The internet is a useful tool for planning most aspects of vacation travel but our sources for planning fun in the sun such as the internet and online travel agencies may lead to dampened and cloudy spirits.
While the FTC monitors “truth in advertising”, they have yet to focus on the online marketing for hotels, resorts and vacation destinations. These sites offer tantalizing photos or as an online travel site, oyster.com calls them, “photo fakeouts” of a crystal clear beach – minus the gigantic cranes building the view-blocking high-rise next door!
From out-of-date photos of a pre-erosion beach to photos of pools taken with a wide-angle lens and minus the crowd of children swimming, false advertising in destination travel has received little attention. Unfortunately, there is little recourse for those misled by marketing photos when choosing their final destination. The biggest and best prevention? Do your homework before you book your sunny vacation online.
BBB offers the following suggestions before you plan your next get-away:
1. Know your need for accommodations, your budget, and your priorities – location vs. price, pool for the kids vs. the quiet of a bed and breakfast.
Tip: Use booking search engines such as Expedia or Kayak to get the best rate and then go directly to the hotel’s website to book directly as most hotels guarantee the lowest rate or will match a lower price you find elsewhere.
2. Decide whether or not to use “bidding” sites like Priceline and Hotwire who offer cheaper deals, but you may not know the name of where you’re staying until you’ve already booked the accommodations, and in general, reservations are non-refundable and cannot be changed.
Tip: If using a bidding site, keep in mind the days of the week you want to book – in most cities, the lowest rates may be on weekends or even holidays. So, do not base your bid on a Wednesday rate if you are actually arriving on Friday.
3. Read the reviews and ask for references before you book – knowing reviews can be biased but many are based on real life experiences. Use sites that offer information about the hotel’s conduct toward their customer such as BBB Business Reviews (www.bbb.org) or those that permit users to post photos of their hotel (back to the photo fakeout prevention).
Tip: Pick up the phone, call the hotel directly (not the 800 number) and ask the front desk about the preferred view, noise, parking, location of the hotel compared to the attractions you want to see and of course, the hotel’s cancellation policy.