Booking any holiday can prove stressful, which is counterproductive when all you want to do is de-stress, right? The answer to anxiety-free, budget-friendly, comprehensive travel planning may be right in front of you – Online.
Experts note that booking travel online has exponentially increased over the past few years. “Since 2011, visits to Online Travel Agencies (OTA’s) have increased by 30% from 5.0m to 6.5m,” explains Expedia ANZ Managing Director Georg Ruebensal. “As life gets busier and Aussies become more accustomed to ‘life online’, consumer demand continues to grow for services - including travel - that can be accessed in the office, at home or on-the-go,” he adds.
As with any service, actioning it from your own armchair is easier than accessing it outside your home. Travel bookings are no different. Booking online makes it easy to compare and save information on searches, allowing you to compare a vast range of travel products with a level of freedom involved. The best online options offer No Booking Fee policies as well as ‘pay now or later’ and ‘price match’ payment options, making it easy as well as affordable, to plan and book a holiday from home.
WHICH TRAVEL SITE IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
“Be on the lookout for online travel agents who have a healthy range of products, real-time service and authenticated customer feedback,” suggests Ruebensal, adding that reputable websites should provide a travel search experience that is clear, clean, intuitive and easy to navigate, to ensure the booking process is easy. Look for:
1. Security: This SSL Certificate on the providers website ensures your information is being processed and stored on a secure server.
2. Customer Service: “A good OTA should have a customer service centre that can be reached 24 hours a day whether it’s by phone or email,” notes Ruebensal
3. Read Reviews. Check Images: Go with sites that only post verified hotel reviews, which mean you, are reading the reviews of people who have actually stayed at the property.
4. Visible Terms and conditions: These should be easy to find on the providers website.
5. Flexibility & Transparency: “Make sure there are no hidden fees,” he warns. “Some resort and hotel destinations charge mandatory fees such as meals that may not be outlined clearly in your booking. There should also be clear policies available on the website for changes and cancellations.”
TIPS TO BOOKING ONLINE:
1. Bundle For Better Rates: Purchasing flights and accommodation together is the key to stretching holiday funds further, with the better sites offering preferential rates which can be passed along to customers when they book a package. “This can amount to a savings of several hundred dollars for one trip,” notes Ruebensal. “With the bulk of Aussies’ holiday budget going to flights and accommodation, having some extra cash to put towards dining out, a shopping spree or trying a new activity is a big bonus.”
2. Insurance & Activities: In addition to flights and hotel bookings, you can also book car hire, flexible cruise packages, competitive travel insurance policies, tours and airport transfers in one online hit on the reputable sites.
3. Create An Account: Creating an account is free on most travel websites. “Our research shows that the average traveller searches as many as 48 times across the web before feeling confident enough to book air travel,” explains Ruebensal. Therefore, by creating an account you can save searches, receive customised recommendations, early bird access to sales and exclusive offers not available to the general public.
4. Find Flexible Payment Options, Price Guarantees and No Fees: Expedia’s Pay Now or Later policy allows you to choose when to pay for your hotel and their Price Match Guarantee ensures you’re getting the best rate for hotels, flights and packages, says Ruebensal, “otherwise we’ll match the cheaper rate and give you a $50.00 voucher.” Look for these types of deals to remove any extra budget blowouts atop your itinerary.
5. Review And Be A Reviewer: “Look for travel websites that show reviews and ratings for their inventory, especially hotels,” suggests Ruebensal. Opt for those that offer guest-verified hotel reviews and are scored on pricing, amenities and customer service. These reviews can make all the difference when you’re shopping around for a super holiday with no hidden surprises.