Marjorie Stephens | Guest columnist
Getting ready to travel for the holidays? Traveling may be different than in past years due to COVID-19 precautions and restrictions. It’s wise to plan ahead and think about what is and isn’t needed when it comes to masks and vaccinations, as restrictions change from one state to another.
With so many things to consider when traveling, such as rental cars, hotels, travel agents and more, things can get confusing, and it can be easy to ignore certain details to rush through the process. With these new protocols and restrictions, it’s easy for scammers to cause chaos in the confusion. Scammers will often target people looking for great deals online by offering tempting vacation packages at unrealistically low prices.
Use BBB’s tips to travel safely this holiday season:
• Make certain everyone who is travelling has the proper ID. The new deadline for REAL ID enforcement is May 3, 2023; however, make sure parties traveling together have a current compliant ID as required by each state.
• Read all cancellation policies carefully. Not all situations, including a pandemic, require a full refund of the ticket value and fees. Each online travel agency, airline and broker is different. Situations can arise, especially during the holidays that might require a change of plans, so it’s important to understand the policies of the hotel stay, flight and other services.
• Book tickets only after reviewing travel restrictions. Save time and stress by reading the updated status of restrictions on the Centers for Disease Control website. Protocols and restrictions continue to change so it’s always best to double-check up to the day before your trip.
• Consider trip insurance. Have a complete understanding of what the policy does and does not cover. Trip insurance can serve as a backup plan if things go wrong. The extra cost is worth the money IF you understand the guidelines before buying.
• Be an informed traveler. Refer to the Department of Transportation website for details on consumer issues, filing complaints and other aviation information. The more information you can get before travelling, the better.
• Check BBB.org. Use BBB.org to find reliable hotels, travel services and rental car services to make the most out of your holiday trip. It’s critical for travelers to use trustworthy businesses when planning a big trip.
• Be alert for travel scams. Be on the lookout for phone calls or letters claiming a ‘free trip’ or websites offering prices that appear too good to be true. It’s easy to extend questionable offers like these, but most of them leave hopeful travelers in limbo – and out of money.
For more tips from BBB, visit BBB.org. And if you spot a scam, whether you’ve lost money or not, report it to BBB’s Scam Tracker at BBB.org/ScamTracker and the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Your story can help other consumers avoid similar scams.
Marjorie Stephens is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Northern Indiana. Contact the BBB at 800-552-4631 or visit www.bbb.org.