Long gone are the days when travel required sitting down with your local travel agent months before your trip. Today, simply hop online and run a search on flights and hotels to your favorite destination. Bam! The vacation of your dreams is instantly booked at a competitive price. However, as Sitejabber reviewers can attest, companies’ cost-cutting tactics can come at a significant cost to the consumer experience. So, before you book that killer deal on your next trip, be wary of the following tactics used by online travel sites.
1. Bait & Switch Plus “Hidden” No Refund Clauses
One would assume that a travel company would allow refunds or allow the customer to make changes to the dates of travel. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Sitejabber reviewers have reported numerous companies with no refund policies. So if for any reason you need to change your plans, you could wind up with a real heartbreak. One Sitejabber reviewer, Ashish reports:
“…while booking [a] flight or any package (flight + hotel) they will increase price[s] while you[r] transaction is taking place… Second their hidden refund policy which no one can read while doing transaction… They have no refund policy in flight + hotels deals.”
When booking a trip, you likely intended to go on specific dates, however, as we all know, life happens and plans change. However, some unfortunate reviewers have also experienced booking a hotel with their intended travel dates only to have *the website* change the dates, and then to add insult to injury, the company refuses to give them a refund! Sitejabber reviewer, Kenneth shares,
“when I tried to cancel and get the correct date and three nights instead of one, I was told that was possible but the rate would be doubled, so I refused. Now they are saying my ‘reservation’ was non-refundable even though it was two months away.”
The takeaway here is: before booking travel online, be sure to have a thorough understanding of the site’s refund policy, and if their refund policy is poor, it may be best to walk away, even if it looks like a great deal.
2. Lemon Vacations
Reviewers have also reported getting a great price on a trip, but as the trip commences, they realize there are hidden fees, mediocre amenities and poor customer service. You could wind up arriving at the airport and spending additional money on baggage fees despite the company saying otherwise, ultimately defeating your best money-saving efforts. Sitejabber reviewer Jolene expresses,
“the airline had no customer service but gave us a number to upgrade on our return trip. Which by the way cost us another $350.00 to upgrade to checked luggage.”
Other headaches incurred by attempting to get the cheapest fare from an online travel company include multiple stops and long layovers without knowing in advance. And lastly, a consumer-valued “extra” most of us would consider important is accessible and dependable customer service. Customer service can be rude and not helpful and subsequently makes changes or adjustments to your trip extremely frustrating. Finding a travel site that can be easily accessible in the event you need to speak directly to a customer service representative is a huge plus. Consider checking out reviews in advance to see what other consumers are saying and avoid booking the dreaded Lemon Vacation.
3. Disappearing “Ghost Reservations”
“we were informed by the airline that the booking for my two young children had been cancelled by the agency… obviously we couldn’t fly without them, so we were placed on standby.”
Other travelers have run into situations where they book a hotel through a third-party travel site, but when they arrive at the hotel, there’s no record of the reservation and the hotel has no working relationship with the travel site in question. Still more travel nightmares include online travel companies that book your hotel room just as they say, but then cancel your reservation before you arrive to the hotel and never refund your money. So again, always check reviews and verify your hotel reservations before you leave your home.
(De)Parting Words of Advice
Travel deal seekers don’t despair–there are still plenty of good online travel sites and legitimate online travel deals. The fact of the matter is we would all benefit from doing a bit more due diligence before booking our next vacation. Be sure the company has a solid refund policy, clearly states what exactly is included in the price, has accessible customer service (preferably by phone), and has a reputable business relationship with the airlines and hotels you are using. The biggest bang for your buck is a stress-free travel experience.