Booking your next holiday online could save you money, and offer you a lot more flexibility than heading to your local travel agents.
But if it’s your first time, you might not be sure of how to get started. We’ve put together a guide for booking travel online – from how to avoid scams, to how to save money.
Here’s a few of our tips…
Choose between package or independent travel
If you’re booking online, you still have the option to book a package holiday with a trusted brand. Most high street brands have an online shop where you can book their trips. By cutting out a sales rep, who might be paid on commission, you can view all the available deals and choose the one that best suits your needs and budget.
There are several benefits to booking a package holiday over independent travel. For one thing, you’ll just pay one price, and generally this will cover everything, including transfers. This gives you less to think about and can help you budget, because you’ll know exactly what the holiday is costing you.
Independent travel means booking flights, hotels, and transfers, separately through different websites. You can use comparison websites to get the best deals, so generally it works out cheaper to book this way. In fact, nearly 60% of mature travellers book their holidays independently. Plus, many budget airlines can only be booked directly, so independent travel is the only way to make the most of their lower airfares.
By booking everything separately, you also have the added bonus of total control and flexibility of your trip – so if you want to visit multiple destinations or stay in a couple of different hotels, you can do.
Nearly 3 out of 4 people say that booking your own flights and accommodation offers better value for money than package deals from tour operators. You can read more about these findings in our mature travel trends.
Beware of Fake Sites
One of the things that can put people off booking online is the idea of fake websites and fraudulent companies. Take care when shopping online and make sure that the website you are on is a legitimate one. ABTA have rounded up a list of useful tips to help online shoppers spot fraudulent sites.
Avoid booking anything you saw advertised on a popup or in an unsolicited email, unless you can be sure that the sender is who they say they are. It’s best to book directly through trusted and well-known websites.
A good way to check if a site is trustworthy is to search for the brand on Trustpilot, an independent review site where you can read real customer feedback for most online brands. You could also do a quick online search for the company name, plus the word ‘scam’, to see if anyone has previously reported a problem.
If you have been the victim of a scam, or you suspect that a company may be fraudulent, you can report it by contacting ActionFraud.
Top Tips for Booking a Holiday Online
1. Check your protection
Many package holidays, tour operators, and travel brands are members of ABTA, which offers protection in the event that your holiday should be cancelled for any reason.
Independent flight or hotel booking sites might be cheaper, but they may not have the same protection in place. Take a look at what is protected, and decide if booking independently is worth the risk.
2. Don’t forget your insurance
Speaking of travel insurance, make sure you don’t forget to take some out – the sooner the better! Check your policy covers everything you need it to, like any pre-existing health conditions.
3. Pay with a credit card
Paying with your credit card offers a lot more protection from fraud than using a debit card or bank transfer. If you use your debit card, any fraudulent transaction made means your money will be taken directly from your own bank account.
So even if you pay it off right away, opting for a credit card payment is the safest way to book your holiday online.
4. Use private browsing and delete cookies
While this can be useful, it’s also been found to affect the prices shown – especially when booking flights. This is because flight prices can change based on demand. If you make the same search several times, it suggests a greater demand, which can drive the price of your flights up.
5. Search for promo codes and new customer discounts
Before booking your holiday online, search for promotional and offer codes, to see if you can get any money off your booking.
Some brands also offer new customer discounts, or an offer code if you sign up to their newsletter. Check the website’s homepage to see if any new offers are being advertised, or run a search to see what discount codes come up.
6. Don’t forget anything!
If you’re used to a travel agent booking everything for you, it’s easy to overlook a few things, especially transport. Don’t forget to book airport transfers for your arrival, or car hire if you prefer to drive.
Double check all the dates and times before you make any payments, too. You don’t want to accidentally book a flight for the wrong month or year!
It may be a good idea to use a spreadsheet or calendar to create a rough draft of your schedule, to check if there’s anything you need to book separately – such as a transfer or a hotel.