10 Common Mistakes Made When Booking Airline Tickets

Long gone is the era of the all-powerful travel agent, in whom you could trust to get you the best deal on your travel plans and to make sure nothing huge was overlooked. Now we’re almost all booking our own flights, and the manifold options for booking can cause even the most fastidious among us to make a mistake. That’s why the good people at USA Today put together this list of the 10 most common travel booking mistakes.

1. Booking too soon
“For standard vacations and weekend getaways, however, booking way in advance (e.g., three months or more) or before you’ve done your research may not get you the best price… It’s a good rule of thumb to start pricing vacations six to eight weeks before your travel dates to get the best sense of what you should expect to pay for your trip.”

2. Booking too late
“Capacity cuts and belt-tightening across the industry have greatly reduced last-minute pricing inventory (at least for airfares)… Holding out for a lower price may result in the exact opposite—reduced inventory leading to high prices and extremely limited availability.”

3. Not comparison shopping
“This may be the single most important rule when booking travel, and one that will serve you well regardless of what you’re looking to buy: Comparing prices across a variety of providers is the best way to ensure you’re getting a good price for your trip.”

4. Ignoring seasonality
“A destination’s peak travel period will result in the highest demand and prices. If you’re planning to travel during this busy time, book well in advance for the best prices and availability… Conversely, knowing when the off-peak and shoulder seasons occur is just as important, particularly if you’re planning a lot of outdoor activities.”

5. Not reading reviews
“Nowadays reviews are plentiful — you can find hotel reviews on sites such as TripAdvisor, Yahoo, and major OTAs (Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity). Before making a reservation, cross reference hotel ratings from your favorite guidebooks against online user reviews to get a good sense of what a property is really like.”

6. Not reading the fine print
“If something looks too good to be true, it probably is. Break out the magnifying glass and comb over the teeny-tiny text at the bottom of that seemingly great deal. From there, you can determine caveats, regulations, and the actual cost, including taxes, fees, and any ‘hidden’ charges that can drive up the total price.”

7. Not understanding the difference between direct and non-stop flights
“Non-stop flights get you from your departure city to your arrival city seamlessly, with no stops or breaks during service… A direct flight may include a few stops along the way to drop off and pick up passengers… A non-stop flight tends to cost a bit more for the convenience of the faster flight and the possibility of flying a less-than-full plane without the chance to pick up additional paying customers along the way.”

8. Booking a too-tight connection
“Avoid booking connections that are less than an hour, particularly if you know your connecting airport is large and has terminals spread out, or if you’re flying different legs on separate carriers that may not share gate areas and/or terminals.”

9. Not taking fees into account
“The proliferation of fees in recent years has made doing your pre-booking legwork more important than ever. Whether it’s extra charges for checked baggage, overweight baggage, in-flight entertainment, flying with a pet, or even carry-on bags, fees today can greatly inflate the cost of your ticket.”

10. Ignoring follow-up e-mails/alerts after booking
“The days of getting a phone call from your airline to notify you of changes or cancellations are long over; in many cases, email updates are the only form of communication. Ignore them at your peril.”

The 10 most common travel booking mistakes [USA Today]