Don’t get burned by spring break travel deals

VICTORIA, Texas–With spring break just around the corner, people are finalizing their vacation plans. Whether you’re planning a relaxing week on the beach or hitting ski slopes, Better Business Bureau serving Central, Coastal, Southwest Texas, and the Permian Basin advises you do your research before booking your next vacation.

If you are looking for an alternative to staying in a hotel, renting someone’s home, condo or apartment may be appealing. Vacation rental websites make it easy to connect directly with property owners who advertise their rentals online. However, BBB warns consumers to watch out for fake rental listings that aren’t actually available or don’t exist at all.

Last year, BBB received nearly 1,200 complaints against vacation rentals nationwide. According to data reported to BBB Scam Tracker, Texans reported losing $28,800 last year to rental, travel and vacation-related scams. Scammers contacted victims by phone or through online classifieds, and most victims used a wire transfer service or credit card to make a payment.

BBB offers the following tips to ensure you’re planning your vacation with a trustworthy business:

Research last-minute travel deals. Bargains on airfare or a hotel may be tempting, but be cautious when booking on an unknown travel website or through an online advertisement. Common travel-related complaints to BBB reported trouble with reservations, online advertisements and incorrect charges. Before booking any reservation, make sure to read the company’s cancelation and refund policy. Consider travel insurance. Travel insurance is designed to cover such things as trip cancelations or medical emergencies. The U.S. Travel Insurance Association maintains a list of licensed travel insurance companies. Certain travel companies have different policies and levels of coverage based on whether you purchase the car rental, flight or hotel. Ask questions, and always read the fine print to see what’s covered. Pay with a credit card. Paying with a credit card–rather than by cash or check–gives you additional protection if something were to go wrong with the travel reservation. Verify reservations. Whether you’re staying in a hotel, rental or at a resort, call to confirm all arrangements. Don’t only rely on a receipt or confirmation email. Get all details of your vacation in writing, including contact information, travel itineraries and booking confirmations. Ask about mandatory “resort fees.” Hotels often come with resort fees, usually for services like Internet, fitness facilities and access to the pool. But the extra fees can add to the per night cost of your stay, and are mandatory, regardless of whether or not you use the services. Before you book a hotel reservation online, call the hotel and ask if a resort fee is included in the total cost. Be alert for travel scams. Unsolicited mail, email and websites offering deeply discounted travel packages could leave you out of a vacation and money if you’re not careful. Watch out for scams saying that you have “won a trip.” If you’ve really won a free vacation, a legitimate business won’t ask you to pay any upfront or processing fees.

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