Avoid Four Common Travel Scams

From resort fees to timeshares, the travel industry is rife with aggravating money ploys, so it's important to be aware of common travel scams when on vacation

Credit: Flickr / garryknight

Keep an eye out for scams in addition to sights while you’re on vacation

Be alert to these travel scams while you’re relaxing on your holiday, or they could ruin your whole vacation

Your holidays are meant to be a time to sit back and relax. But, in fact, it’s a time when you actually need to be more on the ball than usual – to keep yourself from falling into the traps of tricky con artists.

Some common street scams are well known: that “gold” ring that’s a few karats short of the real thing, or a cab driver claiming his meter is broken and charging a few more dollars than he should.

But it’s the legal scams you should be really worried about; those perpetrated by “real” businesses. And they’re worth paying some attention to.

Timeshare Scams

So many tourists still fall for this scam and getting a refund once you’ve paid is all but impossible since the condos people are buying into are technically legal. The solution? Just say no!

If you’re in the market for a timeshare – do your research first, and definitely don’t buy under the influence of a high-pressure salesperson.

Travel Clubs

The same rules go for travel clubs. They often prey on older or retired people with a line similar to the timeshare pitch. They offer ‘free’ gift certificates to a favourite restaurant and then corral you into high-pressure sales presentations where you’re convinced that a membership fee of several thousand dollars is a good idea. Their well-written contracts ensure you lose your money whether or not you find the promised bargains. Don’t fall for it. The truth is, these clubs are selling nothing.

Like travel clubs – “card mills,” as they’re called, are basically useless too.  These companies sell you travel-agency credentials for a small fee online. They’re completely legal. But common sense tells you they’re a scam. These card schemes let you accumulate credits for helping your friends book trips through a special website. It’s little more than a pyramid scheme and the only winners are the card mills offering questionable travel products.

Resort Fees

Have you ever noticed something called “resort fee” on your hotel bill?  These are one of the most aggravating travel industry ploys.

You’re quoted a low rate for a resort hotel – say, $90 a night. But when you arrive, you’re told there’s a mandatory $20 “resort fee” that includes items such as the beach towel, TV, and use of the exercise equipment. When you try to wiggle out of one by claiming you won’t be using the gym or visiting the pool, you’ll be told the fee applies to everyone.

Resort fees are most common in places like Las Vegas and Hawaii. Always ask about the resort fee before you book, and if there is one, try another place.

Travel Insurance

Anyone who’s booked a flight or hotel room online has likely seen an option to add travel insurance. Travel insurance can absolutely save your trip in some instances. But as an afterthought to your travel purchase, it might – or might not – help.

Be wary of online agencies that automatically pre-check the travel insurance option when you buy a package. Your best bet for travel insurance is to shop around and be sure to read the actual policy. Otherwise, your insurance could be useless and you could get turned down for any technicality if you end up having to file a claim.

Founder and president of Travel Best Bets, Claire Newell has appeared on The Today Show, Fox & Friends, Good Day New York, ABC Morning News – Chicago, Martha Stewart Living Radio, and CNN Radio, and is the official travel consultant for Global TV. She has been a spokesperson for Disney’s www.family.com, and featured in promotions for the Vancouver International Airport and the Canadian Tourism Commission. Newell has authored or been featured in articles for Success, Professional Woman, Today’s Parent, Readers Digest and for various newspapers. She is the best selling author of Travel Best Bests – An Insider’s Guide to Taking Your Best Trips, Ever and has just finished her second book.
This wife and mother of two has also launched two lines of luggage & travel accessories. Visit www.clairenewell.com for more information.