Posted by: traveljunkies | March 23, 2010

Avoid these travel rip-offs

– By Serena Cowdy

Are you braving air travel any time soon? Here are eight ways to avoid getting ripped off.

If you’re determined to jet off on a spring break, there are a host of airline and airport rip-offs you need to be aware of. Make it as painless as possible (in financial terms at least) by following these eight top tips…

1. Find the cheapest flights
When you’re looking for cheap flights, don’t assume they’ll always be with budget airlines. These airlines often try to rip you off with cheeky hidden charges that you won’t find out about until you’re ready to pay. Read Ryanair costs more than British Airways to find out how.

So, instead of starting your search on a budget airline’s site, use a ‘screen scraper’ website like Kayak or SkyScanner, which sifts through several flight brokers at the same time, to find you the cheapest possible fares.

You may also want to use flight broker sites like Expedia or to find cheap package deals they’ve negotiated with airlines and hotel chains.

Just remember that certain budget airlines are sometimes omitted from these search results, so it’s still a good idea to check airlines’ websites, too.

2. Minimise card charges
Back in the good old days, airfare booking charges only applied if you paid with a credit card. Now, virtually every type of card incurs some sort of rip-off extra fee.

Generally speaking, credit card charges are still higher than those associated with debit cards. And certain airlines may not charge you a transaction fee if you book using a Visa Electron. However, this isn’t necessarily the case, so check before you flash your plastic.

Paying by credit card for purchases costing more than £100 affords you valuable protection under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act (read Why credit card spending is wise to find out more), so you may decide it’s worth paying the higher booking fee to get this extra cover.

3. Don’t pay over the odds for travel insurance
Remember to waive the travel insurance purchase option that pops up as you try to book your flight. A stand-alone deal (bought separately) is usually much better value for money.

Read 12 top travel insurance tips to find out more.

4. The best way to check in
Some airlines (notably Ryanair) now charge extortionate penalty fees if you don’t check in online, or if you forget to print off the relevant documentation at home.

So, make sure your printer is in good working order before you travel (and don’t leave it until five minutes before you leave the house!).

Unfortunately, Ryanair now charges a (smaller) fee of £5 for online check-in, too. And once you’ve decided to travel with them, there’s nothing you can do to avoid it.

5. Dodge baggage fees
Does anyone remember the kids’ adventure TV show ‘Knightmare’? Essentially, small children were made to walk around in a nightmarish world with a bucket on their heads, unable to see what was in front of them.

This, in a nutshell, is how consumers are forced to deal with airline luggage fees: they’re always changing, it’s difficult to see what’s going on, and one wrong step can lead to financial disaster.

Usually, the best way to beat baggage charges is to take hand luggage only. Just make absolutely sure your luggage fits any size and weight restrictions imposed, because excess baggage charges are usually astronomical.

6. Airport parking
If you’re driving to the airport, you could end up paying an arm and a leg for pricey airport parking. So, see if you can find a cheaper alternative by searching online.

For example, Parking4Less will compare prices to help you get the best deal at the airport you’re flying from.

And sites like ParkAtMyHouse bring together individuals who live near airports with people needing a space.

7. Airport shopping
First, don’t assume the goods in Duty Free are cheaper than the same goods sold elsewhere.

In fact, you can often find the same perfumes, cosmetics and drinks at lower prices online, or sometimes even on the high street. Do your research in advance using a price comparison site like Kelkoo or PriceRunner alongside the World Duty Free website.

Second, try not to buy any food or drink at the airport or on the plane. Snacks often cost three times as much as they do at your local shop, so pack a lunchbox before you leave the house.

8. Spending money
Don’t change any currency at the airport. Exchange bureaux in airports generally charge whopping rates of commission (also known as ‘service fees’) and offer measly exchange rates.

For tips on how to get the most holiday cash for your pound, read The best way to get your foreign currency

If your airline messes up
If the worst happens and your flight is delayed, diverted or cancelled, you may be entitled to financial compensation.

Your rights in this area are pretty complicated, so you’ll need to have your wits about you when you try to make a claim. For a breakdown of the rules and regulations involved, read What you are entitled to when your airline messes up

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