Online travel bookings
According to the Nielsen survey on internet shopping, airline tickets/reservations is the third most popular product or service to purchase online. It is on the top of my personal list of things I regularly buy on the web. Most of my travel plans (and I travel a lot) are done either through online booking systems like Expedia.ca or Hostels.com, directly through the airline or hotel’s website, or through e-mail interaction with the owner of the smaller accommodations, like bed and breakfasts and small hostels. Especially when you are trying to book overseas and don’t want to spend the money on phone charges, online communication is a great resource.
You can also find really great deals online that the travel agents won’t be able to offer you. The problem being, though, that most of these deals aren’t refundable, so you better make sure your plans are concrete before booking. Many of the airlines and rail companies have e-mailing lists that send you notices when they have their big sales, so watch out for these. In Europe there are discount airlines that you can only buy tickets online. Sites like RyanAir.com and EasyJet.com offer flights for ridiculously cheap (on Ryan Air right now they have flights for 9.99 British pounds which is equivalent to about $15.50), although there are extra charges for just about everything – administration fees, if you want reserved seating (if not you just have to wait in line and it’s first come, first serve), priority boarding fee, infant fee (if you have a child under 2), and checked baggage fees. Many airlines in North America have started to offer lower rates with added optional fees (like checked baggage, food and beverage in flight), although the airport taxes are much higher here (especially in Canada), so although you can get a cheap flight, it can more than double in price with the airport taxes.
There are quite a few accommodation websites that offer cheaper rates than directly through the hotel’s website. A friend of mine swears by Priceline.com where you can ‘Name Your Own Price’ by choosing a location, a hotel star rating (1-4 or resort) and the price you want to pay. You put in your information and your credit card and if they accept your offer for the amount you want to pay for the star rating you chose, they will process your credit card and show you what hotel you are staying in. Once you click “Buy My Hotel Room” your request can not be changed, cancelled, or transferred and refunds are not allowed. So basically you are stuck with the hotel they chose for you. My friend who uses the website regularly says you can find really cheap deals for great accommodation. I’m not sure I want to take the risk, as I love to do my research before choosing a place to stay.
Speaking of research, one of the best things about booking online is seeing what other people have thought about where you want to stay. My mom loves TripAdvisor.com, which offers user-generated reviews of hotels and tourist attractions around the world. She has found some fantastic hotels by reading what other travelers’ experiences have been. You can even send messages to those people who commented to ask them to elaborate or if you have a specific question.
I am most likely going on a road trip in September (plans are being finalized), so I’ve started my research phase of my adventure. However until I know more details, I don’t want to book anything right now.