St. Louis (KSDK) -- Vacations can be a much-needed break but planning ahead can help keep vacation nightmares at bay.
The Better Business Bureau says planning ahead, checking websites and other travel resources can help you avoid disappointment.
BBB Business Reviews are available for many travel providers and websites. The reviews list the number and nature of complaints from consumers for millions of companies, from car rental agencies to airlines to hotels, motels and restaurants. They also show how the company responded to the complaints.
The BBB says travel websites should explain policies on cancellations and refunds. Some require a minimum amount of notice for a cancellation, and some pro-rate refunds based on the length of time left before the reservation date. Most sites ask users to indicate that they have read and understood the policies. Be sure that you look at the policies carefully before you check "agree" and make your reservation.
If you're traveling on an airline, be aware of policies on baggage and seating. Many airlines charge for bags that can't be stowed in overhead bins or under seats. Some charge a premium for an aisle or window seat or for seating in an emergency exit row. Other potential charges include meals, movies or wireless Internet access.
Make sure you carry confirmation numbers for your reservations and contact information for the travel site, hotel or transportation companies you are using. You may need the confirmation number when you check in or if you need to change your plans.
More BBB tips for safe, worry-free travel include:
- Plan ahead. Many vacation destinations book up quickly, and the cost of reservations may go up the longer you wait to make reservations.
- Understand provider's policies. Travel websites and individual providers like hotels, transportation companies or tours may have differing policies for refunds or cancellations. Some may cancel your reservation if you arrive too late or fail to confirm your reservation.
- Check out providers before you book your travel. BBB Business Reviews can give you information on companies' complaint records, their time in business and how they respond to consumer complaints. Friends or other review sites may provide you with feedback from other travelers on things like the quality of rooms or food. Beware of too many positive reviews; the provider may select only the best comments for its own site.
- Consider paying by credit card. Many credit card companies provide protection on items charged to the card, or they allow you to contest a charge if the provider fails to deliver promised services.
- Verify providers. When booking lodging through a third-party site, check with the hotel directly to make sure it exists and that the travel site is authorized to book with them. Ask them to verify that the confirmation number you got from the travel site is valid. This precaution is especially important when booking through ads on classified sites or unfamiliar websites.
- Review statements. Make sure the amounts charged to your credit card jive with the amounts shown on the travel site or your confirmation pages. In some cases, there may be legitimate charges such as taxes or booking fees, but they should be disclosed before your credit card is charged.
- Consider investing in travel insurance. Travel insurance can provide protection in the event of an accident, an illness, lost luggage, or a canceled or interrupted trip, among other things. However, in many cases, the limits on the insurance may not compensate you for the full amount of your loss, and there could be delays. Some credit cards may include insurance on purchases made with the card.
For more information on travel or other consumer tips, visit www.bbb.org or call 314-645-3300.