The internet is an amazing tool, especially when it comes to planning trips. You can learn about new places you would never have considered, easily compare flight times and discover the best food and lodging at your destination with a few clicks of your mouse. However, there’s a dark side to booking travel online. While many travelers gravitate towards those one-stop online discount booking sites, they often end up falling prey to the many hidden downfalls of those websites. Here are three common mistakes travelers make when booking trips on online booking sites that may have you thinking twice next time you’re planning a vacation:
Forgetting about customer service needs
Online travel booking sites are notorious for poor customer service. Customers wind up stuck on hold for hours, waiting days, weeks and even months for responses to emails, and being passed endlessly between the booking site and the airline. Just read this Expedia customer service nightmare from a woman trying to cancel a flight to Turkey due to a political coup. Even if you just want to make a minor change to your reservation with one of the online booking sites, you’re likely in for a long, aggravating process. How can you avoid this situation? The best solution is to book with a travel agent who will serve as a middleman with your best interest at heart between you, the airlines and your hotels.
Assuming you’ll get the best seats or hotel room
Many hotels and airlines set aside the less popular seats and rooms for the discount travel booking sites. You may end up sleeping in the room next to the ice machine or elevator or wedged in the very back of the airplane. It shouldn’t surprise you that airlines and hotel chains often give preferential treatment to those who book directly through them or loyalty program members. If not having the best seat or the best hotel room is a dealbreaker for you, you might want to consider calling the airline or hotel directly before booking on Hotels.com, Expedia, Travelocity or similar sites. In most situations, you’ll be better off calling the hotel or airline directly and reserving through them. Many times, they’ll even match the rate the online travel site quoted you.
Ignoring the fine print
No one wants to read the fine print when buying something online. However, not doing so when booking a trip can have serious negative side effects on your travel plans. What do you want to look out for in that small copy hidden on the last page? Always read about the flight’s and hotel’s cancellation policies. Is your ticket nonrefundable? What are the exact terms of the 24-hour cancellation window? Will you be charged a hefty fee if you want to switch your travel dates? For flights, make sure you aren’t about to book a standby seat. If the flight is overbooked, you and your travel companions could be the first booted off. For hotels, pull up the hotel location on the map before reserving. The description may say it’s only 1.5 miles away from where you’ll want to be during your trip, but that doesn’t mean it’s a safe or convenient location.
Have you ever booked a trip on an online booking site and fallen victim to one of these mistakes? Share your experience with us on Facebook.