GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. -- With spring break season switching into high gear, Better Business Bureau (BBB) of North Dakota and Minnesota wants to inform students and families about ways to ensure a safe trip and how to avoid spring break travel scams. BBB Spokesperson Dan Hendrickson joined us on KARE News at 4 with some timely tips to keep from being scammed.
1. What should students and parents be thinking about? Hopefully you've done your homework and checked out deals online at secure sites – such as Travelocity or Trivago or Kayak. Or if you're taking care of your own reservations, ensure you transacted directly with the airline and hotel.
2. What should students and parents not be doing? If you haven’t made your reservations, there’s still time. When you go online, don't enter broad search terms such as "best travel deals" or "top travel bargains." These searches might lead you to websites that look good, but are really only designed to rip people off. You will also want to watch out for those deals that look too good to be true. It’s also a good idea to research a travel agency or a travel site – like Kayak or Priceline – at www.bbb.org. Checking out customer reviews is also a good idea.
3. How about tips for travelers using sites like Airbnb or VRBO? There, too, you will want to be sure to research the company on the BBB website and also to read past customer reviews of the property you're considering. What has the track record been? Location and amenities are also very important. Be sure to know what part of town you’ll be staying and what will and will not be available to you. Some people like the security of a standard hotel room, some are more adventurous.
4. What other things can people to do to protect themselves? Paying with a credit card is always a good idea. That way you’ll have dispute rights if things should go awry. Travel insurance is also something people should at least look into – in case if illness or emergency. Finally, if you’re using a third-party travel site, print out copies of your reservations and have them with you. It’s always nice to be able to refer to a hard copy.
5. How about for the last-minute types? Are there things they can do to ensure a safe trip? Absolutely. First, share a copy of your itinerary with a family member or friend. Include the contact information of someone joining you on your trip. Second, take a map. People rely heavily on smartphones and GPS and it’s better to be prepared for anything in case of technical difficulties or if you’re going through an area with poor cell reception. Third, pack a winter survival kit if you’ll be driving through snowy conditions or mountainous regions. Finally, avoid traveling alone. Use the buddy system and stick with your friends. Use hotel safes to store extra cash and keep any valuables under lock and key.