Online Travel Services

The days of calling up the ticket agent sitting at a desk inside your local airport are all but over. Of course, you can still reach an airline representative when you want to book tickets, but the rise of the internet has all but overtaken that experience. For many customers, whether you travel once a week or once a year, being able to use online travel services is a major benefit when it comes to pricing, flexibility and all the things you’re generally thinking about when booking a flight.

Are online travel services really all they’re cracked up to be though? Keep reading to learn more about booking travel online.

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Online Travel ServicesOnline Travel Pricing

For most people looking to buy an airline ticket, the overall cost of travel is a deciding factor. You might not care too much about a few dollars to save some time, but flight costs can vary by $100’s every time you book, even on relatively short trips.

If you’re going to stay at a hotel and rent a car, you’ll likely be spending even more. While many online travel sites help you book everything you’ll need in one go, figuring out which deals are the best isn’t always so simple.

Here are a few things travel sites offer to help you get the best possible pricing:

  • A la Carte booking. Just looking to get a flight without booking a hotel or car? A la carte booking is the name of the game for most travel sites and also their bread and butter.
  • Package deals. Get your flight, hotel and car rental together at a special price.
  • Side by side comparisons. Almost every travel site will help you check prices through different airlines at once. If paying bottom dollar is your goal – which is a reasonable goal for many flights – sorting by lowest price is often a good starting point for a search. You can always refine your search results from there to avoid unnecessarily long flights, extended layovers or problematic weather zones.
  • Date comparisons. A side by side comparison of different airline costs can help you avoid paying more.
  • Flight perks. Some online travel sites let you compare flight perks like included baggage during your search. Depending on the site you use, you can add this to your search from the beginning or sort by special perks later.
  • Final price. Most travel sites know that customers don’t like picking out a flight to find out they’re going to get hit with hidden fees. For that reason, most travel sites work on a “final price” systems so you’ll see what you’ll pay from the beginning. Just make sure taxes are included in that price. They typically are, but some sites leave that out.

Ease of Use With Online Travel Services

Doing something complicated like booking a multi-leg flight or planning a trip with a dozen family members that involves multiple hotel rooms can get tricky fast. That’s why an online travel site that’s easy to use is so important for the average consumer. Even if you know your travel stuff, why would you want to work with a site that’s clunky, slow and generally laid out in poor fashion?

The good news is that most of the top sites like TripAdvisor, Princeline.com, Expedia, CheapOAir and more all have relatively simple interfaces that were designed to be user-friendly.

Customer Support With Online Travel Services

In many cases, online travel sites make it easy to cancel or rearrange your schedule online within a given time frame. The closer you are to your flight, hotel stay or car rental reservation date, the more likely you are to get hit with a fee. If you must make changes, try to do so early or know that fees similar to airline charges could be incurred.

Customer support is available through almost every online travel site. However, these are big companies who specialize in getting travelers a good deal partly by limiting on-the-phone and in-person interactions. For that reason, your best bet to reach somebody in customer support is to send an e-mail or make a phone call during business hours.

Even better, take your time comparing different travel sites and don’t book until you’ve found the deal that you want. Issues may still pop up, but unlike a traditional travel agent, you likely won’t be able to find a direct line to somebody who will handle them for you. This saves you money in the end, but booking a trip before you’re really ready can create unnecessary headaches.

Using Online Travel Services

There’s no magic bullet that guarantees cheap travel or four-star resort amenities at two-star prices. The offers that travel sites have, both for a la carte flights and vacation packages, will also vary over time. Your best bet as a savvy consumer is to use a few different online travel sites to quickly compare pricing once you have a general idea of what you want your trip to look like.

Yes, comparing two or three travel sites will take more time, but you’ll likely quickly see that one has a deal that’s clearly better for you. For example, you might find that one particular travel site seems to have flights from LAX to JFK about 15% lower no matter what day or time you book. That means that you’ve found the right site for you – at least for this particular trip.

From there, you can refine your trip to get exactly what you’re looking for.

Online travel truly is the present and the future, and for almost all travelers, an excellent deal can be found on any flight or package. Just make sure you take the time to compare travel sites against direct booking, especially when it comes to hotels and car rentals.

A quick phone call or visiting the hotel or car rental agency’s website can help you ensure that you’ve locked in the best rate through an online service.

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