Friday 11 September 2020

9 things to be mindful of on travel deals sites

You know the drill. An email pings into your inbox from one of the many travel deals sites you are signed up to with a thumbnail of a paradise island with palm trees and crystal clear waters. Said email seductively trying to entice you into a trip to the Maldives because it's 50% off. But is this 'deal' all it's cracked up to be?

Disclaimer: I have nothing agaist travel deals sites like these (I myself are signed up to Secret Escapes, Voyage Prive and Groupon), but rather than immediately losing your head because you've always wanted to go to [insert country here] and it's super cheap and you'd be stupid not to, exercise caution. Why? I'm about to tell you why.

Maldives hanging chair

Remember 50% off is still 50% on

It's an inherent fact of life: We love a bargain. Why buy something full priced when you can get the same thing for less? But you have to remember that whilst 50% off sounds like a great deal, if in the greater scheme of things it's a more expensive holiday, you could actually be spending more overall. Take discounts with a pinch of salt. Is it a destination or hotel that you would consider going to ordinarily if it wasn't on offer? And remember, 50% off is still 50% on.

Is that 'deal' as much of a deal as you think?

Deals sites like these are generally able to offer promotions due to the power of buying in bulk. As long as they get enough people interested in the deal and meet demand and sell it, they aren't out of pocket and can still make their money. My advice? Research. Look around. If you find a hotel you like the look of, go to the actual hotel website and check how expensive the hotel is normally. I remember clicking on a holiday offer where I was told it was 40-something % off however when I consulted the hotel's website and checked their usual rate, the travel deal was in fact only offering 17% off their normal rate. So yes, still a saving, but not as big as they were claiming. One that doesn't justify me getting all riled up and hitting that book button like it's going out of style. If you find a hotel you like, don't take that price as a final offer. Do your research and use travel and hotel comparison sites to find the best price out there.

The room pictured may not be the room you get

You've been there. You've been drawn in by an image of an over water villa. In reality these may just be example thumbnails to lure you to the holiday listing. Scroll down the page and study the rooms offered in the deal. For deals on holiday destinations like the Maldives, they usually offer you the cheaper and lowest grade room. Likely on land, not water (sorry). If it sounds too good to be too true, it probably is.

Maldives over water bungalow

Read the small print

You find an incredible deal for a sunshine holiday and it's 400-and-something in your given currency for 7 days and your cursor is hovering over that book button. STOP RIGHT THERE. Scroll down and read the small print first. Check the board basis. Countless times have I been caught out by something that sounds incredible but in reality is bed only or bed and breakfast. For a trip to Europe that's not a deal breaker as such, but if you're looking further afield at caribbean destinations where your hotel is the only one for miles (or the only hotel full stop), then some sort of food is a must. Some hotels will offer upgrade options where you can pay slightly more for a nicer room or better board, but not always. This depends on the hotel. Do some digging and double check if the offer includes food, flights and transfers and what seasons / months / days of the week are valid. Out of season is generally cheaper, but can have terrible weather, so that could be how the price is so low.

Beware of hidden costs

It's worth double checking about any hidden extra costs. A holiday deal may claim it includes dinner, but in the small print it may say that dinner is only provided for one night. So you'd have to be mindful that you'd need to pay for dinner for the majority of your stay. Some destinations have city tax. And some holidays may throw in a free diving trip, but said diving trip may require you to pay for the equipment hire. You'd be surprised how many hidden extras there are. 

You book a holiday but it's no longer there

Booking through sites like Groupon, Wowcher and the like, they act as the middleman, so this is more like a voucher or credit towards a holiday and isn't an actual booking. Then it's up to us the consumer to contact the hotel / travel site we are using and quote the unique voucher code we received. 

I've read several case studies where people have booked a trip on sites like these, contacted the travel provider, and said travel provider have told them the trip to x at the advertised price has now sold out. Some are palmed off with a lower spec hotel or travel package. Others are given something more expensive so end up having to shell out more. You may not be happy and want your money back. Which is when you are told that your voucher is non refundable and non transferable.

Sites like these have some lovely sunshine breaks abroad, but it's definitely worth bearing the above in mind. I'd personally be more inclined to book up a domestic trip with them as in the event of a booking changing or no longer being available, I'd be a little more confident finding an alternative in a country I am more familar with. But that's completely up to you. Just ensure that you are ATOL or ABTA protected.

Maldives holidays

Watch out for scam travel sites

There are lots of travel deals sites. Take your pick. But beware. There are scammers out there who create fake websites, fake listings and fake social media accounts drawing people to holiday deals and competitions. Scam sites like these can promote accomodation and holiday packages that don't exist, or sell fake airline tickets. Before booking, always check out the website in question. Google it for reviews and stories of other people who have booked through them. Make sure they are ATOL and / or ABTA approved. Avoid paying through bank transfer or cash. Always try to pay by credit card where transactions can be easier to cancel or block. And remember, if in doubt or if the deal looks too good to be true, don't proceed.

Don't be pressured by the countdown timer

You know the one. The countdown that is sat in the sidebar, counting the number of days, hours, minutes and seconds until this once-in-a-lifetime deal expires. I remember frantically getting wound up by it when I found a holiday that was about to expire and I was hurriedly trying to suss out the deal and if it was something I wanted to persue. Anything with a countdown is stressful. Don't let it consume you. When deciding whether you want to book or not, think about how you'd feel if you logged on too late one day and the deal had gone. Would you feel sad and like you'd royally missed out?

Some deals are repeat offenders

Other than the pressure from the countdown timer, another stress point is being told that this is a one time deal and this is your last chance. Not true. I use sites like Secret Escapes and I've seen the same destination pop up several times before. Just because it's expiring in 2 hours time, doesn't mean it won't be back again at some later date. It's always better to wait, do the research, and be better prepared, so if it comes back around again, you can have more confidence booking (or not booking!).

All images are my own. Please credit me and link back to this article if used.

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