Holiday like a pro: what you need to know before booking that getaway  

Posted on 21 November 2023

The holiday season in South Africa is nearly in full swing, and so many of us can’t wait for those cherished days off over the summer. But how do you ensure that everything on your holiday will go according to plan? While you can never fully prepare for every event, you can take into consideration expert tips on how to start your planning process, how to spot fake accommodation listings and when you should consider travel insurance.

Diligent booking

When you’re in a reverie about what foods you’ll relish on holiday, what rare animals you might see on safari or the bliss of a rejuvenating spa experience, the last thing you’re thinking about is something going wrong on your holiday – but it’s imperative that you stay mindful of common scams targeting holidaymakers.

Scammers frequently create fake accommodation listings with enticingly low prices on booking websites. Once the deposit or full payment is made, victims discover that the accommodation they booked does not exist at the listed address, or that the scammers impersonate a business that has no record of the payment or booking.

According to Help Net Security 56% of travellers seek out online deals, 45% will book a deal quickly so that they don’t miss out, and 35% are even willing to try a new booking website in order to get a bargain. However, these behaviours put people at increased risk of being scammed.

The best rule of thumb is that if the accommodation deal looks too good to be true, then it probably is, says Anton Gillis, CEO of Kruger Gate Hotel. When booking holiday accommodation, it’s a good idea to compare hotel listings of similar properties in that area to get an estimate of general pricing. Scammers also often use images from multiple properties in one listing, so scroll through each photo to see if the listing imagery looks cohesive. Also be aware of listings that require payments outside of the booking platform, properties that only communicate on Whatsapp, and listings with multiple spelling mistakes.

‘Another useful tip is to check whether your hotel or bed and breakfast has excellent reviews across different platforms,’ advises Gillis.

‘For example, should someone search for Kruger Gate Hotel they will find that we have a rating of 4.5 on Google reviews which detail our guests’ wonderful experiences on our guided safaris, delicious buffets, the viewing deck overlooking the untouched landscape of the Kruger National Park and friendly staff. They will also see that we’ve just been shortlisted at the GuestRevu GREAT Awards in the 100+ room hotel category for hotels from 37 countries,’ adds Gillis.

Fake websites

Scammers are becoming more adept at creating official-looking websites that mimic originals that you are familiar with. Signs that a website could be fake include low resolution logos, spelling mistakes in the domain name or email address and no padlock icon next to the site name.

Make sure that you don’t inadvertently land on a fake website by clicking on random email links or website pop-ups. For example, if you receive an email from a company you’ve never heard about offering you a fantastic travel deal, clicking on their link may take you to a fake website designed to impersonate a brand you’re familiar with. Once there, you could be sold non-existent flights and accommodation. If you’re still keen to see what the deal is all about, avoid clicking on the link in the email sent to you – rather go to the trusted brand’s website by typing their name into your search engine.

‘Whether you’re booking a stay or a flight, it’s good advice to do so via a reputable brand’s website. If you’re still unsure, call the hotel, property owner or agent directly,’ says Gillis. Another tip to verify a property’s legitimacy is ask for the full address, and search for it on Google Maps. And, if you are searching for accommodation via a booking platform, stay with trusted names as they will have vetting processes in place to ensure that all listings are verified and authenticated. Finally, when paying, make sure you’re using a secure payment system.

Travel Insurance

For many who have saved up for their big holidays, particularly international ones, they might be hesitant to add an additional expense to their travel budget. After covering the costs of airfare, accommodation, and budgeting for meals and activities it can seem daunting to allocate more money for travel insurance, but it can be a particularly smart investment to safeguard the non-refundable money you’ve spent for your holiday.

Travel insurance is not typically recommended for short local holidays, like a few days in a bush lodge, but if you’re travelling abroad your trip would inevitably require a larger budget. “Many travellers might skip out on travel insurance thinking they won’t need it, but trip cancellations, lost luggage in between flights and emergency medical expenses happen when you least expect it and can be costly quickly if you’re not prepared. Having a travel insurance plan will be worthwhile if your non-refundable holiday expenses exceed more than you can afford to lose, you are holidaying in a remote destination with limited health care resources, you will be travelling through connecting flights to various locations or if you would like to be partially reimbursed should you need to cancel the holiday or depart early because of unforeseen circumstances, “ explains Gillis.

Stay secure online

Once you’re on holiday, stay safe when connecting to public WiFi, especially when you’re in an airport or a hotel. Always check the security of your connection and take heed of pop-up warnings that you may be connecting to an unsecured network. Look out for network security features such as being asked to register an account or type in a password before connecting. If you have to use an unsecured network, avoid sharing any sensitive data or bank details that scammers could steal.

Pictures: Supplied

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