Travel Scams

Vacation victory or vacation misery? Victory is what everyone is looking for in a vacation, though misery may be what you come across if you’re not careful when planning. Travel scams can be mentally and financially exhausting. While you thought you were booking a week trip on a cruise ship, you potentially just sent thousands of dollars to an unknown, unreliable “travel agency.” Don’t be the next victim!

If it sounds too good to be true, chances are… it is! Mailings, phone calls and travel “agents” who congratulate you for winning a free vacation on a highly rated island are more than likely running with your money if they get the chance. The emails or voicemails you receive stating you won a free trip usually means the wrong person got a hold of your contact information. Don’t fall for it.

There are so many beautiful travel destinations in the world and so many helpful websites and agents to assist in planning your trip. With that said, be cautious when choosing your website, travel agency, vacation package, or even discounted online rate. Make sure they are reputable and be mindful of the various scams and deceiving ads when researching your next trip.

Vacations come in many packages: rental homes, hotels, all-inclusive resorts, etc. When searching online for your destination, don’t be fooled by the photos. Double check the property on Google Earth and confirm the property actually exists. Read reviews to ensure people have in fact traveled there before and pay attention to what past visitors have said. Also, research the area around and outside of your rental property, hotel, time-share, etc. Be sure the area is safe and tourist friendly.

Once you have chosen your destination, there are several things to keep in mind before booking.

--Confirm all costs are included (resort fees, taxes, surcharges, processing fees, etc.). It is very common, especially out of the country, for resorts to have extremely high tax rates. Houston itself has a 17 percent hotel tax rate, which is pretty steep. Other places like the Dominican Republic have tax rates as high as 28 percent. This is something you’ll want to be aware of before booking.

--Read the cancellation policies beforehand and ensure you have travel insurance in case of an emergency.

--Double check the smoking/non-smoking areas on the property before picking your room.

--Read the fine print of all documentation to confirm the legitimacy of the management company, time share, travel agency, etc.

Overall, when planning your next vacation, be on the lookout for scams or things that just don’t seem right. Don’t jump to a price just because it sounds like a good deal. Get recommendations from friends and family and read the reviews online before committing. Fine print is never fun to read but it is definitely more fun than trying to recover your vacation funds from a scam.

Avoiding Travel Scams Quick Tips:

  • Get recommendations
  • Read through the fine print
  • Don’t be fooled by photography
  • Double check all fees and get something in writing before booking
  • Use a travel app to search airfares and hotel rates. My personal favorite is Hopper!
  • Pay by a credit card—it provides you with more protection than cash or check
  • Get travel cancellation protection to ensure you can cancel and get your money back if needed