Business

Planning your next vacation or trip

Whether you are looking for a good deal for your summer vacation, planning an annual holiday trip or have just decided you need a getaway, the Better Business Bureau warns people to plan ahead to save money, avoid scams and travel safely.

Scammers commonly target people looking for great deals online by offering tempting vacation packages at unrealistically low prices. That’s why it is important to do your research first.

BBB.org is a great resource for finding travel agencies, agents and websites that are reputable and dependable.

Here are some additional tips from BBB to help ensure a worry-free vacation:

• Plan ahead — Allow yourself the time to research hotels, flights, and the area where you will be staying. Typically, the earlier you make reservations, the better the deals you will find and the lower the risk of your favorite destination being booked.

Making reservations in advance also locks in rates and prevents you from paying higher prices later during prime spring break or holiday seasons.

• Avoid broad internet searches — Try to avoid entering phrases such as “best deals” into whichever search engine you use. Broad search terms like that can sometimes lead you to websites that look official but are designed solely to rip people off.

• Be alert for travel scams — Watch out for phone calls or letters claiming that you’ve “won a trip” or websites offering prices that are too good to be true. It’s easy to extend questionable offers such as these, but the vast majority of them leave hopeful travelers in limbo — and out money.

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• Do your homework — Ask family and friends to recommend a travel agent or travel website and visit bbb.org for free Business Profiles. If you are using online services to find accommodations, be sure to research the business and read customer reviews about any rentals you are considering.

• Get trip details in writing — Before making final payment, get all the details of the trip in writing. This should include the total cost, restrictions, cancellation penalties, and names of the airlines and hotels.

Also, review and keep a copy of the airline’s and hotel’s cancellation and refund policies, as well as the cancellation policies of the travel agency or booking site you are using.

• Consider travel insurance — Travel insurance covers things like trip cancellations or medical emergencies. There are different levels of coverage based on what type of plan you purchase.

Ask a lot of questions, and always read the fine print to see what’s covered and what’s not.

• Pay with a credit card — Paying with a credit card gives you additional protection if something should go wrong with the travel reservation.

• Bobby Hansen is regional director for the Better Business Bureau Cedar Rapids office; (319) 365-1190.

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