Traditionally, January is the time of the year when most people start to plan their next holiday, and with the emergence of the internet in the last ten years, more of us are now booking holidays online. There is no doubt that booking online saves time, but it can lead to issues if you don’t follow these simple rules.
Check and double check booking information
Airlines, tour operators and travel agencies will penalise you if you make a mistake. It is essential that before you click on the button to book your holiday, flight, or, hotel, that you check and double check the essential booking information including passenger names and email address. You will not believe how many times I have had family and friends tell me that they have had to pay an additional fee because they have misspelt or used the wrong forename. Make sure that the name on your passport, matches the online booking form. Some airlines will cancel the flight and expect you to then rebook, using the correct passenger details. It can be a very expensive mistake.
Check the terms and conditions
When booking online, it can be very easy to skip or skim through the booking terms and conditions. Keep a look out for information such as cancellation changes, or fees if you have to make changes to your booking. Even if you cancel the hotel you might still have to pay for the first night depending on the hotel’s cancellation policy. You will find a lot of legal mumbo jumbo, but don’t let this distract you from finding out useful information before you book.
Do your research
You aren’t going to have the luxury of a travel agent to advise you on your chosen destination, resort or accommodation, so, do your research before booking. Don’t feel rushed into making a decision just because the company is offering a limited period offer. The last thing you want to do is go on the Caribbean cruise because it is cheap, to find out it is in the middle of the hurricane season. Read reviews, get opinions from family and friends, just don’t rush into booking. If the deal is too good to be true, it probably includes hidden charges and cost you more than advertised.
Avoid holiday booking fraud
Each year, fraudsters target holiday bookings stealing millions of pounds. Not only are consumers losing thousands of pounds but many holidays are being ruined, with people unable to afford a replacement. Make sure you book online with a reputable online travel company, who has a track record of selling holidays online. Read my guide, which offers advice on booking your holiday safely online, including how to make sure your holiday is financially protected.
Buy Travel Insurance straight away
When you book your holiday, make sure you purchase travel insurance straight away; while your holiday might be six months away, if you were to be taken seriously ill and unable to travel, at least you will be covered and should be able to claim the cost of your holiday back. You also never know if the travel agency, or, airline will go bust in between you paying for your holiday and departing. Believe me, these things happen.
Package holiday or DIY
With the emergence of the internet, you have two options when booking your holiday: either book a package holiday through an online travel agency, or, book your flights, airport transfers and accommodation separately (sometimes called a dynamic packaged holiday, or DIY holiday). The important difference is your consumer protection; in short, if you book your holiday through a company that is ATOL bonded then you will be protected should the tour operator, accommodation provider or airline go bust. If you book it all separately yourself, then you risk being stranded abroad, and have to find your own way back.
For my round the world trip, I have booked the flight with a travel agency who is ATOL bonded, so should any of the airlines go bust, I will be able to continue my journey, or, they will have to fly me home. My accommodation though is more risky, but when booking through the likes of Booking.com you don’t pay until you arrive at your hotel, so, I’ve not physically lost any money.
Look for the logos
No matter if you book a package or DIY holiday keep a look out for logos like ATOL, ABTA, TTA; against the logo should be their member number, check this on the appropriate website because sometimes fake websites use these logos to trick you into thinking that they are reputable. Being a member means that the companies have to follow strict audits and policies, so are more trustworthy, but still make sure you check out reviews to read anything negative about them.
Photo views of Bora Bora by David Kosmos Smith.