Beware of Booking Travel Online: Read the fine print.
I recently had a friend ask me what to do when she needed to change their flight that they booked through one of these large travel booking engines or in the travel business what we call an Online Travel Agency (OTA). The problem was that the airline they were using was now using Expedia or Travelocity exclusively and not offering direct booking on their website. When they needed to change the flight, they had to call the booking engine company directly and not the airline. They had a lot of trouble speaking with a person and once they did they were charged all these extra fees to change the ticket. These fees were almost as much as the cost of the original airline ticket! So why do we use these travel booking engines, is it easier?
So many people ask me “why should I use you or any other travel agent when I can just book on-line?” People who are looking for a “deal” only think that they can get that online. Unfortunately, when you book online if something goes wrong it could end up costing you many hours, energy, and money to get it fixed. My friend not only had to pay the airline fees to change the flight (which can be up to $150 on domestic or $200 on international) but they also had to pay the travel booking engine fee. For example, Travelocity’s fee to reissue an airline ticket is $40 per passenger in addition to the airlines fees.
I looked further into these “fees” that some of these online booking engines charge. I found that Travelocity also charges a “Processing Service Fee” for all cruise line reservations. There is no set amount so it may vary depending on the price of your cruise. When booking vacation packages they have a “Facilitation Fee” that you pay them for facilitating your travel arrangements. Again, there is no amount so it probably is a percentage of your total amount of the vacation package. All of these fees are incorporated into your final amount. So double check when you get to the payment page the additional fees from the travel booking engine should be clearly listed.
Other travel booking engines like Expedia have similar fees but you really have to look deep in their website to find them. If you don’t have the patience to do this then I would suggest going through the booking steps until you reach the final payment page to see how much the additional fees are and then decide if you want to continue.
If you did or didn’t know that you were paying these fees, do you still feel the same way about booking online? Now my question is, why not pay a travel agent service fee to have a real life person to talk to and handle your reservation for you? Some travel agents don’t have service fees but to me the ones that do are the one that are serious about what they do. When we think of lawyers they charge a service fee and the more they charge we think the better they are. So why not think this way about your travel agent?
I truly believe that if you are paying a service fee to a travel agent you should be able to get that person on the phone every time you call them and they should take care of any and all changes for you. Having a travel agent also gives you peace of mind that when something goes wrong you have someone who is in your corner and already knows your information and details. You won’t have to repeat it 10 times like my friend did with the booking engine company! Also, travel agents can sometimes get you incentives that you won’t get from booking on-line. Want a free massage, a suite upgrade, a $250 resort credit, or a free tour? Yes, these are all incentives that, if available, a travel agent can provide to you. When you book on-line you get what you order. If you book a standard room you will get a standard room. That’s it, no frills.
When it comes to finding a travel agent find someone out there who has a niche for where you want to travel. Try them out. They may or may not be a good fit for you. When picking a travel agent make sure you do your research. You don’t want somebody who doesn’t know what they are doing or hasn’t been to the places they are selling. I am speaking from experience, having had a great travel agent for our first Mediterranean cruise. She helped us find tours we never would have found on our own. So when you find a travel agent you love, DON’T LOSE THEM!!!! Good travel agents are like good doctors, they are hard to find but when you find them hold onto them, even if you have to pay a service fee! Besides you will be spending a lot of money on your trip and you want the special touches and reassurance that a travel agent can give you.
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