This week I’ve received several disturbing messages in my inbox from people who are desperate to book a holiday but don’t know where to start and are worried they’ll be scammed.
I would like to be the first to say that this is completely normal at this time!
I’m sure many of you are nervous about booking a long-distance trip because you’ve been staying close to home for a long time. I’m so inexperienced that I’ve lost confidence when it comes to booking holidays!
Not only that, but for many of us, things have changed since our last vacation. Maybe you had a baby, your kids seem a lot older, you have more money, less money, more time, less time, more stress, you may have increased health issues, or you may be feeling a new sense of adventure after being stuck at home for so long!
Whatever it is, vacation feels different now and many of us have forgotten how to book a vacation!
Many people don’t know where to go, so it’s a good idea to set a date and budget and see what’s actually available. Once you narrow it down to a specific weekend and a specific budget, you may find that you actually only have a handful of options.
If you’re booking a weekend getaway, check what flights are available from Manchester Airport on a Friday night. It helps a bit with decision-making, as there are often not that many flights to choose from. Easier!
Let’s say you want to go somewhere overseas on August 12th. But I wanted to fly from Manchester, but it was hot and I had to leave after 8pm to make it in time after work. If you look at flights departing from Manchester Airport, you’ll see that Malaga and Ibiza are really the only options.
Get inspired with Skyscanner!
You can also search for flights to ‘anywhere’ on Skyscanner, which is a great way to check all your options.
Skyscanner also has a ‘Flight Deals’ section which shows you cheap flights from common departure airports, so if you’re not picky about dates or location, this is worth browsing.
There are many apps out there that claim to help you find the best time to travel or predict the best time to book, but to be honest, you won’t find any more effective than simply searching on Skyscanner did not.
If your dates are flexible and you have a few airport options, you’ll probably find that you have a lot to choose from!
It’s always a good idea to ask your friends for recommendations, but it can be overwhelming when you receive so many responses.
Here is a great blog post on how to choose a travel destination.
The main difference between booking a vacation in 2022 and traveling 10 years ago is that there are very few last-minute discounts available these days. That’s not to say there aren’t any last-minute bargains, just that you’re likely to get a better deal if you book early.
If you’ve been able to get a last-minute deal these days, it’s mostly because you got lucky and ended up canceling it. But you can’t wait around hoping someone cancels your vacation!
Ticket prices continue to rise, so booking early is generally the cheapest option.
Stop wandering around and pondering, just book!
So here are my top tips to avoid getting ripped off when booking a holiday!
#1. Know what prices are ‘normal’
Initial suggestions may take some time, but we highly recommend checking prices for holidays, flights, and accommodation regularly.
If you don’t check prices regularly, you won’t know what the regular prices are, and you won’t know if your booking is a rip-off or a bargain.
Similar to a “Black Friday sale,” holiday companies raise prices for a week, then return to regular prices and call it a sale.
I have the Skyscanner and Airbnb apps on my phone and check them regularly. I scroll through Airbnb the same way other women scroll through ASOS. So keep some travel apps on your phone and do a little research on them regularly.
Just like many of us check RightMove even if we don’t plan on moving, get into the habit of checking travel apps to see what you can get for your expected budget!
#2. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is
I don’t mean to be pessimistic here, but the old saying, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is” certainly applies to vacation bookings.
If you’re considering a holiday to Turkey and find a hotel for £500 per person when all the package deals with nice hotels are around £1,700 per person, alarm bells should ring. Why is it so cheap?
Too cheap usually means something is wrong!
#3. You’ll pay for central locations – but sometimes you won’t want that
If you’re wondering why there’s such a big difference in room rates, it’s usually due to location. You can often end up paying twice as much for centrally located hotels and apartments. If an apartment looks nice but is really cheap, it’s usually because it’s out of a popular area.
But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
If you don’t mind going to the center, you can save a lot of money by staying in less popular places.
We did this in Menorca a few years ago. We had a villa in the middle of the countryside so we had to drive everywhere. At the time, this wasn’t a problem for us at all, and it actually worked. We got a large villa with a large garden and pool at a reasonable price. I was pregnant at the time, so I didn’t mind driving because I wasn’t drinking everywhere. Since the boys were young, they would fall asleep after a short drive each day, so I made sure they always had naps!
Read more: How I booked a family villa vacation for the cheapest price ever!
Therefore, choose a location taking into account your individual circumstances!
Another thing to keep in mind when booking a local hotel is whether or not you end up with a captive audience. If you know you have no other option, hotels can set the price according to their wishes. There are just a few things to note!
#4. How to find a central location
If you want to stay centrally located and away from the hustle and bustle, but aren’t sure where all the action is, you can usually find it with a quick search on Airbnb’s map.
Here we searched for apartments in Valencia and found that most of them are located in the same area. If you zoom in on the area, you’ll see that the more expensive apartments are in the center and the cheaper apartments are in the suburbs.
This is a very clear indicator of which areas are the most desirable in Valencia.
#5. How do I know if it’s a scam?
You book an apartment online, and when you show up, the apartment doesn’t exist or no one knows who you are or why you thought you booked to stay there. I’ve heard some horror stories.
Honestly, that would be my worst nightmare. Especially if you are traveling with young children!
In my case, I only book with reputable and well-known companies.
I’m not going to book accommodation with a company I’ve never heard of.
And maybe I’m missing out on a big opportunity, maybe I’m not supporting startups, but I think that’s too risky.
I almost always book through Airbnb, Booking.com, Jet2Holidays, and VillaPlus. These are the four main things I book.
And when booking on Airbnb, choose hosts with lots of reviews.
#6. Red flags to look out for
When booking your holiday, please keep the following in mind:
Terrible photos – Not necessarily terrible, but it’s a red flag if someone isn’t professional enough to take a good photo.
3-4 word reviews – If you have a lot of very short reviews, that’s a big red flag. This suggests they paid someone to provide a review. If a review just says “great location” or “great stay,” that’s a red flag. Airbnb encourages everyone to write reviews, so you may find short reviews.
#7. Check YouTube videos and other user generated content
How many times have I seen pictures of a white sand beach, only to see it in person and it looks nothing like it!
It’s very easy to edit a photo and make it look completely different from the original. So if a hotel provides a photo of a nearby beach, it might not look all that similar.
The best option is to go to YouTube and watch videos made by regular people who haven’t overly edited the footage. This will give you a good idea of what the area is really like!
I did something like this recently at a hotel. I was about to book a nice looking resort in Turkey. When I checked the YouTube video, I could clearly see that there was a highway running next to the hotel, separating it from the beach. At the hotel, it was easy to photograph the pool without being able to see the highway a few meters away!
#8. Never leave the booking platform
Many booking platforms allow you to chat directly with the owner or hotel manager. This is great if you want to add additional requests or ask questions.
However, if the person asks you to leave the platform and chat directly, we strongly advise against doing so!
They’ll say it’s to avoid booking fees and save us both money. While this is true, there is no guarantee or security of any kind when booking directly through an individual. It’s better to pay a small booking fee!
#9. Be aware of all the ‘add ons’
If you search online, you may be able to find a holiday at a very affordable set price. “Okay, let’s book!” you’d say.
Then, as the booking progresses, you realize that the price gets higher and higher with each click.
Luggage, transfers, upgrade fee if you require a balcony, additional fee if you require a garden view, additional fee if you require a sea view, additional fee if you require an extra bed for a child, half board included. Additional charges apply for all inclusive drinks packages, Additional charges apply for international drinks, Additional charges apply for kids club access, Additional charges apply for waterparks, even more for 24-hour room service, and even more for day trips. The list goes on!
I’m not saying don’t book these things. Just be careful what gets added to your reservation!
10. Read the car hire small print
Even though you’ve been booking your trips online for years, you’re often confused about car rentals and when you go to pick up your car, it suddenly turns out to be much more expensive than you expected.
I’m a sucker for taking the cheapest rental car I can find locally, but they almost always add unexpected extras to the package.
In most cases, it is better to use a reputable international car rental company such as Europcar. The price will be higher when you book, but the additional fee will likely be less when you arrive.
And finally… Just book it!
There are many things that can go wrong when booking a vacation. But at the end of the day, you just have to trust your instincts, make a reservation, and have a good time.
Don’t think too long. Otherwise, you won’t be able to go!
Yes, sometimes things don’t work out, but you have to accept it and have fun. Don’t get too stressed or excited about things. You’re planning a vacation, so book it and enjoy!