Q: I’m doing some last minute spring break travel arrangements. Does the BBB have any tips I should consider before finalizing my plans?
A: Whether you’re jetting to Costa Rica, headed on a cruise, hitting the ski slopes, or driving to the beaches of Miami, Florida, don’t just book a trip because it looks like a good deal. And although it’s a break from school, you still need to do your homework when planning your vacation.
March and April are spring break months for most college students. If you haven’t already made your spring break vacation plans, the Better Business Bureau warns you to be cautious. Each year, hundreds of college students get ripped-off by fraudulent spring break offers that promise – but fail to deliver – that much needed “fun in the sun.” Travel fraud is a growing problem and college students seem to be attractive targets for dishonest travel operators.
Not all fraudulent offers involve losing money; some are simply misleading. The accommodations may not be what you expected, or what you thought you paid for. Promoters may sell packages that do not include confirmed hotel space or flights. And, even if accommodations and flights are confirmed, the actual cost of the package is sometimes misrepresented when companies fail to inform customers about additional fees.
The Better Business Bureau urges college students to take special precautions when booking spring break trips. Here are a few suggestions:
Use a travel company you trust. Ask family and friends to recommend a company they’ve used and go to bbb.org to see the company’s BBB Business Review. Be sure the travel agencies and companies you use are reputable ones. You can also check the BBB Business Reviews of your destination’s hotel, car Rental Company, etc. by visiting bbb.org and putting your destination city and state in the BBB search bar.
Gather Information. Don’t be fooled by professional-looking travel mailers, websites, e-mails or seminars. Few legitimate businesses can afford to give away products and services of real value or substantially undercut other companies’ prices. Always check out the business with your BBB at bbb.org.
Get all vacation details in writing. Before paying anything, ask many questions and request all details of the trip in writing, including total cost (with any additional fees), travel itineraries, restrictions where applicable, cancellation penalties, refund policies, and exact names of the airlines and hotels included in the packet. Also, get copies of everything.
Be sure to ask about a hotel’s “resort fees” or any additional fees that may be hidden from the listed price for things such as fitness facilities, a copy of the local newspaper, use of the room safe box, or even to access the internet. Many times these fees are required to be paid whether you use them or not, so it’s best to know which are required to get a better idea of the true cost of your trip.
Verify reservations. Get the contact information for the airline, car rental company, and hotel you’ll be using. Call to confirm all arrangements. When booking a package, it may be a good idea to also call the individual providers to ensure they all truly participate in the deal.
Verify charter flights. If a charter flight is involved, ask for the charter operator’s name and address, and then check its registration with the U.S. Department of Transportation Special Authorities Office (http://www.dot.gov/policy/aviation-policy/licensing/public-charters).
Consider travel insurance. Travel insurance is designed to cover such things as trip cancellations or medical emergencies. Before purchasing any type of travelers insurance check your homeowner’s or medical insurance policies to see what may already be covered.
Pay with a credit card. Paying with a credit card gives you additional protections should something go wrong with the travel reservation; you will be able to at least dispute the charges. Don’t give the account number to an unsolicited travel promoter. Don’t pay for your trip via a wire service as those funds cannot be tracked or refunded.
Be on the alert for travel scams. Unsolicited mail, email and faxes offering deeply discounted travel packages could leave you out a vacation and money if you’re not careful. Never give credit card information over the phone to a company or person you’re not familiar with. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Vacation packages presented for one low price generally involve hidden taxes or fees. Be wary of offers that promise “the moon” for a very low price, or ones that require immediate purchase to lock in the announced rate. Be especially wary of travel “prizes”– oftentimes a technique used to gain information about your finances. Be suspicious of vacation certificates that claim you have “won” a hotel stay or resort visit. If you discover you have to pay something to get the promised “free” vacation, look elsewhere.
Contact the BBB if you are a victim of fraud. Victims of travel-related scams should file a complaint with the BBB at bbb.org or call 423-266-0396.
Jim Winsett is president of the Better Business Bureau of Chattanooga.
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The weather might be cold, but this time of year is when most people have warmer destinations on the brain.
Chad Cotter of Cotter Travel says early in the year is the travel industry’s busy season because people are tired of winter, and they have extra money coming in from tax returns. One of the best ways to save money when planning a vacation is booking early. There are many other ways to score great travel deals so that you spend money on fun activities and food instead of unnecessary expenses.
“The biggest thing is to book things in advance, because everything is based on availability. The closer you get to the trip, the higher the rates go up,” he says.
If you can, be flexible with dates. Try to schedule flights and hotel stays in the middle of the week. The cheapest days to fly generally are Tuesdays and Wednesdays, while the most expensive days are Fridays and Sundays. Mr. Cotter says sometimes the same exact same travel package can cost a totally different price from week to week depending on the availability and time of year, so making minor date changes can end up saving hundreds of dollars.
For the adventurous souls who are really flexible, a mystery booking might be the right thing to save even more.
“Some tour companies have mystery deals — you know it’s going to be at a four-star hotel on the beach in a certain area, but you don’t know which hotel it will be until about a week before,” Mr. Cotter says.
If you’re going to a tropical location, all-inclusive resorts are very popular. These packages usually have a hefty price tag up front, but the savings you get from not having to pay extra for food, drinks and entertainment means you’ll almost always come out on top.
“Booking everything as a package instead of booking everything separately, that helps give you a big discount,” he says.
If you’re traveling overseas, be careful about taking too much cash, since it can’t be replaced if it gets lost or stolen. Mr. Cotter says he usually uses his credit cards when he travels to different countries because they have a better rate of exchange. Just remember to call your different credit card companies to make sure they don’t charge a fee every time you swipe, as this can catch some travelers off guard if they don’t know about the fees ahead of time.
When you get to your hotel, make sure to ask the concierge desk if there are any deals or coupons for restaurants, shows, museums and more. After all, these professionals are trained to give guests the best trip possible, and at the best price.
Finally, it helps to research different transportation options of the city you’ll be visiting. Cab fare can eat up your vacation money quickly, especially in big cities, so it’s good to see if there are alternative modes available, like a good bus or subway system. In Cancun, Mexico, Mr. Cotter says buses that travel up and down the beach strip for just 50 cents a ride. Some destinations even have free beach taxis that only run on tips. And of course, if the city is pedestrian-friendly, walking is always free.
CRUISING TO GREAT RATE
Trade the snow boots for flip-flops — simply by boarding the recently debuted MSC Divina.
Steal: “Hot Rates on Hot Dates” offers include seven-night Caribbean cruises on the following departures. March 8: Western Caribbean sailing, visiting Jamaica, Cayman Islands, Mexico, and the Bahamas, starting at $429 per person. March 15: Eastern Caribbean sailing, visiting the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, starting at $399 per person.
Experience: Inspired by film goddess Sophia Loren, MSC Divina offers several divine new features, including two restaurants — the upscale Ristorante Italia and Eataly Steakhouse, fashioned after the famed restaurant at Eataly’s Manhattan location and artisanal marketplace. The MSC Divina is also the first ship to offer aqua cycling at sea.
The 1,751-cabin ship has other features, including: 18 bars and lounges; five swimming pools; a bowling alley; gym; exotic Aurea Spa; 4D Theater; and Formula 1 race car simulator. The yacht club is a “ship-within-a-ship” concept with 69 suites on board. Yacht club guests can indulge in their own personal butler and 24-hour concierge service, including complimentary wines and spirits available any time of the day throughout the club’s exclusive lounges and pool area.
The MSC Divina pays tribute to actress Sophia Loren, especially in its Sophia Loren Royal Suite.
Book it! Online at msccruisesusa.com or by calling (877) 665-4655.
HOME RUN IN JUPITER
Step up to the plate this spring training season at Jupiter Beach Resort Spa in Florida. Enjoy the ultimate “Day at the Stadium” experience.
Deal: Book the “Diamond” package and receive four field box tickets to see the St. Louis Cardinals or Miami Marlins at Roger Dean Stadium. Also in this deal: a personal curbside escort upon stadium arrival ; behind-the-scenes tour of the 110-acre sports complex; the opportunity to watch batting practice on the field and throw the ceremonial first pitch. This package includes superior-suite accommodations, with daily breakfast for four. Rates start at $520 per night for travel between Feb. 28 through March 27. The package is only available during spring training home games and is subject to availability.
Experience: Within one of “America’s Happiest Seaside Towns,” the 168-room Jupiter Beach Resort Spa serves as the perfect backdrop for a low-key, beachside escape. Relax in a hammock overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, grab a Cucumber Breeze cocktail at Sinclair’s Lounge or go paddle-boarding and kayaking along the Jupiter Inlet Aquatic Preserve.
The pool at the Jupiter Beach Resort Spa, which has a special deal for baseball fans during spring training.
Book it! Visit jupiterbeachresort.com or call (800) 228-8810 and use promo code DIAMOND.
HAVE IT ALL IN CURAÇAO
Head to the Caribbean for a luxurious and affordable getaway at Santa Barbara Beach Golf Resort.
Steal: Book the “All Inclusive” package now through April 30 and receive 35% off. The package includes a luxurious resort view room, breakfast, lunch and dinner daily, unlimited drinks (including alcoholic beverages sodas), discounted golf rates and complimentary on-site activities. Rates start at $274 per person, per night.
Experience: Enjoy meditation hikes up the Tafelberg Mountain, beach tennis and paddle-boarding through the Spanish Bay. For an authentic look at the island, head to town for a Chichi painting lesson at Serena’s Art Factory and dare to get up-close and personal with sharks during a snorkel encounter at the Curaçao Sea Aquarium.
Book it! Visit online at santabarbararesortcuracao.com/caribbean_deals/all-inclusive-web.
Conway Confidential is a content syndication provider specializing in travel, food and lifestyle.
Vacation is always a little sweeter when it comes with a good deal. That’s why WDBJ7 Mornin’ sat down with travel agents at Martin Travel to find our how to score discounts.
Travel agent Judy Miron says a few deals are still available but most expire at the end of February and into March. “Even though there are some sales still out there to be had, it’s the empty space that’s available. So maybe it’s not the best location you’re wanting mid-ship, or maybe it’s not being able to see the land as you’re cruising,” explained Miron.
A lot of sales ended in January but Miron says there are some cruise discounts to take advantage of with Royal Caribbean, Princess, Carnival, Celebrity, and Disney cruise lines but they end on Thursday, February 28, 2014. Disney has specials for 20% to 30% off if you book by March 31st.
Miron says you can also get huge credits for booking early. “From five-hundred to six-hundred cruise credits, you might get huge upgrades. Maybe you’re paying for one of the least expensive cabins and now you’re going to get a six category upgrade,” said Miron.
You can also get perks like free photos, reduced deposits, free bottles of wine, or even a free short excursion credit.
For those that are looking for a trip in 2015, Miron suggests to start planning now.
For more information on vacations, click here.
If you’re interested in taking a river cruise, Martin Travel will put on “Viking River Night” on Tuesday, February 25, 2014 at the Holiday Inn Valley View at 6 p.m. It is by reservation only and you can register by calling (540) 343-5400 or by clicking here.
The spring vacation for students is quickly approaching and many families are now looking to book airline tickets, hotel rooms and spring vacation packages. But at this time of the year traveling is not as cheap as we want it to be, as this is a highly peak season in almost every corner of the world. Smart travelers know that the earlier you plan your trip, the better, but even if you still have no idea where to go and how to avoid the high prices, there are ways to save. See below some practical tips on how to find the best travel deals even in the peak season.
When looking for affordable airfares, there are some basic methods for saving, if you are familiar with the usual airlines’ practices. They tend to check the dates of the spring break in local schools and colleges in order to know which flights will be the busiest. So, your first strategy should be to buy your tickets during sales. Right now, the Dubai’s Emirates Airline and Qatar Airways are running a week-long sales. Generally, during weekdays you’ll find the cheapest rates, while from Friday to Monday, tickets are sold at higher prices.
Another thing you should know is that the earliest and the latest flights are the cheapest, because people usually avoid these hours. Of course, there’s a chance that your late-night flight will be delayed or even cancelled, so you need to be wise. The busiest time of the season will be from March 16 until the end of the month, when the airline tickets may cost you up to 34% more.
The worst thing to do is purchase your airfares in the last minute. You may end up paying 29% more if you book 4 to 14 days before departure. The last three days are the most financially unsound – during this time, the ticket price may double or even rise by 60%. The timing of departure is also important. Avoid flying on Friday or Saturday, unless you want to pay an additional 20% more for your ticket.
The choice of destination will affect the total cost of your vacation. There are cheaper destinations and more popular, expensive ones. However, if you don’t want to spend the spring break in a small town at the ocean with no attractions, historical sites and nightlife, choose a nearby destination, which is popular during the hottest months or during the winter. This way you can be certain it will be worth visiting and the prices will be affordable.
If there is some newly-opened hotel or resort in the destination you’ve chosen, this will probably be the best choice. New hotels usually offer low prices, packages and discounts to attract guests. But often, the best prices and sales can be found online, so check hotels’ websites and book your stay online. Hilton and Marriott frequently run special offers and you may be surprised to find much lower than the expected rates. You can also call the hotel, especially if it is a boutique one, and try negotiating a lower price. When making the decision, always look at the details of the offer – room category, free Wi-Fi, free breakfasts, special rates for children, and so on.
Spring Vacation Package
All-inclusive spring vacation packages are also a great option, especially for families, but they often come with fixed flight dates, inconvenient traveling hours, and many other things. So, before paying for a travel package, try finding a deal on your own. But finding a good package will be the wisest thing to if you are booking in the last minute – you won’t have to book a hotel, a flight, and a rental car one at a time. Instead, the travel company will take care of everything.
There are always little tricks for saving from your spring vacation. All you have to do is to plan well and in advance.
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There are two times when it’s great to travel to Europe, and neither are the summer high season. For great deals, fewer crowds, and a really authentic experience, consider traveling in the spring and fall. But for a really cool European experience, consider a river cruise. The ships are smaller, the experience is more tailored, and the shore excursions offer unique access. Though you’re at least a month away from traveling, now is the time to start booking river cruises, as they fill up quickly. Don’t miss out on these cruising opportunities.
Viking River Cruises has a 2-for-1 one deal for those who book before February 28. The multiple award-winning line is currently giving you the freedom to sail on the Rhine, Main, or Danube Rivers running from the North to the Black Sea. The trip can be anywhere from 7 to 23 nights. Prices start from $1,648 and vary upon length and destination. Click here for details.
Avalon Waterways is offering a savings of $1,000 per couple if you book before February 25. This promotion is valid for a variety of dates and journeys. Prices start at $1,800, depending on length of cruise (6-15 day), room type, and tour. Act now and visit them online for more information.
Uniworld River Cruise is helping you get to Europe for less. This fall, you’ll have access to a number of air credits, where you save $1,500 to $4,000 per couple off the air-inclusive price of select Uniworld River Cruises. Book by February 28 for sailings that head to Paris, Porto, Rome, Venice, Bordeaux, Budapest, Vienna, Istanbul, Amsterdam, and Basel. Prices start at $3,249, depending on the tour and length. Check the website for more information.
Ama Watermarks is offering a perfect deal for wine lovers. Promo Code Pr1002 will save you $1,500 based on a double occupancy for 8-9 nights, cruising between March-November. Thinking about traveling solo? They’ve got you covered, with no single supplement on the brochure fare for you. The 2014 Wine Theme Cruise docks in Budapest, Vilshofen, Amsterdam, Paris, and Basel. Check out their website for more info.
aRosa is offering a $1,000 savings per stateroom after depositing a 2014 sailing tour before February 28. The discount is valid for any cruise in any category, suited included. The offer is based on double occupancy. If you pay in full by February 28, you can save up to $1,320 and will receive a 6 percent savings off the cruise-only fare. aRosa sails the Rhine, Danube, and Rhone/Saone Rivers on cruises for 7 to 10 days. Click here for more information.
For more travel deals, check out:
By Lavina Pisani for PeterGreenberg.com
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World Travel Market 2013, the leading global event for the travel industry, will generate a record £2.2 billion in travel and tourism industry deals – an impressive 19% increase on WTM 2012.
Independent research of World Travel Market’s exhibitors shows WTM 2013 will generate a massive £2,223,445,308 billion of deals, either through contracts signed at the event or from negotiations with WTM Buyers’ Club members, which will lead to deals signed before WTM 2014.
WTM 2012 generated almost £1.9 billion in business deals, either on the exhibition floor or in the 12 months that followed, which was a 12% increase on WTM 2011’s £1.653 billion. WTM 2010 facilitated almost £1.5 billion.
The increase in business generated by WTM 2013 can, in part, be accredited to the 8% increase in WTM Buyers’ Club members to more than 8,500 (8,544). Furthermore, there was an impressive 5% increase in overall trade visitors compared to 2012, with WTM overall welcoming more than 50,000 participants over the four days (Monday 4 – Thursday 7 November).
The WTM Buyers’ Club is the leading business network for travel buyers and WTM facilitates networking opportunities, including the hugely popular WTM Speed Networking sessions which match the right buyers to exhibitors.
The traditional Monday morning Speed Networking session was phenomenally well attended with a record number of both exhibitors (760) and WTM Buyers’ Club members (211) discussing business deals before the exhibition floor opened.
The Thursday Speed Networking took place for the second year running to facilitate post-WTM business deals, attracting 370 exhibitors and almost 90 members from the WTM Buyers’ Club.
Furthermore, the resounding success can also be accredited to the increased focus put on travel technology with the inaugural Travel Tech Show at WTM and the luxury sector with A Taste of ILTM at WTM.
The dedicated ‘show within a show’ concept of The Travel Technology Show at WTM saw an impressive 59 new exhibitors compared to WTM 2012, with more than 7,000 visitors attending the event interested in buying travel tech products. While, in total 10,000 of WTM’s visitors also experienced The Travel Tech Show at WTM.
A taste of ILTM at WTM also debuted last year, engaging key international luxury suppliers with UK luxury buyers, seeing more than 1,000 pre-scheduled appointments conducted over the first two days of WTM, leading to a raft of business deals.
WTM’s record business figure of £2.2 billion is further supported by announcements from a number of exhibitors highlighting the business they conducted due to WTM 2013.
Specialist ticketing company Encore will generated more than £5 million of new business deals as a result of World Travel Market.
Popular European holiday hotspots Andalucía and The Canary Islands confirming they had both seen a huge uptake in business deals as a result of the four day event, held in London
MyBookingRewards.com, a rewards programme which connects travel agents with suppliers, also expanded its business in to a number of new countries due to deals agreed at World Travel Market 2013.
World Travel Market, Senior Director, Simon Press said: “I am delighted with the amount of business conducted at World Travel Market, which increases each year. This success firmly positioning WTM as a must-attend exhibition for national and regional tourist boards, global brands, luxury and technology companies.
“The phenomenal increase in buyers and visitors, the WTM Speed Networking programme, the new The Travel Tech Show at WTM and the inaugural A Taste of ILTM at WTM all played very important roles in the success of WTM 2013, offering all stakeholders increased opportunities to meet new contacts, sign contracts and conclude deals.
“The amount of business conducted and the findings from the exhibitor research show WTM is delivering on its commitment to facilitate business in the travel and tourism industry.
“The amount of business conducted at WTM clearly demonstrates WTM. Means Business.”
National averages from Bankrate.com
If you’re an American chasing tickets for the World Cup beginning June 12, your time is running short, and you have to go through Brasilia and FIFA, not necessarily in that order.
Brasilia is the Brazilian capital, where the government oversees handling of visa applications. In fact, Brazil has set up a separate visa category for World Cup visitors, presumably simplifying red tape that has sometimes complicated travel between the U.S. and Brazil. But to get one of those visas, you must first show that you have tickets to one of the competition’s 64 matches in 12 cities.
FIFA, the World Cup’s organizing body, has about 3 million tickets to sell. It began taking ticket requests (also known as applications) on Aug. 12, 2013, before the 32 first-round pairings were known.
A second phase for ticket applications followed Dec. 8-Jan. 30, and fans of specific teams had until Feb. 8 to request seats from a pool of tickets reserved for each team (8% per game). But those phase two applicants won’t learn their fate until ticket-lottery winners are picked (via “electronic draw”) and notified sometime before March 11. (About 80% of the ticket-seekers are Brazilians, FIFA officials say. )
For those who haven’t entered the ticket fray yet, two chances remain: You can order from the dwindling supply of tickets during the first-come, first-served phase March 12 to April 1; or wait until the “last-minute” phase from April 15 through the day of the Final, July 13.
FIFA marketing director Thierry Weil has estimated that requests for tickets “are at least 10 times more than the inventory we have available.” (In the second phase alone, FIFA tallied 3.5-million ticket requests.) Unlike organizers of the Olympics, FIFA doesn’t authorize anyone else to sell event tickets individually or in ticket/travel packages.
The competition begins with the June 12 opener in São Paulo and ends with the July 13 final in Rio de Janeiro.
Tickets for foreigners come in three price categories, with individual matches priced at $90 to $990 per person, excluding ticket delivery charges. (There’s a more affordable fourth category reserved for Brazilian residents). Package deals allow fans to follow their chosen team through multiple matches or to attend only matches at a single venue. As of Feb. 12, tickets for the opening match and final had not been released.