|Travel web sites are big business, and a lot of power has been placed in the hands of the consumer… or has it? Does your urge to always look for a better deal play into somebody else’s greed? A travel web site is a great tool but before booking online you must know these 5 dirty little secrets.|
1. ALL TRAVEL WEB SITES ARE CREATED EQUAL – RIGHT?
Afraid not. These days there are really two types of sites for booking online travel. The more traditional travel web sites like Expedia, Travelocity, and Travel Now… and the new kid on the block known as travel search engines, which include sites like SideStep and Kayak.
A travel web site only searches its own database of available flights, and rooms, and car rentals. So the search is limited. On the plus side you’ll get more search features and booking services offered.
At travel search engines, the results will be more comprehensive than at a travel web site. These engines will include results directly from airline sites, travel web sites, and other databases containing flight and room availability. But you’ll find a more restrictive search capability, and you won’t get the “bells and whistles” of a travel web site.
2. IT REALLY DOES PAY TO COMPARE AS MANY AS YOU CAN
A travel web site will negotiate and purchase blocks of fares and rooms directly from airlines and hotels. They can then set their own reduced rate. Because of this the same seat on a flight, or room in a hotel, can vary between travel web sites. So if you want the cheapest fare or room always check out at least two or three before booking online travel.
3. TRAVEL WEB SITES DON'T ALWAYS GET THE BEST DEAL
And just before you press that “submit” button at your chosen online booking site… hop over for a final check at the airline or hotel web site for any special offers or lower rates you may get if you book directly. Sometimes the best deals are reserved for their own online customers or preferred clients, and you’ll even avoid fees.
Speaking of fees…
4. BEWARE OF TRAVEL WEB SITE SERVICE AND TRANSFER FEES
The travel web sites may be complimentary to search but they charge to book, and if you have to change itinerary then it can be frustrating and costly. On the good side the service fees are not usually outrageous – around $5 per ticket. But I’ve seen some creeping up to around $20 and there’s no need to pay that price.
Now transfer fees are another kettle of fish, and it can cost you $100 or more to change after you’ve booked a flight. And if you want a refund… be prepared to spend hours on the phone to get to somebody who can authorize it.
The travel search engines make money from paid advertising and a referral fee from the airlines or hotels, so usually you don’t pay a fee when using them to book. But this is changing so check for fee disclosure before booking.
5. THE HIDDEN LINK THAT CAN SAVE YOU MONEY
Many of the travel web sites have a link on their page that allows you to become part of their affiliate program for no cost. The problem is it’s usually “hidden” at the bottom of the page in type point 7 invisible. By becoming an affiliate you can earn a small commission for everybody you refer to them that buys a ticket or room.
But before you rush out and quit your day job and set yourself up as a home-based travel agent, understand you’ll have to send them hundreds and hundreds of people hot to buy to make any money. But here are better reasons to become an affiliate…
These same sites allow you as an affiliate to purchase your own tickets and still get paid the commission. It’s effectively a discount. For the sake of spending a few minutes completing the form why not do it?
Now be sure to check the small print on the agreement just so you’re familiar with the restrictions if any, and how they’ll pay you.
Armed with these tips and secrets you’ll be better prepared to navigate through a travel web site. I use them all the time and continue to find new twists and gotchas. And there’s still that travel agent in the mall if you just can’t be bothered with the whole online game.
About the Author
Cliff Calderwood is the owner and contributing writer of www.new-england-vacations-guide.com . You can read other vacation articles and get a free travel report at his guide to New England vacations site.
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