Thursday, November 23

Vacation Travel Tips and Traps

Memorial Day has slipped past on the calendar. The great summer vacation season is upon us. Whether you plan to vacation as a family, a couple, a group of friends, or singly, these vacation travel tips can help you get the most satisfaction and value for your money and avoid popular travel traps and scams.

1. Plan Ahead and Comparison Shop

Even if your schedule is flexible enough to take advantage of last minute discount deals, you still need to plan ahead and comparison shop possibilities. Of course, most people and families must schedule vacation time and plan ahead.

Whatever your situation, how can you know a deal when you see it if you haven't spent some time researching and comparing prices of transport, accommodations or package deals, assessing the quality of the offerings, and checking out the reliability of potential providers? Reading the fine print on options that attract you can help you identify options that look good and rule out the poor or deceptive possibilities.

Avoid this trap: "Only $99 for 3 days at a luxury beachside resort." What's the catch? Typically, taking advantage of such "bargains" means submitting to hours of high pressure sales pitches for time shares or other property.

Vacation Travel Tips

  1. Plan Ahead and Comparison Shop
  2. Compare Package Deals to Direct Sourcing
  3. Get Recommendations from Family and Friends. Consult an Expert.
  4. Be Flexible with Travel Dates if Possible
  5. Have Tent Will Travel! Or Rent a Vacation Home.
  6. Pay By Credit Card

2. Compare Package Deals to Direct Sourcing

It's certainly convenient—particularly if you have children—to get an inclusive package to a popular, kid-friendly resort. But these package deals will not necessarily save you money. Some may not actually be all inclusive but have hidden fees for amenities you'd like. So take a little time online to directly price the parts of the package—for instance, transportation, accommodation, theme park or entertainment fees. Read the fine print. Then see what's best for your family.

Avoid this trap: Too-good-to-be-true low-price packages. Don't even consider offers that arrive via email, phone, call or postcard. Carefully research advertised bargains. Many such "budget" packages misrepresent the quality of accommodations and the amenities included. Check firms offering such with the Better Business Bureau, check reviews on sites such as, and do a wider search in your favorite browser.

3. Get Recommendations from Family and Friends. Consult an Expert.

Family and friends are often able to share their good and bad experiences with you about their travel to popular resort areas and places they stayed, services they used, or packaged tours. Consulting an established and reputable travel agent about cruises and resort packages can also be helpful if you are inexperienced.

Avoid this trap: Cruise or resort packages offered by unknown aggregators. Many fly-by-night travel "aggregators" set up online and offer what seem to be great deals. Some may be legitimate, but many may misrepresent their deals. Red flags include: no specifics about transportation, accommodations, or fees. Even if you get them on the phone, they are vague. They want the money upfront before they give you details. What to do: Just say no.

4. Be Flexible with Travel Dates if Possible

If you are able to travel off-season or to easily rearrange your schedule, you may be able to get some actual deals. For example, travel experts indicate that lowest airfares are usually on Wednesday, followed by Tuesday and Saturday. Transition cruises where the ship moves from one seasonal venue to another offer the same amenities and usually a smaller crowd for a lower rate. You cruise one-way and then fly home. Hotels often offer lower rates for certain times of the week or year.

Avoid this trap: Get Your Free Airfare Voucher Here. Many direct sales gatherings will offer such "bonuses" if you attend. Or maybe your favorite pizzeria or steakhouse is having a drawing. The problem with such airline vouchers? Even if they are real, they typically have limited dates and other qualifications that make them no bargain.

5. Have Tent Will Travel! Or Rent a Vacation Home.

Enjoyable recreation areas and resorts from state and national parks to theme parks such as Disney World offer camping. If your family enjoys camping and you don't mind doing a little campsite cooking, you can even enjoy very popular resorts for less, even in high season. One tip: Book early.

If tents aren't the ideal accommodation, renting a vacation home or condo may be right for your family. Booking with an established rental agency in the locale you wish to visit is usually safe and many agencies offer some protection to clients. Online vacation rental websites have increased in number and popularity. Be sure to check them out carefully, including their privacy policy and online reviews.

Avoid this trap: Fraudulent vacation rental bookings by online crooks. Crooks have found ways to hack the email of individuals offering rentals on some websites. They then make a "booking" for a home or condo they don't control and steal your personal information and money. A major red flag is a demand for you to wire the money or provide access to a bank account.

6. Pay By Credit Card

Whether you book directly, work through a travel aggregator, or select a package deal, most travel reservations will require a deposit. Sometimes the best rates for a given period are "non-refundable." Using your credit card, rather than a debit card or a check, gives you more protection against fraud.

Avoid this trap: "Wire the money today to lock in the best price." Pressure and demands to pay immediately signal a risky or fraudulent deal. Don't do it ever. Just disengage.

An Investment of Time Saves Vacation Dollars

If you take just a little time to put these vacation planning tips to work, you can put together a vacation you can really relax and enjoy and avoid unpleasant surprises. You can also get the most for your hard-earned dollars.

For More Information

Originally published June 2014.

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