Columbus, OH – Despite the winter weather, the time for spring break and planning summer getaways is upon us.
Whether you’re a college student planning a spring break trip or a family looking to book your next summer vacation, budgets can be tight, and travelers are usually looking for deals on flights and accommodations. During this high travel period, BBB offers the following tips to make sure you don’t run into any road bumps while traveling:
Be wary of travel deals that seem too good to be true.Be cautious of deals that offer packages that seem like an outstanding bargain (five-star hotels, premium airline tickets, etc) but require immediate payment. If a site is offering a hotel deal, take time to call the actual hotel to verify that the company offering the deal has a relationship with the hotel and make sure the room exists.
Get details about your trip in writing. Be sure to confirm the names of the hotels and airlines, total cost of both, any restrictions that may apply, flights and hotel reservations and car rental. Don’t rely only on the receipt or confirmation email; call to confirm all arrangements in advance.
BBB advises prospective travelers to only deal with reputable agents or sites when booking travel, and to carefully check reservation policies and other fine print before booking deals. Package deals may be touted as “all-inclusive,” but be sure you understand exactly what is included. Travelers can find trustworthy companies to work with at bbb.org or bbbtravelhelp.com.
Pay with a credit card. Paying by credit card offers the most consumer protection, should you need to challenge the charges.
Consider purchasing travel insurance. Travel insurance provides coverage for particular perils which are specific conditions under which it will pay claims, such as trip cancellations or medical emergencies. The U.S. Travel Insurance Association maintains a list of licensed travel insurance companies. Certain travel companies have different policies and levels of coverage based on whether you purchase the car rental, flight or hotel. Be sure to shop around and read the terms and conditions before purchasing.
Be wary of claims that you “won” a trip. Unsolicited mail, email and websites saying you have “won a trip” may be scams. If you’ve really won a free vacation, a legitimate business won’t ask you to pay any upfront or processing fees.
Be mindful of your social media posts. It’s hard to resist posting pictures of beautiful scenery and fun times, but doing so has the potential to inform scammers and thieves that you are not at home and can open up the possibility of home or identity theft.
Parents and other relatives should also be on guard if they get calls supposedly coming from students stranded in distant locations, as this can be a scam as well. This so-called “relative scam” usually starts with a call from someone claiming to be a person you know (often a child or grandchild), who is stranded or needs money to get out of jail or deal with another emergency.
If you get such a call, resist any request to send money immediately. Ask for a contact phone number, and then check with other relatives to determine if there is indeed a chance a family member is stranded. A request for you to send money through any alternative payment methods, such as a wire transfer or prepaid card, is often a scam.
If planning ahead isn’t for you, and you want to take a last minute trip, there are still ways to be safe. Let a family member or close friend know where you are going, how to contact you, and an idea of your itinerary. Before you leave, make sure that you have a map of the area you are visiting, GPS, and a way to charge your smartphone. Finally, vacationers should really avoid traveling alone in order to have the safest trip possible.
Travelers can check bbb.org for Business Profiles on trustworthy companies.