Spring Break Travel Discounts May Come with “Baggage”
It’s that time of year, folks across the country are itching for a much-anticipated break from school and work. It’s also the time when eager spring breakers put down their guard and fall victim to travel scams.
March is National Consumer Protection Month, a perfect occasion to review tips for fending off swindlers and ensuring your spring break is carefree.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Be wary of bargains offering extremely steep discounts. There are many travel agencies that entice travelers with “too good to be true” travel packages, only to charge hidden fees or inflate costs elsewhere. Make sure you fully understand the terms before committing.
- Do your homework. Before you buy a vacation package, make sure you’re booking with a reputable company. Good place to start your search is with the Better Business Bureau. You can also conduct your own research. Check out discount sites like Kayak or Expedia, and inquire directly with airlines and hotels to ensure you’re getting the best deal.
- Get it in writing – and read the fine print. Read your contract closely to ensure you understand exactly what you’re buying.
- Be on the lookout for any surprise costs such as “day use fees,” “resort fees” or additional charges for airline seat assignments.
- Verify that your “all-inclusive” package really includes all costs – things like ground transportation, meals, drinks, port fees, taxes and gratuities.
- Request copies of cancellation and refund policies. Be especially wary of clauses allowing your travel agency to swap your hotel at the last minute for another “comparable” one.
- Make sure all verbal agreements are included in your written contract.
- Pay by credit card. In most cases, it’s best to pay with cash rather than accruing credit-card debt. In the case of travel, however, many creditors offer protection against travel scams. Federal law also allows you to dispute fraudulent charges. If your travel agency insists on payment by cash, check or money order, take your business elsewhere. And remember, if you can’t afford to pay off your credit card bill at the end of the month, you probably can’t afford the vacation.
- Consider travel insurance. This type of insurance could be valuable if your schedule isn’t flexible, or you anticipate possible disruption in your plans. Be sure that it covers trip cancelation by you or your tour operator.