I book travel on the Internet because I have never received good service from a high street travel agency. I simply haven’t found a travel agent who is interested in finding me the best deal. They are stuck behind a computer screen and spit out the first deal they see. In front of my computer at home I can take my time, compare deals and find endless travel offers and ideas. I’ve also found booking travel on line much cheaper and convenient.
My apologies to any good travel agents reading this, apparently we haven’t met.
Choose a Travel Destination
Browse through travel sites like TripAdvisor, Gonomad, Virtual Tourist and travelbite and choose your ideal travel destination. Once you have an idea of where you want to go then Google “travel guide and your destination name”.
Booking flights On Line
For the cheapest on line flights check the national airline of your country, and your travel destination’s airline. When booking travel on line you can book directly with the airline. Czech Airlines, for example have the best prices for flights to Prague and many European destinations. In Europe you will also find good prices from Berlin Air and Baltic Air. You never know when the best prices are going to come from the smaller companies or the giants, as this varies.
Then double check you prices at Travelocity, Hotwire, Orbitz and Priceline. There are always new ticket sites being established, and their names are bound to pop-up during your research. Avoid unknown sites and let others help them build their reputations before you commit to them. When booking on line with a major airline or travel site they may cancel the flight, but you will be rescheduled and maybe even have a free hotel night thrown in as compensation. If you are not offered compensation for cancellations then ask
To make sure you are getting the best on line flight ticket price check that the prices are being quotes in the same currency on the various sites. You can open up currency exchange site to do quick conversions.
Be aware of cancellation fees, luggage restrictions and read the small print also check if the flight is guaranteed to fly or if it depends on enough passengers buying tickets.
Also check that you are comparing the same things on the various travel sites. A flight might not include airport tax, booking fees, luggage allowance and any number of extra hidden costs. Some airlines charge for reserving a seat as apposed to a free for all grab-any-seat when passengers enter the plane. However you don’t have to commit to anything before you have been shown the final price.
Booking Package Deals On Line
Once you have decided on the best flight, but before you book, check if there are any relevant package deals, for flight and hotel. This can save a lot of money. Travelocity has this option, and several airline sites do as well. Also check out cheaper flights on different days of the week (Tuesdays are often cheaper flight days, and many tickets are cheaper if they include a weekend or if the trip is more 10 days). Advanced booking, off-season flights and having membership to the travel sites can also mean discounts.
Most of the airline ticket booking sites provide a phone number if you really get stuck but if you follow instructions and take your time reading all the details of your flight booking you shouldn’t have any trouble.
Once you have booked your flight you will be emailed an e-ticket, this is instead of a conventional ticket. You need to print up your e-ticket (I suggest several times) and save it on your computer. You will also be provided with a reference number for your booking which you should keep written down in several places. The e-ticket needs to be taken with you when you travel.
On Line Hotel Bookings
My favorite hotel booking sites are Booking and Agoda because of the price, range of hotels and the attractive and easy to navigate graphics, but for me Agoda wins hands down. If you are missing the human touch of a travel agent, in handling small complicated details, or in handling computer glitches, or complicated cancellations, Agoda has a live chat, where you are chatting to a real person in real time. The other advantage of Agoda is that you can accumulate points and then get discounts on your next booking within the same year. I recently got a $25 discount! But the real plus point is that their prices are unmatchable.
For one last check to see if I have the best price, I check directly with the hotel’s web site. These days even the smallest bed and breakfast has a web site.
Use Travel Review Sites When Booking Travel On Line
You should also read hotel reviews on Trip Advisor. I always read the most scathing and recent reviews first. This has often made me change my mind about a hotel. I pay attention to reviews that refer to the physical condition and location of the hotel, more than to those that complain of grumpy staff or a broken T.V. as these are things that could be a one-off. See if the reviewer’s profile is similar to yours as then you may have similar tastes in hotels. If you are in your thirties, married and traveling with kids, don’t go by a review written by a single pensioner. You can also ask other travelers specific questions on the TripAdvisor forum.
Paying for hotels booked on line
As with booking flights on line, the hotel or hotel booking site will also confirm your booking by email and send you a booking voucher to be presented at the hotel when checking in. Note that some booking sites deduct the full amount from your credit card on booking, and others take only a portion and the rest is to be paid on arrival at the hotel. When booking with smaller hotels you often do not need to make any down payment but do have to give your credit card number as a guarantee. Another point to note is that you should be carrying the credit card you booked with when you check into the hotel.
Hotels stars are sometimes listed next to the hotel name, but they are stars awarded to the hotel by hotel guests who have reviewed the hotel on line not necessarily the hotels actual star rating.
Booking Tours on line
Book tours on line too but remember that tours are easily booked on arrival at your travel destination, unless you are in a real tourist Mecca. My favorite tour site is Viator. You may find cheaper but Viator operates world wide and is extremely reliable.
Bus and Train booking on line
For train or bus journeys just search the name of the country and the word “bus” or “train”. You have all the maps on line to use in your planning as well. Unless you are definite about your travel times it might be best to keep your schedule as flexible as possible. Only book bus and train journeys on line when you are required to book a seat in advance; when the train station you are leaving from is known to be congested (Delhi for example); if there is a significant discount or when you just want your entire journey to be finalized. If there are open tickets available which can be used on any bus or train then rather go for those so that you are not stuck to a specific time.
For European travel look into the Eurorail tickets, and for America don’t miss the Greyhound bus website.
The web can also be used for booking travel insurance (usually through the site where you book your flight), and for checking the weather in your travel destination
Let your travel experience begin before you leave home by planning and booking your own trip. Even if you are lucky enough to find a helpful travel agent you can still use the Internet resources to improve your travel experience. Your knowledge and skills in this endeavor will improve from journey to journey, until friends are asking you to book their trips for them.