Daydreaming about that trip you’ve been planning to a tropical locale away from the winter cold can be fun, but if you don’t know the pitfalls to lookout for, it may feel like a nightmare has just washed ashore your sunny beach vacation.
That’s why I’m sharing a list of pitfalls and things to avoid for when looking for travel deals.
The Bait and Switch (aka. The Too-Good-To-Be-True Deal)
We’ve all seen it — “$299 for trip to Cancun*!” (Wait, was that a *? What does * mean?) To be honest, the * usually equals more money — or what I call the “look-at-the-fine-print-sucker star.”
An amazing advertised deal like that will get you to click on the link, but you’re fine-print radars should be popping up too.
It may state that it doesn’t include taxes and fees or that there are a limited number of seats/hotel rooms available at that rate.
Companies can’t use false advertising, so that means someone out there is getting that trip — if they book just right. Take into consideration that you will have book around blackout dates, you may have to leave at odd times of the day or in the middle of the week.
And the most important thing I can stress is to check recent reviews of the hotel you will be staying at. Of course the hotels that have bad food, outdated rooms, or are located next to a construction zone are going to be cheaper to book. Just know what you are getting into beforehand.
Click here for an interesting list that shows you 10 signs of a possible travel scam.
Uncheck Those Boxes
Once you’ve narrowed down your vacation choices and are prepared to book, make sure to check (or uncheck) those boxes that can add hundreds of dollars to your trip.
Is that box checked for a $20 per person round-trip transfer to your hotel? It was on one of my recent trips, but I unchecked it knowing that the hotel gives free shuttle rides to and from the airport. The online travel agency wasn’t going to tell me that.
And never under estimate the power of a taxi or public transportation. If your hotel is near the airport, a $30 round-trip taxi ride for four people is much cheaper than $80 round-trip shuttle ride. And you may even be able to negotiate your taxi driver to drive past a landmark or two on the way. (Just make sure to stick with the taxi stand/bus stand for safety.)
Do you need the added travel insurance or is it covered by your credit card company? Many companies offer minimum protection for free. If you are going on a last minute trip, or a short or inexpensive vacation it may not be the best idea to pay for added travel protection since it is less likely that you will need to cancel.
If you are planning a trip way in advance, one with an expensive price tag, or complex plans, then travel insurance may be right for you. Click here for a great link that can help you decide if you need travel insurance for your trip.
The Hidden Fees
So you’re one of the lucky ones that managed to find you trip for $299. It all checks out: decent hotel reviews, and late flight on a Tuesday (but you don’t mind) and it includes taxes and booking fees.
It’s the day of your trip, and then you realize this sage piece of advice — the website with the lowest price is not necessary the best deal.
It’s true. You need to take into account all those fees that aren’t included with your travel booking.
Did it include your checked baggage fee? If not it could end up costing you an extra $100 per person round trip depending on what airline you booked with.
Many more hotels now include a ‘resort fee’ for simply for staying there. Other places may charge you just to have access to the phone, Internet or in-room safe — even if you don’t use it. It’s best to call ahead to check or even ask if it can be waived on your bill.
If the hotel overbooked and no longer has rooms in the category you paid for, make sure you aren’t the one getting charged more for the upgrade upon checkout.
Vacations are supposed to be the relaxing, memory-making times of the year. A little planning ahead and preparation will set you up for a great trip.
-Alison Lorge is a web producer and consumer blogger at WCCO. Text WCCODEALS to 84816 for deals of the week.