LOS ANGELES—March is here, and that means spring break is right around the corner! It’s the perfect time to take a break from work or school and enjoy some time away. If you want to take more than a stay-cation this year and do some serious traveling, there are a few things you should be aware of to avoid a burn.
In 2016, consumers reported hundreds of travel and vacation scams to BBB Scam Tracker, including more than 2,000 reports of sweepstakes/prize scams, some of which involved winning a “free trip.”
Even if you avoid a scam, you could still run in to problems when booking your trip. Last year BBB received around 7,000 complaints about travel agencies and bureaus, and more than 2,000 complaints about online travel agencies.
Want to have a fun and stress-free spring break? Follow these tips from your BBB:
- Do your research. Common complaints about travel agencies and websites include issues with guarantees, problems with refunds and poor customer service. Make sure to use a travel agent or online booking site you can trust! Look up businesses or websites on bbb.org, where you’ll find ratings, complaint histories and reviews. Also, thoroughly research destinations and activities so that you’re prepared and don’t have any surprises when you arrive.
- Be diligent. Pay attention to details when you make a purchase or sign a contract–before or during your trip! Read the fine print, ask about additional fees and get everything in writing. Before leaving, verify all of your reservations by calling the hotel or company directly. Print out confirmation emails and pages and take them with you in case you run in to issues and don’t have Internet access. Always pay with a credit card, which offers more protection than debit and prepaid cards, and let your bank know that you’re traveling beforehand.
- Watch out for travel scams. The median loss for a travel scam reported to BBB Scam Tracker is around $850. If you get an unsolicited email or call claiming you’ve won a free trip, it’s probably a scam. You should never have to pay to receive a free prize. Avoid clickbait ads for cheap vacations you see on the Internet. These may lead you to fraudulent websites that try to steal your personal or financial information. It’s also important to watch out for fake rentals. Phony landlords collect an advance deposit then avoid contact with renters, who may be left with nothing but a meaningless reservation or a rental that looks nothing like the photos. Only deal with rental companies you can trust and look them up on bbb.org first!
- Protect yourself, your information and your valuables. Be careful connecting to public Wi-Fi and never use it to do online banking or enter personal or financial information. It’s also best to wait to post vacation pictures on social media until you return home, otherwise potential thieves will know your house is empty. Make sure to lock up any valuables in a safe when you’re not in your hotel room. Keep important items like your passport and wallet close to your body while out and about and watch out for pickpockets.
Consider travel insurance. Travel insurance is designed to cover things like trip cancellations or medical emergencies. There are different plans with different levels of coverage. Before buying ask questions and always read the fine print to see what’s covered and what’s not. If you want to purchase travel insurance, use the BBB Accredited Business Directory to find an insurance agent you can trust.