Booking Travel on the Web
By Gretchen Kelly
Most sites like Expedia and cheapseats.com are secured sites and are safe in terms of your credit card information BUT you should always, always do your research before booking. I had a friend who booked a “cheap seat” discount airfare to Florida to go to Disney World only to find out they had flown into the wrong city! So don’t expect the web to do your basic research for you.
Also ask questions of people who have been to the destination you want to travel to. Look at guide books that have more detailed information than the web. Call tourism boards and get the latest brochures. And don’t believe everything you read on user-content sites. The secret truth of these sites is that often competitors post negative reviews of each other, masquerading as “real” user feedback. So if you read, “this hotel stinks,” take it with a grain of salt and do your own research. You might be reading a posting by a competing hotel!
What is the best way to book airfare online?
Don’t just rely on main group booking websites. Go to the airline sites themselves. And if you’re unsure about connecting times, call the airline and ask an agent. You’re not supposed to be able to, but I know for a fact that some systems will allow you to book a connecting flight that does not have a “legal’ connecting time—meaning you won’t have enough time to get yourself and your bags on the next flight. An airline agent will have this information in front of them.
What is the best way to book a hotel room on the web?
The main thing to keep in mind when booking a hotel online is that pictures are not reality. Hotels will show their best representative room, not necessarily the room that you’ll get. So do your research, find a target hotel, then call that hotel and ask them to describe the room of your choice to you. If you have the person’s name, they are less likely to pump up the image and you’ll have a better idea of what you’ll get for the price they quote.
Are there any sites to be careful about using?
Really, really take care when looking at apartment swaps or vacation home rentals on Craigslist.com or similar sites. Even Craigslist itself tells you to beware of people asking you to put “retainer” money into their bank accounts, etc. There are plenty of legit postings on these sites, but it’s open to anyone and there are plenty of scam listings, too.
Finally, think of the web as a tool not the final word on booking a trip. Ask questions, call hotels and airlines and speak to real humans. Tourism boards can also help as they have listings of officially “approved” hotels that meet their standards of comfort and cleanliness. Get feedback from other sources than a single booking site on the air fare, destination or hotel of your choice. Unplug yourself long enough to use other sources of information and use the web after you’ve done all your homework.
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