The pitfalls of cheap travel

The pitfalls of cheap travel

10 January 2013 | 7:30 am

We all love a bargain, and in tough times we’re all on the lookout to make our buck go that little bit further, especially when it comes to travel.

Good research and a careful eye can save you plenty. However, those big headlines like “Bali On Sale”, “Kids Eat 4 Free” and “Upgrade Now” can be a bit stinky.

The number one rule is to read the fine print and understand everything that’s being offered.

Hotels

Hotels can offer reduced rates during off-peak times, but as the stars come down to around two or three be aware that renovations or construction may be underway. The hotel may even be under new management and the staff could be reduced. I’ve stayed in hotels when the staff were striking and a picket line formed out the front. The maintenance may not be happening at night, but scaffolding, boarding, dust and noise will be going on during the day. If the lifts are being serviced, be prepared to take the stairs.

Flights

This is the biggest market where ‘cheap travel’ can suck you in. Less reputable airlines have older planes, so don’t expect new bathrooms or 21st century in-flight entertainment. Many cheap flights may not include checked baggage, you may not be served a meal and you run the risk of multiple stopovers. You may be on the ‘milk run’ to Europe. I’ve done it stopping in Auckland, Tahiti, LA, New York and then Paris. It felt like I’d been flying for a year.

Take note of the departure times with cheap flights, as some will leave late in the evening when you’re ready for sleep. They don’t call them red-eyes for nothing! Sometimes these flights have limited attendants, so the service will be slow and even abrupt – that smiling cabin crew from the glossy TV commercials is nowhere to be seen. If you are traveling only a short distance, though, cheap flights can save you.

Bus tours

Some coach companies will cover costs on organised tours, so when empty seats need to be filled, ‘sale time’ comes up in lights for coach travel. Be prepared to get on board with the Rotary Club or the footy club’s annual trip. I’m not saying this won’t be fun, it just may not be your cup of tea to travel around with a bunch of people who know each other well.

Discounted travel should tell you of any unscheduled stopovers, or that you must travel on particular days i.e. Christmas Day, Easter, New Year’s Day, etc. Many destinations in off-peak locations may have closed signs due to lack of visitors i.e. exhibit closed, park closed. The Greek Islands in particular generally close in the off-season, as it’s just not nice during this time.

Online warning

Travel insurance scams are all over the internet. Right when you should have top cover, don’t risk it with unknown insurance operators.

Read the fine print with all travel-related conditions of use. It should be there at the bottom of the advertisement or webpage, make sure you understand check-in times, departure dates, routes, conditions of sale and money-back guarantees.

There is always a reason the prices are so cheap!

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