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Deciphering Travel Deals and Scams: Getting What You Paid For

This post was inspired by a real-life conversation I had with my cousin.  Tyler recently asked me to research a trip for him and his girlfriend. They knew they wanted a beach escape, but they didn’t want to spend a ton of money. However (like most of us), they wanted VALUE… it was important that they got ‘bang for their buck’. Early on in the planning process, I got an email from Tyler that I have seen before. It was a screen shot from one of those Flash Sale discount sites (rhymes with ‘Poupon’!) and Tyler sent a one line email: “Have you seen this?”

My response was probably more than he expected and I will recap it for you here. Let’s talk about those “great deal” sites.

First and foremost, I love flash sale sites. This is not a post about bashing flash sales!

Without naming names, I use a few of them regularly when I want to find an activity in another city. One of my best purchases was a 2 for 1 VIP experience at the HighRoller in Las Vegas (see photo!) It’s amazing how an open bar will conquer one’s fear of Ferris Wheels.  But I digress…

I caution my clients to be very careful when purchasing travel and trips from these sites. Here’s why:

1. The traveler has very little control:  Travel deals on flash sale sites are typically available because of consolidators.  A travel consolidator buys unsold inventory from airlines and hotels, then re-sells that inventory to make a profit.  With consolidator fares, the traveler typically has very little control over flight times, layovers, room type, etc.  Want to choose a different flight time or airline?  You’re probably out of luck.  Not happy with that brick-wall-view room at the back of the resort?  Sorry, Charlie.  These deals are great because you get what you pay for… and that is quite often something that couldn’t sell on its own.

2. There is no recourse if you have a problem:  No one wants to think about this, but sometimes things don’t go to plan.  With a flash-sale type deal, you often have no one to call if there is a problem.  Miss your flight?  Get sick or injured?  Category 1 hurricane heading for the hotel?  In most cases, there won’t be anyone to help you.

3. Pay attention to what’s NOT included:   Read the fine print and make sure you know what you are buying.  Is checked baggage extra? What about transportation to the hotel? 
Finally, what about travel insurance?  When traveling internationally, travel insurance is always recommended.  Insurance is not included in these flash site deals, so mentally add that extra cost to the price on the site.  When you add on extra fees, the deal may not be as sweet as you originally thought.

We love a good deal, but we advocate research and understanding what you’re paying for. Whenever you book a trip, it is wise to thoroughly understand exactly what is included and often, not included! If you see a deal that is too good to be true, ask yourself if it is.  

I am always happy to help decode the fine print if you need me!

What is your best (or worst!) “get what you pay for” experience?  How did it turn out?

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Ashley Morris

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