Whether you’re looking to visit family or friends or simply go on an adventure, the holidays are a great time of year to get away. But due to its popularity, holiday travel can be expensive. There are some obvious ways to cut costs, like traveling by car or staying with friends and family. Another great way to save money is to avoid scams, unethical businesses or confusion.
The following tips from your Better Business Bureau (BBB) will help you save money and stay safe:
- Plan ahead. We’re less than two months away from peak holiday travel time. If you haven’t already, it’s time to make plans! The closer the holidays are, the more expensive tickets and accommodations will be. Plus the stress of last minute planning may force you to miss red flags or not read things carefully.
- Be careful online. You’ll find great deals online, but be careful. It’s important to do your research before booking a flight or hotel. Look up third party booking sites to see if they’re trustworthy. Also verify the URL, use a credit card and read the fine print. Usually you can get the same deal through the airline or hotel website, so when in doubt deal directly with them!
- Be ready for a road trip. If you’re planning to drive to your holiday destination make sure your car is tuned up and ready to go. Take it to a trustworthy BBB Accredited mechanic for a checkup. If you’re renting a car it can be difficult to navigate the maze of rates, fees and responsibilities. Check out our guide to car rentals.
- Read the fine print. Whenever you make a purchase, know what you’re getting into. Buying a flight? Pay careful attention to luggage restrictions. Some airlines make you pay for a carry-on bag, depending on the ticket you buy. Make sure to read refund and cancellation policies carefully. What happens if you’re no longer able to travel, or if weather causes delays or cancellations? Ask about extra fees before signing any contract.
- Watch out for scams. In 2016, consumers reported hundreds of travel and vacation scams to BBB Scam Tracker. More than 2,000 sweepstakes and prize scams were also reported and many involved winning “free” airfare, lodging or cruises. If someone contacts you out of the blue claiming you’ve won a free trip, it’s probably a scam. You’ll never have to pay to receive a free prize. Avoid click-bait ads for cheap vacations you see online. 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 when looking for accommodations. Phony landlords collect an advance deposit then avoid contact with renters, who may be left with nothing but a fake reservation or a rental that doesn’t resemble the photos in the online listing. Only deal with rental companies you can trust – look them up at BBB first!
- Consider travel insurance. If your plans go awry, travel insurance will reimburse you if something goes wrong and you have to cancel your trip. However, there are many different types of plans and they cover a variety of circumstances. More protection will come at a cost. Ask questions, read the fine print and do your research at BBB. According to Consumer Reports, “coverage may be unnecessary if you already have protection through homeowners, auto, life or health insurance ... credit-card benefits and consumer-protection laws also may help.”