Online travel booking is quickly becoming the preferred method for arranging holidays and business travel because of the convenience it offers.
Whether you’re booking for business or pleasure, you’ll want to be aware of some basic tips to avoid being taken to the cleaners by an online travel scam, and we’ve collected some of the best advice for you.
Use Reputable Companies
There are, of course, some bigger more reputable travel agents and holiday companies that you can inherently trust. If you’re unsure of the company, research them before you commit to the purchase.
Because they have a profile big enough that they are likely well known, you can trust these companies more readily than smaller, lesser known companies.
Reputable companies will almost always be registered with travel authorities or regulatory bodies. Always check that the company you are using has these registrations.
In the UK, the biggest such body is the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA). Affiliation with this body is almost mandatory if the travel agency wants to be successful and trusted.
Book with the Provider Directly
One of the most sure-fire ways of avoiding any sort of fraud or fake travel agencies is to just book directly with the airline, hotel or other service provider. Almost all airlines will have an online or call-in system to book directly with them.
The increased use of the internet and online shopping means that more and more companies are looking to interface with the customer. At the very least, this cuts out the commissions that travel agencies take and means more profit directly for the company.
This can also mean a cost saving for you, as sometimes these direct bookings will be cheaper than using a travel agency.
There are very few cases where booking directly with the airline or hotel won’t save you money, and it should become your first choice.
Call and Confirm Your Booking
Right after making a booking using an online travel agency or package holiday provider, call them and confirm that they have received your booking.
They should instantly receive your booking and be able to look it up and confirm it with you. If they can’t, you’ll want to make sure that you contact the merchant service that processed your credit card payment as soon as possible to stop or halt the payment.
Most reputable travel companies will use merchant accounts for travel agents selected with expert advice from companies to help ensure they protect their customers.
This will also give you an opportunity to confirm that you’ve booked for the right dates, times and even destinations that you intended, so you aren’t left with any unhappy surprises when it comes time to depart.
Use Travel Review Services
Websites and services like TripAdvisor offer a really great way of getting crowd-sourced information about specific places, holiday destinations, restaurants, airlines and even travel agencies.
Do your due diligence of visiting a website like this and looking up any potential travel companies or plans and verify their legitimacy this way. Similarly, trust certificates, like those provided by Truste and comparable companies can also be a mark of legitimacy. Use what is available to you and make an informed decision.
A simple Google search of the company name might also bring up reviews or reports that you might need or want to be aware of before you commit to a travel agency.
Practice Good Online Safety
This is the biggest and most broad consideration that you need to heed when you’re making travel arrangements online, but these tips are useful for almost all kinds of online purchasing. Here is some of our best advice for staying safe online when booking travel.
- Always pay with your credit card. Most credit card providers have insurance and financial protection against fraudulent transactions.
- Make sure when you pay for your travel online that the website is secure, and the payment processor is trusted.
- Don’t click links or follow travel advertisements sent to you by email unless you trust the company sending them, and even then, verify the source of the email rather make a phone call than be the victim of email fraud.
- If you’re booking an Airbnb or bed and breakfast or similar, check the address on Google Street View and confirm it’s the same building as advertised.
- Keep detailed records of any plans you’ve made, particularly when you’ve made a payment or booking directly with an airline or hotel, so you have proof of your booking should anything go wrong.
- Take reasonable steps to ensure your computer is safe from viruses, spyware and other malicious software if you’re using it for online shopping, banking and similar.
- Don’t use untrusted public Wi-Fi to book online travel.
There are many, many ways to stay safe online, and we can’t list them all here. Using these basic ones will go a long way to ensuring that you aren’t taken advantage of online.
If It’s Too Good to Be True…
There’s no such thing as a free lunch. This is applicable to so many things, and online travel bookings are no exception. If the deal you’re presented with looks too good, is too cheap, or is just otherwise too good to be true, take extra precautions before committing to it.
Call the company directly to discuss it or visit one of their physical locations if they have one to discuss it. This is another case of just being cognisant enough to not be tempted into a deal because it appears to be incredibly cheap or enticing. Spend the time confirming it’s legitimate before reaching for your credit card.
Travel is incredibly rewarding, but it can be expensive, and that opens up the door for fraudsters to try and scam you out of your hard-earned money. Following the above advice isn’t fool proof, but it’ll help you make sure when you book that well-earned holiday or trip that you’re going to actually get it.
Before you know it, you’ll be dipping your feet in the warm oceans or exploring the markets of a far-off land with your loved ones.