5 Common Mistakes

By Rick Aristotle Munarriz

Travel, whether it's for business or pleasure, shouldn't be a stressful experience. Accept the fact that you may not have gotten the best possible deal out there (but hopefully one that you're comfortable with). You can always buy suntan lotion at the beach. Disposable cameras are in fact disposable. And if you're going out of the country, don't forget your passport!

We can keep going with the assurances and sundry travel tips, but let's go over five common mistakes that you should watch out for when you're making travel plans online.

1. Don't assume that one site will always have the best deals.

It just doesn't happen consistently. It never takes too long to check a second portal or even to see what can be found by booking directly through the airline or hotel site. Even if it means that your initial instinct was right, you have nothing to lose beyond a little extra time.

2. Don't ignore the fine print.

Are there any surcharges? What is the cancellation policy? Are changes allowed? If you have to make travel changes after you've booked your trip, your best defense is to know each site's rules and procedures.

3. Book your travel when you're ready.

There are two camps here. The early birds want to lock in current prices as soon as possible while the late crowd is banking on sweet last-minute deals that may or may not materialize. A few years ago, you could have played it both ways, but now that more and more sites are instituting change and cancellation penalties you're probably best to finalize your travel when you find the rate or fare you're happy with.

4. No portal is complete.

While the variety of airlines, hotels, car rental companies, and cruise packages at any worthy one-stop site is impressive, there are even more options out there. You won't find some of the low-cost carriers like JetBlue or Southwest listed on Expedia, Travelocity, or Orbitz. The same holds true for lodging and car rental alternatives. You will still get a wide breadth at any travel portal, but it's not all-inclusive.  

5. Keep an eye on site partners.

Once the travel industry began shaving away at online commissions, the portals found a new revenue stream by promoting some options over others. In many cases, these preferred partners own actual stakes in the site. While that does not discredit the integrity of the site and these partnerships often produce your most cost-efficient option, make sure you look around long enough to be presented with a wide range of travel alternatives. 

6. There is no common mistake number six.

Well, there is, and that is to let the opportunity to explore the world of travel sites pass you by. So what are you waiting for? Check our comparison table to know what the major sites have to offer and then plot your own course from there. Buckle up and get ready to embark on an incredible adventure.

Rick Aristotle Munarriz loves to travel, even if it's around the house. Rick's stock holdings can be viewed online, as can the Fool's disclosure policy.

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