Nine travel scams to avoid

Read the fine print and lay off the margaritas before you buy a timeshare. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/Sheila Winstone/Geograph)

Cold weather and the holidays have many people eager to travel. Finding attractive travel deals is great, but some deals, while perfectly legal, simply smell fishy. Here are nine common travel scams to avoid.

1. Strong-arm timeshare sales

Let’s say you’re soaking in the rays and drinking margaritas at your travel destination of choice. Out of nowhere, someone approaches your beach chair with what they describe as an amazing timeshare offer. While it would be easy to simply sign on the dotted line and keep your buzz going, such timeshares are typically all but unusable because of restrictions. Do your research before signing anything.

2. Undercooked travel agency credentials

If you’re going to put your vacation plans in the hands of a travel agent, interview the agent first to get a feeling for experience and skill. Simply having travel agency credentials means next to nothing. Such credentials can legally be purchased online for a small fee.

3. Shady travel clubs

Clubs that require you to pay several thousand dollars to join so you can get travel discounts are typically nonsense. You might get a free gift card when you sign up, but the contract you sign typically does not guarantee you’ll find any of the promised travel bargains.

4. Bait and switch prices

Airlines can legally quote a ticket price minus taxes, fees and extras. Don’t fall for it; do your research. A good travel agent – one who has done more than buy credentials – will give you the “all in” price.

5. Rental car damage claims

When you rent a car, check out the condition carefully, noting any preexisting damage. Some rental companies have no scruples and may attempt to saddle you – and the next person – with repair fees for damage you didn’t do. The fee may be just low enough not to meet your insurance deductible, which means you’d have to pay, and the insurer won’t be alerted.

6. Resort fees

On top of your room rate, some places assess a “resort fee.” This doesn’t appear in the quoted price because hotels want rooms to list cheaper than they are. Ask about resort fees before you book.

7. Travel insurance

In many cases, using a credit card when you travel grants you a certain amount of travel insurance. Additional travel insurance, in most cases, is unnecessary.

8. Foreign exchange fees

A downside to using a credit card abroad is that foreign transaction fees can stack up. This is true even if you purchase online in your country in your native currency. If you see such a fee on your statement, challenge it. Many banks will remove the charge in order to retain your business. Better yet, bank with a credit union and avoid the hassle.

9. Roaming fees

Roaming may cost you oodles of cash per megabyte, but the actual cost to providers is pennies per, says the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Don’t set your phone to roam unless you have a plan that covers foreign travel.

Talking Travel with Rick Steeves


The Daily Beast

Travel and Leisure

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