As we're all beginning to think about booking - or winning next year's holiday, it seems a good time to focus on avoiding travel scams. With the cost of living going up, despite your working just as hard, the thought of a free (or inexpensive) holiday sounds pretty appealing, doesn't it?
But don't let that cloud your judgement. If you're hoping to bag a free holiday, you need to be wary of travel scams. Here are five things you need to know to avoid getting taken by travel scams. Plus, what to take into account when you win a holiday prize.
If you're offered a free holiday by email, it's almost certainly a scam. Just about all bulk email travel deals are. At the very least do some research on the company; who they are and what they're offering before agreeing to anything. The internet is a quick way to find a company's website and read other people's experiences of them. if you're told about a free holiday by phone, be very sceptical. if you're unfamiliar with the company, get its name, address and local telephone number. Check their track record if you can.
If you get sent details of a free holiday, always read the fine print. Your airfare may be free, but there could be a clause in the contract that says you must stay in particular accommodations - which turn out to be outrageously expensive. Ask what's NOT included, e.g. service charges, processing fees and taxes.
Timeshare (or holiday scheme) sales reps will often use the promise of a free holiday to entice you to one of their sales evenings. If you can endure two hours of hard-core selling (and potentially more hassle when you're on your free holiday) then this could be a way to take advantage of a free offer. I know many compers who have. However, it's swings and roundabouts with these kind of offers. The sales pitches can become very aggressive, and your holiday could be made unpleasent once it's clear you don't want to buy a timeshare. I've even heard horror stories of couples being locked in a room until they agreed to buy and chased around the resort by men on donkeys! Be careful.
Never give your credit card number over the phone unless you made the phone call and you know that you're dealing with a reputable company.
Make sure you keep copies of everything - for example, your receipts, your itinerary and the company's cancellation and refund policies. That way there is never any confusion about what you're entitled to.
Hearing the words "Congratulations you've won a holiday" is music to our ears. If you're lucky enough to win a holiday competition - and there's no reason why you shouldn't - apply all of the above to competition wins too.