This winter, I’ll be driving from San Diego to Arizona with my family for a vacation. Many people travel over the holidays – by plane, train, car, and even boat! Whether you’re looking to escape the cold, visit family or friends, or simply go on an adventure, the holidays are a great time of year to go on a trip.
However, due to its popularity, holiday travel can be expensive! There are some obvious ways to cut down on costs, like traveling by car or staying with friends and family. Another great way to save money? Not losing it to scams, unethical businesses, or confusion!
The following tips from your BBB will help you save money and stay safe:
- Plan ahead. We’re less than two months away from peak holiday travel time. If you haven’t already, it’s time to make plans! The closer the holidays are, the more expensive tickets and accommodations will be. Additionally, the stress of last-minute planning may lead you to miss red flags or not read things properly. If you’ve procrastinated, click here for BBB tips on planning a last-minutes vacation.
- Be careful online. It’s likely that you’ll see ads for great deals while browsing the web, but be careful! It’s important to do your research before booking a flight or hotel online. Look up the third party booking site at org to see if it’s trustworthy. You should also verify the URL, use a credit card, and always read the fine print. Usually you can get the same deal directly through the website of the airline or hotel, so if in doubt, take the safer route! You can find a BBB guide to booking a trip online here.
- Be ready for a road trip. If, like me, you’re planning on driving to your holiday destination, make sure your car is tuned up and ready to go. Take it to a trustworthy BBB Accredited mechanic to ensure it’s ready for a long drive and free of problems. Renting a car? It can be difficult to navigate the maze of rates, fees, and responsibilities. For a BBB guide to car rentals, visit bbb.org/rentalcar.
- Read the fine print. Whenever you make a purchase, know what you’re getting in to. When buying a flight, pay careful attention to luggage restrictions. Some airlines make you pay for a carry-on bag, depending on the ticket you buy! Make sure to read refund and cancellation policies carefully. What happens if you’re no longer able to travel, or if weather causes delays or cancellations? Ask about extra fees before signing any contract.
- Watch out for scams. In 2016, hundreds of travel and vacation scams were reported to BBB Scam Tracker by consumers nationwide. More than 2,000 sweepstakes and prize scams were also reported, and many involved winning “free” airfare, lodging, or cruises. If you receive unsolicited contact claiming you’ve won a free trip, it’s probably a scam. You’ll never have to pay to receive a free prize. Avoid click-bait ads for cheap vacations you see online. These may lead you to fraudulent websites hoping to steal your personal or financial information. It’s also important to watch out for fake rentals when looking for accommodations. Phony landlords collect an advance deposit then avoid contact with renters, who may be left with nothing but a fake reservation or a rental that doesn’t resemble the photos in the online listing. Only deal with rental companies you can trust – look them up on org first!
- Consider travel insurance. If your plans go awry, travel insurance may be helpful. It’s designed to reimburse you if something goes wrong and you have to cancel your trip. However, there are many different types of plans and they cover a variety of circumstances. More protection will come at a cost. Ask a lot of questions, read the fine print, and do your research on org. According to Consumer Reports, a BBB Accredited Charity, “coverage may be unnecessary if you already have protection through homeowners, auto, life or health insurance… credit-card benefits and consumer-protection laws also may help.”