Avoid travel booking mistakes during holidays

  • Article by: MCCLATCHY-TRIBUNE NEWS
  • Updated: October 19, 2012 - 10:28 AM
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Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune

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With holiday rates swelling and stories of flight delays, it's no wonder there seems to be a continuous flow of complaining about holiday travel. But it doesn't have to be a complete headache. The editors and members of VirtualTourist have compiled a list of tips to avoid booking mistakes.

1. Read the fine print.

The most glaring and common mistake is to not read the Terms & Conditions page thoroughly. Travelers are often upset because they booked their flight/room/tour thinking it was at a great price, only to learn later that the reservation is nonrefundable, or only partly so after a certain date.

2. Check your hotel location before booking.

Sure, a hotel can be listed as being in Paris/London/San Francisco/Toronto, but in actuality, it can be on the fringes of nowhere, far away from public transit or any of the sights you wish to see.

A great deal on a hotel can be blown quickly in transportation to and from where you need to be.

3. Do your own comparisons.

When comparing prices, don't believe any Internet service or site that claims it has the lowest or best priced packages until you have visited the competition's sites, and when possible, the ultimate service provider's website.

4. Know your booking operator.

When booking a package with a travel agency, make sure you understand the difference between an agent who does all the work personally and an agent who farms out needed services to others. Also, read the About Us section. If the "how long have you been in business" portion is vague and filled with testimonials instead of a solid history, it's not a good sign.

5. Pay attention to flight details.

Before booking a flight with a budget airline, it's a good idea to check the airport's page about its connections, or to do a map search to find out where the airport is situated.

Also, if you are flying to a different time zone, make sure you take into consideration time lost or gained in travel when booking your next leg.

Another possible stumbling point: Low-priced flights may occur because of the potential for very inconvenient arrival times, such as when public transportation is not running.

Carefully consider whether a flight that requires an airport transfer is worth it. Also, be aware that if you have to re-check your bags after a long layover or break in travel, you may encounter very different luggage limits on local flights even if you are traveling on the same airline.

6. Look for extra fees.

Pay close attention to rental car charges, especially when traveling to different countries. Required insurance, unexpected taxes and extra fees may appear, even if you have prepaid.

7. Know the distance.

When planning your activities, make sure you understand how far away the locations are from one another and how you will get there.

You don't want to book something only to later learn that you can't make it in time, or a road is closed that season of the year.

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