Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Purchase online travel

Many consumers are not sure whether the use of the Internet for research or purchase travel - and if so, when and how. The Internet can be a powerful tool for finding travel. But when you are ready to buy, the Internet can not replace the expertise of a travel consultant confidence. Ed Perkins, a consumer advocate for the American Society of Travel Agents and former editor of Consumer Reports Travel Letter, addresses some of the most frequently asked questions about the research and the purchase of online travel or not .

The trip planning and destinations
Q: Can I use the Internet to plan a trip?
A: Yes, at least partially. The Internet is great for facts and figures: thousands of destinations - regions, countries, states and provinces, cities, and the park systems - maintain Web sites. These sites are a great source of information you need: the main features, activities, climate and weather, local transportation, and much more. In fact, your problem is likely to be information overload, rather than too little.

But the Internet is rarely able to provide enough depth and detail to enable you to prepare a travel plan. You may need still guides and maps (which you can buy online). And you should always talk with a professional travel agent before making a purchasing trip.

Q: What about what's happening to my destination?
A: The Internet is a great resource. Most attractions maintain Web with complete schedule and price information, like sports teams, theaters and sports centers, cultural programs, and others. Newspaper sites allow you to access details such as local movie listings, restaurant, both religious services, and more.

Q: How can I be sure to get air fares lowest on the Internet?
A: Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Some very good airline tickets are sold only online offerings. They are usually very limited and constrained, but if you can live with those limitations and restrictions, prices can be very good. However, if you need to change your ticket or you make a mistake, the customer service is not a strong point of the Internet. You can also buy airline tickets discounted consolidator of some Internet sites.

In general, however, the online price is about the same as you would pay if you buy an agency classic. And some sites that purport to find the "lowest" fares do not include discount tickets to their research, which means they are not really you the lowest fare.

Q: Can I use the Internet to find the best flight plan?
A: Yes, normally. Many Web sites let you narrow the search by schedules and travel time minimum rather than a minimum time. However, some important sites exclude some low-cost airlines of their research. Also, it is sometimes difficult to discern the flight itinerary and the number of steps and duration of call.

Q: What about seating?
A: The Internet is useful but it does not answer all your questions. Major airlines domestic Websites show their seats graphics and dimensions (if you know where to look), but most lines of small American and foreign lines do not provide this information. In addition, some Internet sites allow you to pre-select seats when booking, while others do not. Â If your ticket permits, you can usually pre-select a seat by calling an airline reservation site, and this is a travel agent often can not only get a seat, but you select one with a little extra room.

Q: Can I reduce my costs of purchasing a travel package online?
A: In general, no. You generally pay the same price for a package tour, no matter where you buy it. Many big tour operators (who put together packages) maintain websites, but they have not cut prices. You can use the Internet as a source of information, but a travel agent can give you as good a deal - and possibly one or a few extra benefits.

Q: What about special interest tours?
A: The Internet is a great source tracking and information. It allows very small niche market of travel to reach a national audience. You will find almost every imaginable kind of visit on the Web sites maintained by Tour Operators special interest. But prices are not generally lower online than from other sources. And a Web site operator is not likely to let you know if the operator is financially sound - often, the information that you can get from a travel agent.

Q: Do the cruise lines discount on the Internet?
A:. Generally, no. Although most major cruise lines maintain elaborate Web sites, they do not reduce prices online and there are many not sell online at all.

Q: So, where are the discounts available cruise?
A: Many organizations - online and off - to provide cruise discount price. The Internet is an excellent way to get an idea of what is available and the price. But sources offline can usually get the same discounts that you find online and may be able to provide an insight into the company and its cruise ships. Cruise specialists can give you a working knowledge of the line and help you select cabins, seating and dinner excursions on shore.

Q: Is the Internet a good place to find jobs?
A: Again, yes sometimes, but not always. Several hotels have Web sites discounters. And several chains offer special Internet only (but they are often duplicated by parallel non-Internet promotions). But Internet discounts are not always the best you can find. Chain sponsored promotions are often better, because the bids are offered through any organization. Your travel agent can also help you choose a quality hotel in a convenient location.

Q: What about other accommodations - rentals, B & B, and houseboats?
A: The Internet is a great way to track farm unconventional. You can find hundreds of sites that cover the vacation rentals, for example, ranging from major institutions around the world to some apartments. Ditto B & B, barges, boat rental, and others. But the main advantage is to find where you want: Prices are generally the same no matter where or how you buy.

From last minute and auctions
Q: Is the Internet a good source for last-minute bargains?
A: Yes, in many cases. The Internet provides an easy way for suppliers to unload the seats of aircraft, cruise cabins, hotel rooms that might otherwise go unsold, at very attractive prices. The Internet is the only place where you can see some of the best last minute, but others are available everywhere.

Q: What about those "auctions" that get so much publicity?
A: They are beautiful, but only if (1) you are willing to leave the agency on the Internet to choose the airline or your hotel and (2) you really know where to place your bid. Apparently, they work better for a high price of hotel rooms for airline tickets.

Q: Are there any drawbacks to these offers?
A: The most obvious. You will find the best prices generally only a few weeks to a few days in advance - often leaving insufficient time to organize your schedule. Selecting destinations / class cabin / flight time / place may be limited. In many cases, once you buy, you get stuck with little or no opportunity for reimbursement.

Q: Are there any pitfalls and the pitfalls in using the Internet for travel?
A: Yes, several:

1. Perhaps the most important thing is that the Internet can respond to the questions that you ask. If you do not know what to ask for, the Internet may not give a proper answer.

2. A related issue is "Plan B deficit." Except in very narrow limits, the Internet can offer an alternative if your first survey does not show a satisfactory answer.

3. The Internet is fertile ground for the disappointments and misleading information. The mere fact that a site like price tags "discount" does not mean it really is rejected. Ask 10 sites for the "lowest price for a similar service, and you can find more than 10 different answers.

4. The Internet is also full of misleading promotions. For example, some sites list absurdly low airfares, provided that you buy one week of hotel accommodations through the same site. Obviously, the hotel is padded rate sufficient to cover the actual cost of the plane ticket.

5. Some sites can not deal consistently available, such as senior trafficking and AAA discounts.

6. If you have a problem, you might have a hard time trying to have an online agency to correct your problem - in fact, you may not even know its location.

If you are accustomed to make all your travel arrangements, the Internet can be a powerful tool. It can increase the scope and reach of all your efforts, and allow you to check hundreds of options. But to make the Internet more efficiently the work for you, you have to know what questions to ask and when to ask it. If you do not, you can spend endless hours that sterile eventually produce unsatisfactory results.

Even if you know what you want, Internet research can be time consuming. But just because you prefer outdoors with the help and advice of your journey, you should not ignore the Internet. It may be a good place to do your homework - with the more conventional guides and other references.

No matter how you buy travel, the more homework you do, you will be better consumers. And the Internet is a good place to start your homework.

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