Be cautious of onlne travel planners
The advertisements for websites online and on television claim to make trip planning easy and affordable, but they're not necessarily better than working through a travel agent. Russell J. Vara, a Charlotte travel agent at Maestro Travel, offers this opposing view:
By using an online company to plan your trip, you aren't saving as much as you think you are, Russell contends. Online mega sites like Priceline, Orbitz and Expedia have gigantic advertising budgets and they use these budgets to convince the consumer that they're getting a substantially better deal by booking all their arrangements themselves -- but their prices are the same as what any travel agency can get you.
Russell cautions consumers to be leery of the huge percentage discounts offered by online travel sites. The original price is usually an over-inflated rack rate that few consumers actually pay. So, the customer sees that the price is marked down, but it was already marked down from an unrealistic amount in the first place, so the alleged discount isn't as much as it may seem.
"Yes, sometimes you may save some money in dealing with online agencies like Expedia," says Russell. "But you have to be sure you're comparing apples to apples. Online retailers often leave things out like ground transfers that are normally included in vacation packages purchased through a travel agency."