Six tips for when you book a holiday
We receive huge numbers of complaints about holiday companies.
Many of them could be solved by a combination of a clearer understanding of what customers are signing up for – and that includes the small print – as well as a great deal more transparency on behalf of the travel companies.
That and a lot more flexibility from companies in trying to fix problems when things go awry.
But there are some precautions everyone can take to lessen their chances of being left out of pocket and out of sorts.
1. Get insured
Do this immediately you have booked and paid for a holiday. A great many people pay in full for their holidays many weeks in advance.
No one can forecast what is going to happen in those weeks and many problems are caused by holidays having to be cancelled and holiday companies not accepting that the reason satisfies their refund policy. Some can be highly inflexible and even a serious illness doesn’t sway them.
That means you could lose your deposit or, worse, the whole amount you paid.
If you do need to cancel for whatever reason, make sure you have evidence that this events were beyond your control. So, for example, if someone is taken ill, ensure you have a doctor’s letter to confirm the person is not fit to travel.
2. Read the small print
Sales people can seem awfully nice when they’re taking your booking, and it’s all too easy to accept reassurances verbally that are perhaps vague or even plain wrong.
If it comes to an argument about the rights and wrongs of a holiday booking, only the terms and conditions and the company’s discretion will count. And one thing you should not rely on is the company’s discretion.
So, boring as it may be, do read through all the booking conditions and if anything is unclear, ask for an explanation, preferably in writing.
Especially check on the circumstances in which you can get your money back.
3. Check for hidden charges
Make sure you’re absolutely clear what is covered by the price you’re paying.
If you think the holiday through, this might help to ask the right questions – for example, how will you get from the airport to the hotel, if it’s not spelt out?
Ask as many questions as you can think of about details to get a full picture of what is included in the price you are paying.
If you’re booking on-line, don’t accept any less information than you would if you were booking in a High Street travel agent. If you find there’s no interest in answering your questions, you should draw your own conclusions about how that company might handle a complaint.
4. Check who your contract is with
When things go wrong, many on-line booking sites will tell you your contract is with the airline or the cruise ship operator and so on – basically anyone, but them.
Ask them at the start who your contract is with and make sure this is spelt out.
It’s not always a simple process to unravel this, but it is important to spend some time doing so because if you don’t know who to complain to when things go wrong, you won’t get very far.
5. What changes can the company make?
Make sure you understand what changes the company is free to make to your booking without compensating you.
It may be that you don’t mind too much about the exact hotel you stay in, so long as you stay in one of a specified quality. Then again, you may be set on returning to somewhere you’ve been previously. So, find out what the company is actually committing to and how much flexibility they are giving themselves.
Can they change times, dates and locations without penalty? Are you willing to accept this?
6. Find out who to contact if things go wrong
Trying to reach a deal is far better than initiating a long, bureaucratic complaints process.
If the problem is not a major one, most smart companies will try and resolve it informally. If they turn out to be difficult and you feel they’re not listening, then be reasonable, but also use social media platforms like A Spokesman Said. This is by far the fastest way to resolve a dispute that has come to loggerheads.
Meanwhile, keep as much detailed evidence relating to your complaint as possible. Photos, videos, the details of other holidaymakers who feel the same are all very useful.
Keep a note of where and when you had conversations about the complaint and the content of what was discussed – the more detailed and professional you make these notes, the better.
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