It wasn’t that long ago that people went to a travel agent to book their trips. For my younger readers, this meant going to a shop that specializes in booking travel and talking (gasp!) to a real human being. Those days are long gone thanks to online sites like Skyscanner, Kayak, and Booking.com accounting for the lion share of travel bookings.
Although booking travel has never been easier, the loss of an agent to assist you can lead to paying more for less or an unfortunate experience. With this in mind, here are my top five tips for booking travel online.
First up on this list of tips for booking travel online is ensuring you are discreet. Booking sites track your searches and browsing habits and often implore pressure tactics to push you into booking now. Ever notice a hotel or flight jumping up in price every time you check back? That’s because the site knows you were looking and wants you to “buy now before it’s too late.”
This is shady but avoidable. Before searching, clear your browser‘s cache and open in incognito or private mode. That way each time you visit your favourite booking site it will appear like it is the first time you are searching.
- In Google Chrome, click File -> New Incognito Window
- In Safari, click File -> New Private Window
- Microsoft IE or Edge, Settings -> Safety -> InPrivate Browsing
Now that your cache is cleared and your movements are stealth-like, it’s time to shop around. There’s no shortage of online travel sites so it’s best to look at the same hotel or flight on different websites. Using tools like ComparaBUS for travel is a great way to take the leg work out of multiple travel searches. This site, for example, is a metasearch engine and compares all bus, train, carpool, and flight offers in one convenient place.
I also use Booking.com a lot as I typically find the best rates through them. Their customer service is also great which helps!
In Asia, I find Agoda.com offers the best rates.
Once you have found a hotel or flight you are interested in and have the best price, jot it down and check back later. Prices fluctuate based on demand or browser history. I will often track a flight or hotel for a few days before pulling the trigger once I am convinced I have the best price. For flights, I will utilize Skyscanner’s calendar view and search for the best price that month. That way I have a baseline to go on.
For hotels, I will often book a room with free cancellation. That way I can continue to search. If I find a better price I can cancel and rebook. This is common and I have often saved on the same room through the same site by checking back.
Pay Now and Save
That said, if your plans are firm, the cheapest option for hotel rooms is to pay in advance. If you are convinced the hotel is for you and your dates are confirmed, you can often save by paying for the room upfront. This means no cancellation and if your plans change you cannot get your money back. Buyer beware.
Check Your Details. Then Check Again.
Last up on this list of tips for booking travel online is to ensure you look over all your information…twice. Then check it over again. Since there is no travel agent to take the blame for any typos or mistakes, it’s up to you to ensure all information is correct. Do you have the right dates? Did you mess up the time because of a 24-hour clock? Does the hotel have check-in staff available when you arrive? Is your passport information correct??
The last one bit me hard and actually caused me to miss a flight to Ireland all because of a typo in my name. Check it over people! If you notice a mistake, call the booking service right away. Often they will update your itinerary free of charge within a short window after booking. Otherwise, it will cost you plenty.
Booking Travel Online – Conclusion
There you have it, five very important tips for booking travel online. If you follow these steps you will not only ensure you are paying the best price, but also ensuring that there are no surprises along the way. Happy travels!
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