Some zip off on a selfdrive holiday, others opt for a more laid-back luxury tour while others comfortably settle in a wellness spa. The options are unlimited – you can now choose to stay in a villa or walk into a castle to live life king-size, albeit for a limited reign.
And, if you want something off the beaten track, you can go for wildlife trips or better still, plan gastronomic tours! Experiential travel is the flavour of the season, and thanks to various travel portals such as yatra-. com, makemytrip.com, cleartrip-. com, booking your holidays can be done at the click of the mouse.
According to the latest Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) report, online travel industry has grown at a rate of 81% in 2011 from 76% in 2009. But before you book your tickets, make sure you have checked all the facts, looked at the key points and are aware of the final price before you finalise your travel deal.
Do your homework
Today's traveller researches the destination s/he wishes to travel intensely before settling on a deal. You must first plan compare offers and deals. Keep in mind your expectations from the holiday, settle on the best deal available.
When booking flights, the traveller needs to get a total cost with the fees, surcharges and taxes included along with the airfare. You should always check for cash-back deals on online travel portals.
"Ideally, a traveller should check the airfares with all online travel agents such as cleartrip.com, makemytrip.com, yatra-. com etc. Then, the traveller should also check individual airline websites as some airlines have special roundtrip offers to make an informed decision," says Manoj Gursahani, managing director, Vamoose.in, a group buying travel portal.
Since the quality of your stay during the vacation can make or mar the entire travel experience, do a thorough check of the facilities offered at the hotel. "When it comes to accommodation, the traveller should pay attention to details like star facilities of the accommodation, cost inclusions, taxes ," adds Ezeego1.com's Singh.
Cash in on early-bird offers
"You pay 40% lesser on domestic travel if you book your tickets a month in advance. Similarly, you pay at least 25-30 % lower on international air travel. Hence, the key to the best travel deal is to plan early," says Noel Swain, EVP, supplier relations, Cleartrip.
The airfares follow a bucket system. Fewer seats fall in the category of lowest fares. As you approach closer to the travel date, the chances of getting these low cost seats get slimmer. Hence, you can get a ticket from Mumbai to Singapore at Rs. 14,000. The lowcost airlines offer tickets for as low as Rs. 7,500. The same ticket will cost you Rs. 24,000 if you book just 10 days before your travel date.
Scan the bundled offers
"A travel deal should include airfare, accommodation, at least one meal (most often breakfast), basic sightseeing and airport transfers. We have a deal that offers holidays, which are inclusive of air tickets, accommodation, sightseeing as per the itinerary.
The idea is to encourage travellers to buy multiple products from our site. We have seen travellers booking hotel rooms, car transfers , airline tickets etc. We also sell insurance online. By we ensure that the customer avails of best deals on the site.
There is an advantage for a customer as he ends up with a better bargain," says Neelu Singh, COO, Ezeego 1.com. Many portals work in conjunction with a number of partners like airline companies, hotels and banks.
"We offer bundled deals with our partners in terms of softer rates or cash-back offers with a particular airline or a particular credit card company /bank," says Swain. Every travel deal comes with a clause that says "Condtions Apply." It is in your interest to know those conditions so as to avoid last-minute nasty surprises.
Similarly, know the final price of the deal inclusive of taxes. Read through the inclusions and the exclusions of the package. The itinerary may not include some tourist destinations or activities which may be on your preference list.
For instance, if the travel deal to Mauritius does not include snorkelling, sailing or any water sports, you may have to shell out money from your own pocket for those activities. So, it's always advisable to make a list of such expenses to see the total cost for a fair comparison.
Before you finalise the deal
Package inclusions are a very important factor to note. The cost has to justify the inclusions. Next, you should draw your own travel plan without offering a package deal to find out the cost difference between the two options.
"Travellers already buy tickets online and are now comfortable booking their accommodation as well through the online channel. However, there is not too much action in dynamic packaging, which includes air travel, hotel and a car for local travel.
A traveller should cross-check the cost of such dynamically packaged deals vis-a-vis a personalised travel plan," says Gursahani. Also, be flexible with your dates. Portals such as cleartrip.com and yatra.com have a planning tool which shows the cheapest airfares for the entire month.
Use this tool to your advantage and choose the best dates possible. Then, you can book the accommodation as they have flat fares based on the traffic for that season.
Online vs offline agents
Booking online saves you time that you would spend travelling to an offline travel agent and negotiating a good deal. Also, some hotels tap the online channel to sell their last-minute surplus inventory or cancellations. "A prominent hotel in Goa was booked for three days for a wedding ceremony. But the wedding had to be postponed because of some death in the family.
Hence, the hotel advertised a crash deal offer on travel portals to get some business for those three days. Hence, customers can keep scanning the online portals as most airline companies and hotels tap online channels for best offers on account of higher visbility," adds Gursahani.
So, plan and book early. Know where every penny is spent before you take off for your dream holiday.
5 tips to book holiday online