Planning holidays but not sure what to watch out for? Read my top 10 tips for booking holidays online!
1. Compare like with like.
When comparing package holidays with holidays you design yourself make sure you include baggage charges, airport transfers and local taxes. Tour Operators like Sunway , Topflight and TUI Holidays will offer packages with no hidden extras so make sure the ‘deal’ you think you have is really as good as it seems. Bear in mind a 20kg checked bag can cost up to €110 to Europe in peak season and airport transfer costs can also be extremely high, so make sure you add these to the cost of the basic flight and accommodation before you compare with a package holiday. The same applies to long haul holidays. Sometimes specialists like Tropical Sky will be able to offer cheaper packages than if you bought a flight and hotel separately. Comparison websites such as Trivago or Tripadvisor are also useful as they search numerous websites for the same property and you may find significant savings.
2. Check weather reports.
You might see a special offer for the Caribbean in September but remember it is hurricane season! Likewise the Algarve is always fantastic value in the winter but remember to pack your umbrella! If you are looking for a sun holiday, make sure there will be sun! Weather sites such as wunderground have a historical tab so you can see what the weather was like in previous years, at the time you wish to travel.
3. Check reviews and locations!
Tripadvisor has reviews from consumers so you are not relying on a travel website’s recommendations. Check reviews before you book because a hotel may be a 4* standard but it could be in the middle of nowhere! Remember close to the beach on some websites may mean a five minute drive! This is also extremely important with city breaks as some hotels can be miles from the centre of town.
4. Check one way and return airfares.
When booking a flight make sure you check both one way and return airfares. With Aer Lingus and Ryanair for instance, you may find it is cheaper to fly out with one airline and home with another. This can also be useful for good flight times, one airline may have better times on the outward journey and another on the return. Skycanner will combine all airlines so you can automatically find the best airfares and quite often the lowest priced journey will be with two different carriers.
5. Check that flights are direct
You may find a special offer on a particular website to Los Angeles but when you book it you will find that it takes you 24 hours to get there! Sometimes the lowest airfares have many stopovers and can take double the time of a direct flight – make sure you read the times!
6. Check passport and visa requirements.
It may seem obvious to check your passport but some countries require that it is valid for 6 months after your stay so make sure you double check this. Likewise with visas, if travelling to the USA you need to ensure you have filled out an ESTA online, some European countries like Turkey have online visa applications.
7. Check that the company you are booking with is reputable.
Some online companies are not adequately bonded so if they go into liquidation your money and booking is lost. Check that the company you are booking with is government licensed and bonded so your money and booking will be secure should a problem arise.
8. Check cancellation policy with hotels.
Many hotels have fantastic early booking offers but require you pay in advance and will not allow a refund under any circumstance. If there is even a remote chance you have to change or cancel your holiday, don’t book a non refundable room.
9. Get Travel Insurance
If I had a cent for every time I heard from a customer say that they ‘didn’t need insurance’ I would be a wealthy woman! No one imagines that the horror story they have read about in the papers, could happen to them – it can! The European health Insurance card only covers you in a public hospital, it will not cover an air ambulance ( average cost €30-50K) or if you have to curtail your holiday and fly home to a sick family member. Likewise holiday disruption due to flight cancellations or theft of property or cash, the list is endless – suffice to say, make sure you are adequately covered. Multitrip.com have annual policies from €15.95 so you really have no excuse!
10. Before you book, call a travel agent.
This may defeat the purpose of doing the whole thing yourself but in many cases they will actually find lower prices for you. Even if they can only match the price you already have, at least you will have an expert at the other end of the phone in case of an emergency. Remember, many online websites don’t offer the same service!
Note some of the links in this post contain affiliate links where I receive a small commission if a booking is made.