I recently witnessed an online travel deal case where a customer complained that the discount given was not genuine, lamenting that the price offered by the online deal company is relatively comparable if she books through individual vendors, ie. airline, hotel, by herself.
As a Free & Easy (F&E) supporter for the ASEAN region, I believe everyone wants to get travel rates at its lowest. However, we should be aware that F&E packages sold by travel agencies are normally a little pricey as they include administrative fees. Of course, you will benefit because it saves you the trouble of going through the hassle of researching umpteen times just to ensure that you’ve secured the best deal. (Psss: Sometimes, package prices offered by travel agencies are a steal!)
Moreover, with the rising features of online travel deals these days, who can resist clicking the “BUY” button especially when it’s cheap and affordable by the general public? BUT PAUSE. Have you read their fine prints? Let’s see, you happily head down to redeem your voucher then realize that you need to purchase 2 deals to be eligible for redemption as it is a min 2-to-go deal or you realize that there are additional hidden cost not mentioned. BANG! There goes your vacation plans.
Fret not. Here’s sharing a few pointers to ensure authenticity of online travel deals:
- Reputation of travel agency – If you have not heard of the travel agency and feel insecure, either refrain from purchasing or research for feedback on their service online prior to booking.
- Package inclusions – Check if it’s solely a land package or does it encompass an air ticket as well. Verify if taxes and surcharges are excluded too.
- Peak period surcharge – Is there any peak period listed? Any addition surcharge to incur?
- Blackout dates – Certain agencies or even hotels will impose a black out period, high likely during the school holidays or festive periods.
- Return airport-hotel transfer – Are transfers included? If not, is there an option for you to top up? How much?
- Any other charges involved?
Ultimately, it depends on how comfortable you are booking through a travel agency or by yourself through the individual sites. Here are tips on how to efficiently purchase a F&E travel package:
- 1. Determine your travel destination and duration, ie. 4D3N or 3D2N.
- 2. Narrow your travel period to a certain month so that when you refer to a package offered by a travel agency, you can immediately refer to the Departure Dates to ascertain if the trip covers your preferred travel period. If it does not but you have a keen interest in that package, enquire with the sales staff to see if there is something similar.
- 3. Airport taxes and fuel surcharges are normally not included in the package rate so seek for clarifications on the prevailing rates. If a budget airline is offered, check on baggage fees as well as they usually do not factor in baggage cost.
- 4. If a half day city tour is included in the package, regardless of whether it is stated as complimentary or compulsory, ask if any tipping to the local tour guide and driver is necessary. Tipping is normally paid directly to the tour guide and driver at the end of the tour.
- 5. Clarify on the documents required for your boarding, ie. e-ticket/air ticket, hotel voucher for presentation at the hotel reception, (if applicable) half day city tour voucher etc.
You may be surprised by how cheap some online travel deals can be, just because they excluded all these clauses! PLEASE READ THE FINE PRINTS!
In any case, I believe the contact details of a genuine deal will be featured on the webpage so if you have doubts, do not hesitate to call for clarifications. Better to play safe than regret later!
Once you have completed your purchase online, remember to redeem your vouchers. You would not want to realise later that you have missed the deadline causing you to incur unnecessary cost!
Lastly, check that your passport is valid for at least 6 months after your trip.
All’s checked and you’re ready for your dream vacation! Woohoo!
Ok, I know it seems like a chore but trust me, it won’t take you longer than 5mins to run through the fine prints! And yes, with all the natural catastrophes happening globally, you might be thinking where else would be “safe” enough for you to travel. Well, there is no place entirely safe but what you can do before you depart, is to register with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) your holiday destination and period so that in case of an emergency, they can get in contact with you.
Once done, cast your worries aside and enjoy your break! Happy holidays!