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. They’re the ones that go through the entire process of booking your trips. All you have to do is to wait, and then pay.
Those days are long gone thanks to online sites like Skyscanner, Kayak, and Booking.com accounting for the lion share of travel bookings. Technology has paved the way for cheaper and easier means of booking trips. Everything about your trip is now under your control, and this can be a good and a bad thing.
On the bright side, it accounts for a more hands-on experience. On the downside, however, it may put you at risk for mistakes, knowing that you’ll never have the same experience as a seasoned travel agent does.
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. This is precisely why you should also be very careful with the booking process. Don’t rush it, and make sure that you give yourself ample time to prepare for your trip.
With this in mind, here are my top five tips for booking travel online. With these tips, you can smoothly avoid some of the most common travel failures committed, even by the most seasoned of all travellers.
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. For a reputable and good site for accommodations, you can also use KOALA.
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. To make sure that you don’t run into any trouble with your airline and hotel check-in process, be careful with all the information that you put in. Even one single letter as a mistake in your name can spell all the difference. In the worst-case scenario, because of these avoidable mistakes, you can even be denied entry to the plane.
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?? Always review everything before you make final bookings or even pay for it. When you make these bookings, it’s best that you do so undisturbed.
Write everything on paper, too, from day one up to the day you get home. Doing so helps you visualize every single detail of all your bookings from the aeroplane to the accommodations and even with your tours and excursions.
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.
Alternatively, you can hire a personal travel planner to take some of the stress and room for error out of the equation!
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. All thanks to the Internet, almost everything can now be done online. This saves you all that hassle of having to regularly go to a travel agency for your bookings. Plus, it’s also easier for you to DIY or creates your own itinerary, for a more personalized holiday. Now, you can book everything about your trip, according to your liking. Happy travels!
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When it comes to planning travel, I can’t speak enough to the importance of comparing rates across different providers. This will ensure that you find the best deal possible.