CHICAGO — As freezing temperatures continue, many people are looking for relief by planning vacations. The Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and northern Illinois (BBB) advises consumers to use care when making plans through travel agencies, as you should whenever pre-paying any business for a service or product.
Written complaints about travel agencies remain steady. However, the BBB reports consumer inquiries about travel agencies were significantly higher in 2013 than they were in 2012. Inquiries for 2013 totaled to 3,685 compared to 2,324 from 2012, or an increase of 59 percent.
The Better Business Bureau offers these tips when booking with a travel agency:
• Compare services and do not feel pressured. Be wary if you feel pressured to make an immediate decision or if there is a statement that an offer is good “only if you act now.” Compare the services, fees and travel costs from a number of travel agencies before selecting the most attractive package.
• Be cautious about telephone, letter or postcard solicitations. Be careful of travel solicitations claiming you’ve won a “free” trip, or can get “special discounts” on hotels and airfares. Pay with a credit card. You can get some protection when using a credit card to purchase travel services. If you don’t get what you paid for, contact the credit card company and attempt to get the charges cancelled.
• Consider investing in travel insurance. Travel insurance can provide protection in the event of an accident, an illness, lost luggage or a cancelled or interrupted trip.
Read the insurance contract to understand coverage and exclusions. Investigate trip cancellation policies and determine what they cover to see if they would be worthwhile to purchase the insurance. Always check the business first. Check out the reputation of the travel agency before doing business with them. Check out free BBB Business Reviews for valuable information.
• Get it in writing. Don’t rely on verbal promises from a travel service. Request copies of any brochures and contracts before purchasing your trip package, or making any reservations.
For more information on consumer and travel tips, visit www.bbb.org.