Being able to book flights and accommodation without the help of a travel agent gives us a huge amount of freedom. It makes us feel as if we’re totally in control of things and that there’s nobody who could con us into something or keep information from us. However, as an experienced traveler I soon realized that there are a couple new traps and snares many users aren’t even aware of. These 7 tips will help you avoid getting ripped off when booking online:
1. Let’s start with the basics: Make sure to check (several) comparison websites when looking for flights or accommodation. You might find very different prices for the same flight or hotel room. For instance, my favorite comparison website for flights within Europe is Skyscanner as they always find the cheapest flights.
2. Platforms like booking.com offer a large variety of accommodation options and amazing discounts. They’re also super handy when it comes to comparing several options so be sure to check them out. However, not all hotels collaborate with these platforms. You might wanna do some additional research, for example on Google Maps to find hotels that aren’t booking.com partners. Also, it might be well worth it to check the hotel’s or airline’s website. Their prices might be different from the booking.com prices. The reason is that websites like booking.com usually purchase a certain allotment beforehand. Hence their prices and availability may differ from what you see on the hotel’s website.
3. Did you know that you might see different prices for the same flights and rooms depending on factors like the device you’re using and whether you’ve googled the destination before? It sounds scary but let’s face it: websites are perfectly aware of who we are and what we’re doing. If you’re using a new Apple device the prices that are displayed might be higher than for someone who’s using the 7 year old laptop they dug out in the basement. That’s because hotels, airlines, car rentals etc assume that if you can afford a new expensive device you will also be likely to pay more for your holiday. Also, if you have checked a flight for a certain date and destination before the website algorithm might assume that you are in desperate need of a flight for this particular date and are therefore willing to pay more. Checking prices using different mobile and desktop devices already saved me a lot of money!
4. My parents sued a tour operator after this had happened to them twice: they booked a cheap early bird fare for a flight that was supposed to depart at 11 am. The website stated that the actual time of departure could vary and my parents figured this was just a boilerplate paragraph. The departure of the flight was then changed to 3 am which meant a huge hassle for my parents as there were no trains going to the airport during the night. Also, the flight back home was changed from late afternoon to super early in the morning so they didn’t even get the breakfast they had paid for and pretty much lost an entire day. At first my parents thought it was just bad luck but after it had happened twice they and many other customers sued the tour operator and there’s now a law in place in Germany that protects customers from this kind of fraud. Depending on where you live though websites might still be doing this so be aware!
5. If you are under the age of 35 and/or a student you should always check if there are student fares available. Some airlines offer very affordable rates for young travelers that can save you hundreds of dollars. Student fares are usually not shown on comparison websites so be sure to check yourself if there’s a way to save money by sending over your student id.
6. After working at a hotel for a couple of months there’s one tip I really want to share with you to avoid nasty surprises at your destination: Always provide your credit card number when booking a hotel room even if it’s not mandatory. The reason for this is that a reservation with a credit card number will count as a “confirmed reservation”. If the hotel is overbooked (yes, all hotels and airlines overbook as they expect a certain amount of no shows) the reservations without a credit card number are the first to get deleted from the system to make room for guests who have already showed up or who have provided payment details. Especially if you arrive pretty late most rooms might already be booked for this night and having to find another place to stay would be super annoying.
7. Consider alternatives: Depending on your preferences and the kind of holiday you’re after you should keep in mind that there isn’t only hotels but also camping, couch surfing, motor homes, hostels, Airbnb, holiday homes and so on. For some of you this might be a no brainer but there are still many travelers who haven’t really considered these options yet. Especially if the hotel rooms in a city are either fully booked or super expensive due to special events like a trade fair alternatives like Airbnb can come in super handy. Same goes for planes, buses, car sharing, trains, boats… get creative when putting together your journey!
Do you have more tips that’ll make booking a trip easier? Please share them in the comments!