Book travel like a boss

travelagentIn the digital age, many of us are booking our own travel. But here’s the catch: we’re not experts. Here’s a handy checklist to help you navigate the world of online travel bookings.

1. Passport
Has your passport got six month’s validity? If not, apply for a new one ASAP as many countries won’t allow you in without it and some airlines won’t accept your booking.

2. Visas
Do you have the relevant visas? If not, go to each countries’ consulate website and find out what you need to do as the rules are very specific around processing times, pricing, length of stay for particular nationalities and also visa exemptions due to diplomatic arrangements.

Some countries will give you a visa on arrival (Indonesia), while others need you to have a visa in your passport before you arrive (Vietnam). The US has an electronic visa that is valid for 2 years. It doesn’t need to be approved before you go but you have to have applied for it online. For India, you need to send your passport with your application via registered post.

 3. Best available rate
The pricing models within the travel industry are based on supply and demand; essentially floating pricing. There are rules around when is the best time to book airfares and hotels.

With airfares, the best pricing available is the Early Birds that come out approximately 18 months before the travel date. The reason for this is that the aircraft inventory (number of seats) is broken up into pricing categories. Once the cheapest seats sell, the next lot of seats are released for sale.

With hotels, there is a law around price parity so that you won’t get a cheaper rate from an Online Travel Agent (OTA) i.e. Expedia, than you will from the hotel’s own website. The exemption to this is Secret Hotels (where the hotel isn’t named) or loyalty programs for both OTA’s and hotel guests wherein the hotel can offer special discounts to members. The key? Sign up for loyalty programs or book Secret Hotels.

 4. TripAdvisor
If you’re wondering about a particular hotel, look it up on TripAdvisor for a ‘warts and all’ view of what you’re booking. The rankings on TripAdvisor are an accurate way to gauge the quality of what you’re booking because of the sheer volume of reviews and user generated images.

5. Build at itinerary
Don’t just print out your e-tickets and hotel reservations; make sure you correlate all of the information into one cohesive document. Make sure you include flight numbers and times (check all the times and dates closely on all international flights as you may cross the International Date Line and a lot of bookings are in 24 hour time), confirm check-in times at your accommodation, as well as booking confirmation numbers, and include the contact details for any tour bookings you have made so that if anything goes wrong, or you need to change anything, you can easily track down the right person.

6. Get an annual travel insurance policy
If you travel a lot, check with your existing insurer (house, car, health) about whether they offer the option of an annual travel insurance policy. This will save you money, time and paperwork.

7. Travelling for a special occasion
If you’re going on your honeymoon, a wedding anniversary trip, or celebrating a significant birthday, make sure you contact the hotel to let them know. Hotel staff love to make a fuss of guests and they will most likely give you an upgrade, throw in a welcome gift or do something special for you in the restaurant.

8. Airline upgrades
Do not be that person yelling at the check-in staff, demanding an upgrade. Your ticket has a code on it and that code will tell the check-in staff whether you’re eligible for an upgrade. Furthermore, upgrades are based on ‘space available’, meaning that if a paying customer has booked that seat, you will not get upgraded, no matter how special you are.

To become eligible for upgrades, join the loyalty program for your airline/s of choice. Customers who have a high status within a frequent flyer program have a higher likelihood of being upgraded.

Heads up: This post is written to help you book travel like a legend but also as an entry to the ProBlogger Virgin Australia competition wherein the winning entrant gets to become a fancy pants blogger and receives a tonne of Velocity Points. Wish me luck!

 

 

Comments
One Response to “Book travel like a boss”
  1. Under 5. Build an itinerary … one of the best tools out there is one I have used now for a number of years. Trip-it pours your confirmation emails and sucks the data out of them to build a complete online itinerary. There is an App for your phone/tablet which syncs AND best, it works offline.
    It allows you to add in manually on the web all the stuff which you may have compiled yourself as Notes such as read-ups and recommendations, planned tours, insurance details, etc … even letting you add photos if you so desire.
    Plus you can print out a summary PDF to give to folks, have a paper version for showing at airline counters if they won’t accept you holding up the phone Itin as proof (they do), and cloud store the same as an emergency copy :: yes you end up with a web-based itinerary minder. This is not an advert. I am just a grateful user and wouldn’t travel without it.

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