As we head into another wonderful year of travel possibilities, I would like to offer a caveat. Travel is among the top Internet scams. But most folks are now making their own travel arrangements and they’re doing it online. So how can you avoid getting ripped off?
1. Use a reputable company. Stick with a well-known entity, a trusted brand. If you haven’t heard of the company or hotel or resort or whatever, do a Google search and see what comes up. Check with a travel agent or the U.S. Tour Operators Association (www.ustoa.com) or the Better Business Bureau (www.bbb.org) to see what they know. Check for reviews on Yelp.com and TripAdvisor.com. If you can’t find anything or you only find negative reviews, I would NOT book with the vendor no matter how “good” a deal it seems to be.
2. Read the fine print. What are the terms and conditions? Are there things you assumed to be included that are not? What kind of amenities are offered? Is this a three-star hotel or a five-star hotel? Are transfers included? Is there porterage? What about tipping? What about cancellation fees? Is there a guaranteed departure?
3. Do your homework. Check out photos to see if match up with descriptions. Are you getting what you’ve been promised (or think you’ve been promised)? Ask about anything you’re in doubt about (see sample questions above). If no one can answer your questions satisfactorily, don’t book! Travel insurance is also a good idea, if purchased through a third party, such as InsureMyTrip.com.
FYI: The most abused words in the travel industry are: free, all-inclusive, and guaranteed.
If you have problems during your trip, go with the three “C’s:” Challenge, Complain and Compensation!