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Don’t let a scammer rain on your spring break

Courtesy of MetroCreative

Sure, this winter has not been very severe in the Kansas area.

Still, many feel the need to get away for a bit of spring break fun. For those currently planning their getaway, the Better Business Bureau has advice for keeping unwanted surprises at bay and making your trip go smoothly.

Travel agencies

There is much to be said for using a reputable travel agency while planning your spring break trip. They know the ropes and can help you work out the arrangements for your spring break travel.

But watch out: Using a bad company can ruin your good time. Last year the BBB received more than 8,600 complaints nationwide against travel agencies and bureaus. That number was up from just less than 8,000 in the previous year.

The majority of complaints were from consumers who felt they had been misled by travel offers that did not live up to expectations. Some paid money for travel arrangements that were never even made.

First and foremost, check with your BBB to see whether the travel agency you are considering has a good track record by visiting bbb.org. There you can see whether the agency is accredited, and you can look over the agency’s complaint history and read reviews.

Remember that it can be helpful to get recommendations from friends and family as well. There is nothing like hearing the experiences of trusted individuals when you are deciding on the right agency for your trip.

Incredible offers

Does that offer sound too wonderful to be true? News flash: It probably is.

Are you required to purchase immediately to lock in that incredible price? Beware. Extra hidden fees may be involved.

Stories of consumers who arrive at the destination of their dreams and find they have no real reservation are not uncommon.

Be especially wary of any unsolicited e-mail or phone message informing you that you have “won a trip.” There is a big red flag that comes with such offers. It is almost certainly a scam of some sort.

Hidden costs crop up, unexpected fees and expenses are almost guaranteed to blindside you.

“Winning” something should not come with any expenses. Don’t pay anything, and by all means, don’t give out any credit card information. Delete the message or hang up the phone.

Steps to take

▪ Get everything in writing. Travel itineraries, booking confirmations, restrictions, and cancellation or refund policies all should be verified in writing. Settle for no one’s verbal assurance, no matter how truthful and honest they sound.

▪ Make the call yourself to confirm all the details of your travel arrangements. This should include airline reservations, hotel and car rental reservations. Don’t rely on anyone else’s word that they have already confirmed.

▪ Pay with a credit card. If something goes wrong, this gives you extra protections. Do not ever wire money to pay for travel expenses. Wired funds cannot be tracked or refunded.

▪ Consider travel insurance. First check with your homeowners and medical insurance to see what is and is not covered when you travel. Extra travel insurance can cover trip cancellations and medical emergencies.

▪ Be sure that someone in your family, or a trusted friend, knows all of the specific details of your trip.

Going into your spring break trip with peace of mind can set you up for the real relaxation and rejuvenation we all need this time of year.

Denise Groene is the state director of the Better Business Bureau of Kansas.

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