ticket prices, so take the time to check it out. This holds true for hotels. Even if you think you’re getting a deal from an online hotel booking agency, take the time to check the promos of individual hotels before booking through a third-party website.
- Verify the authenticity of the provider
With several choices on the web, it’s important to know whether the company you’ve chosen is actually legit or not. This is especially helpful when you’re booking packages with tour operators and promoters. You don’t want to fall victim to scams such as credit card information theft. If you’re not familiar with the company you wish to purchase a vacation package from, you can check with the Better Business Bureau or United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA). Aside from losing money on the deal, you’ll never know if the masterminds behind the scams will use your credit card for other unauthorized transactions. Better to be safe than sorry!
- Check the inclusions of the package you’re buying
Even if it’s just a flight ticket you’re trying to purchase, it is best to check the inclusions carefully. Do you have free baggage allowance or is this an add-on cost that you have to pay for? Some budget airlines set their base prices really low with a lot of hidden charges you need to be mindful about. The same holds true when you’re booking hotel and tour packages. Are you sure you want to avail of all the inclusions in the package? There are some services that you may not even get to enjoy. If that’s the case, check the individual pricing of the services you will actually be able to make use of and compare them with the package price.
- Read reviews
When booking packages through tour operators, aside from verifying whether they are legit, also read customer-generated reviews to get a good idea of what to expect from the company. While some reviews are seeded by the company itself as part of their marketing strategies, most are written by actual customers themselves and are honest-to-goodness. Just because you “get what you pay for” doesn’t mean you should settle for service that’s not up to par. There’s no need to get stressed with bad service because you’re trying to save. There are deals that come cheap but offer good service, and your aim is to be able to purchase one of these. Ultimately, this is how you can say a deal is a good deal.
- Do not disregard the asterisks
Let’s say you buy a coupon for a hotel stay and you plan to use it on the 4th of July. You call the hotel to confirm your booking and they tell you to pick another date because they don’t accept coupons on holidays. No matter how persistent you are, you’ll never be able to win that argument because it’s been indicated in the fine print. Remember, disclaimers and fine prints are there for a reason. You are expected to read it before purchasing anything. If you fail to do so, then it’s up to you the bear the grunt of your negligence.
- Subscribe for alerts
Here’s a bonus tip on how to keep yourself up-to-date on the best deals in the market: Subscribe for alerts from the major online travel agencies. By doing so, you get e-mail alerts delivered straight on your inbox without scouring the internet for good travel deals day after day. Also, as many companies nowadays use social media channels to promote their deals, you should also subscribe to their pages on Facebook and other social media pages, as well. That way, you never miss out on incredible airline deals that are on sale and which tours are being sold at discounted rates.
- Ask an insider
If you have friends working in the airline, tourism or hospitality industry, it is best to seek their advice and ask them for some benchmark prices. You’ll never know, they might even let you in on limited offers and special rates. At the end of the day, the key to scoring a deal is comparing as much information as you can find and being resourceful.
While the Internet has truly made it easy for everyone to score cheap travel deals, what’s more important besides the savings you get to keep is the experience you get. A few bucks worth of savings may not be worth it if you’re not 100% happy with the full inclusions of the deal. Just because it’s cheap doesn’t mean you have to grab it. It is best to exercise caution when booking deals, as there may be a lot of limitations and hidden charges that can ultimately end up costing you more.