Booking Vacations Online

Web-based travel agencies have been around for several years, but many would-be users are still hesitant to take advantage of the bargains they offer.  For some consumers, purchasing tickets, accommodations, and rental cars with just the click of a few buttons and without benefit of a face-to-face meeting with an experienced travel agent is a scary thing.  Many wonder if they're indeed getting a good deal or if they'll wind up in a roach-infested hotel in the middle of a less-than-hospitable town.

If you travel a lot and enjoy using the computer, you've probably surfed the eons of travel sites that offer incredible bargains on everything travel-related.  No doubt you've clicked a few buttons here and there, enticed by the offerings, the tempting photos, and the descriptions of those places you've always wanted to visit.  But maybe something has stopped you from clicking that last button…the one that says "purchase now." 

Are You Really Getting What it Says You're Getting?

Many travelers are concerned about the integrity of online travel booking companies or travel clearinghouses.  In most cases, the concern is probably unfounded.  Many of the top companies, like Orbitz, Travelocity, or Expedia have forged a great reputation in the industry.  Products and services are fairly represented in online descriptions and the companies are readily available to fix any problems that may occur, even if you've already arrived at your destination.

You may want to remember, however, that just about anyone can create a website that touts great deals for everything from airfare to adventure tours.  It may be best to stick with the larger, more well-known sites.

Don't be afraid to ask friends for references.  If they've found a great, reliable company that they've used to book vacations or parts of their vacation, they'll be eager to pass on their success stories.

While purchasing airfare or a car rental is pretty cut-and-dry (just be sure to read the cancellation policies, etc.), booking accommodations may be a little more risky.  What an online travel company considers a 3- or 4-star hotel in the Caribbean might seem more like a 2-star establishment to you.  Do some research by consulting travel guides, like Frommers, or websites that feature reviews of accommodations written by people like you.

Is it Safe to Pay Via the Internet?

Again, if you're using a reputable agency, typing your credit card number onto the order form and using it for payment shouldn't be a problem.  Large, established online travel agencies switch your browser to a secure mode when you enter your card number, encrypting it, and making it virtually unreadable to most human beings.  Only the online agencies server has the ability to decode it.

Will These Bargains Last?

Many travel experts believe that travel sites were created to entice the first-time buyer and act as incentives to entice people to change their behaviors and buy online rather than through conventional methods.

Others, however, believe that the trend is here to stay and that bargain travel, especially airfares, will continue for years to come.  Airlines, hotels, and car rental companies need to sell, and doing it via the internet continues to be much less costly than print media or television advertising.

Information is for educational and informational purposes only and is not be interpreted as financial or legal advice. This does not represent a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold any security. Please consult your financial advisor.