Pros & Cons of Booking Holidays Online

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You've worked hard for months on end without so much as a sick day, and now you've accrued some well-deserved vacation time that you want to use up and use well. What to do?

The Internet is bursting with travel suggestions, travel deals, travel packages and even potential travel companions, but you must watch out for the not-so-visible problems with booking your travel online. It may be more accessible than locating a brick-and-mortar travel agency, but booking your holiday online has its disadvantages, too.

Pro: Convenience

The convenience of booking travel online is probably the number-one reason that Internet travel booking has all but overtaken the business that used to be the domain of brick-and-mortar travel agencies. By simply plugging your departure city and your destination into any search engine, you can return thousands of results to find the lowest airfare, the best hotel deals and the top tourist attractions in your holiday spot. Best of all, booking a holiday online is never unavailable---you can keep on searching to your heart's content at any time of day, any day of the week, and your travel booking can work around your home and work schedules.

Con: Impersonal

You can access the Web and its assorted travel-related offerings from just about anywhere, but fancy websites and skilful photography can cover up some serious travel scams. On some travel sites that specialise in airfare, like Orbitz, Kayak or Expedia, the cursory photos you're shown of your potential accommodations are barely bigger than a thumbnail. Without an opportunity to really get a feel for the travel destination from a representative or even a brochure, you could be signing up for a nightmare trip under the guise of five-star lodgings. Luckily, that's what user reviews are for. Always make sure you read a handful of reviews for any location or accommodation you're seriously considering, as you'll be able to learn from other people's mistakes and avoid throwing your hard-earned money away on a miserable holiday.

Pro: Low Costs

Booking your holiday online lets you get access to the lowest airfares and hotel prices. Some sites, such as Priceline, let you enter your price point as part of your search criteria to make sure you don't go over budget. There are also different times of the day or week when airfares go up or down; certain sites, like Yapta, let you track those patterns, and then alert you when your desired itinerary is reaching its low point. By cutting out the skilful salesman who wants to wring every last cent from you, booking your holiday via the Internet is a great way to save money, giving you more for your pocket when you reach your destination.

Con: Hidden Fees

Travel booking sites are in a sense their own kind of middleman. When you book your holiday through an external site like Orbitz, Expedia or Priceline, you are often expected to adhere to that particular website's cancellation and refund policy instead of, or in addition to, the policy of the airline or hotel where you're making your reservation. In a worst-case scenario, in the event you have to cancel or change your travel dates, you could wind up paying two cancellation fees instead of the one you'd have if you'd booked directly with the hotel or airline. When possible, contact the hotel or airline directly to book your flight or accommodations---find their website or phone number, mention the price you would get by booking with the online travel agency, and see if they will cut you a deal. Remember that it never hurts to ask!