5 pitfalls to watch for when you book a vacation online

November 23, 2014

While most online travel reservations usually go off without a hitch, here are fivepitfalls to watch for when you book onlinebefore you click the "make reservation" button.
1. Lack of customer service

Online reservations for rental cars, airline tickets and hotels don't offer the same tailored-to-you services that you'd expect from a travel agent, who do more for customers than just book tickets; they act as counsellors by offering advice on destinations and planning entire itineraries for clients who desire a custom trip package.Online booking sites can't offer that level of service. As such, the traveller is responsible for planning the entire trip.

  • If you're not sure you want to create your own agenda, consider using the services of a travel agency instead of booking your trip online.

2. Low, but not lowest, rates

Travel sites are popular because travellers believe they have the authority to compare prices and find the best rates. This is only true among airlines and hotels working with that site.

  • Smaller, and often cheaper, venues won't have their prices listed. Consequently, travellers who rely solely on online booking may not discover the best deals.
  • In many cases, it's also cheaper to book flights and hotel stays directly with the companies themselves, as they often have special offers listed on their own websites.

3. Inaccurate reservations

Anytime you use a third-party source for reservations, there is an opportunity for miscommunication between the travel site and merchant.

  • In some cases, hotels don't automatically alert travel sites when a room or package is no longer offered. Some customers book services only to discover later that they are unavailable.

4. Unfair treatment

Despite travel website claims, travellers who book directly with merchants are often given better treatment. They get first dibs on the best rooms, freebies and special offers.

  • Travel site customers are often viewed as one-time guests, while customers who book directly with hotels are seen as loyal patrons more apt to bring in repeat business.

5. Delayed cancellation alerts

Travel sites are supposed to alert customers when flights are cancelled, but sometimes these alerts are not sent in time.

  • Travellers must purchase new tickets for another flight if a refund for the cancelled flight is not issued, which leads to unexpected expenses.

Take charge of your vacation

Be proactive in your travel planning: call hotels after making a reservation to double-check your room, and take the time to call smaller airlines to inquire about their ticket prices.

  • Follow this format with hotels as well, since they often offer special deals to those who call directly.

With the rise of online travel booking sites, travellers have an easy and effective way to make reservations on a dime. However, these sites may not always be what they seem. Expect to have a positive experience using online booking sites, but be aware of possible pitfalls, too.

5 pitfalls to watch for when you book a vacation online
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