Thinking of buying your next vacation online? From finding a flight to booking a hotel, online travel can save you a bundle of money, but knowing what to watch out for is just as important as finding a great deal. Save yourself some grief and explore these 13 Things before you book your next vacay online.
1. They Know Who’s a Mac and Who’s a PC
Last year, Orbitz tracked people’s online activities to test out a little experiment: Do Mac users spend more on travel than PC users? Turns out that on average, Mac users lay out $20 to $30 more per night on hotels and go for more stars, according to the Wall Street Journal. As a result, the online travel site shows these users different, more expensive travel options first. To avoid inadvertently paying more, sort results by price.
2. Their Software Doesn’t Always Sync With the Hotels
A guaranteed reservation is almost impossible to come by-but the risk of finding out your flight or hotel is overbooked increases with third-party providers. The middleman’s software isn’t immune to system errors, so always call the hotel or airline to make sure your booking was processed.
3. Double-Check Packaged Deals
Ever notice how travel sites recommend one-stop shopping, like a hotel, rental car, and tour package all in one click? These deals usually feature travel that no one wants, like flights with multiple layovers. Check the fine print.
4. A Travel Agent Might Be Better
According to the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), the average service fee for booking airline tickets in 2009 was around $20. Yet that can outweigh $100 or more in straight savings, as well as added benefits (like upgrades and better flights) you can get from a travel agent. The New York Times’ frugal traveller did a series of test runs, finding the best available flights online and comparing that to what a travel agent could do. The results: usually, the travel agent came in cheaper-fees included.
5. Last Minute Travel Isn’t What It Used To Be
At the advent of the online travel site boom, last minute was the time to book-cheap flights! Cheap hotels! Getaway this weekend! But the buy-and-fly magic has ceased to exist; now your sweet spot is about six weeks (or 42 days) before departure.
6. You Won’t Build Hotel or Airline Loyalty
Don’t book online if you want to rack up those miles or points-at most, you’ll get the minimum, and your booking won’t make you eligible for any special offers, like double points on weekend stays. Work directly with a company or travel agent to build up the loyalty points that will get you upgrades and priority rewards.
7. Travel Agents Often Have Exclusive Perks
Online booking sites are all about dates, rates, and space, meaning their goal is to put heads in beds, says Misty Ewing at Virtuoso luxury travel network. But for the same price, an agent might have connections and special access. “For example, when travelling in Italy, you can take a cooking class with a local resident in her home-a level of authenticity not provided by the Internet,” she says.
8. Corporate Travel Needs Are Often Better Done in Person
Planning a small business trip can become a logistical mess, and online travel sites offer little help. But specialty business travel agencies can help their clients with corporate events, meetings, and special services that online travel sites don’t deal with-and might be more likely to get you refunds on unused tickets.