If you have not been there, you've at least heard about it! You can picture a young couple sleeping at the lobby of a hotel, cold, hungry and trying to keep their baby safe. They are counting the 14 hours they still have left before their flight takes off, while angry people are trying to call a non-existent travel agency or discount travel club where they booked their very needed vacation. It sounded great! A very cheap travel certificate for 7 nights and an extra free night at the hotel of their dreams. Scary thought to find out that after they packed their suitcases and took a flight to their destination, the hotel did not exist, the extra night was never something the hotel agreed upon, the “all-inclusive” was just a sales line, and so on.
Are Discount Travel Clubs a scam? Is there a way to prevent falling for this type of deals? Or a way to find out which deals are genuine? While there is not a perfect formula to reveal all the hundreds of fake discount travel companies out there, there are ways to help you recognize them.
What to look for when you are introduced to a Discount Travel Club
There are a few things you can consider while booking a trip, buying a travel certificate or joining a travel membership club.
1. Research about the company offering the deals. If the company already has thousands of members, read reviews and testimonials. Focus on the percentage of complaints to see how many people post a positive testimonial vs how many people post a bad one. Read about what both comments talk about the most. For example, a bad testimonial can be talking about a non-existential deal, or about being abandoned in the middle of nowhere while they were traveling. If the negative comments are repetitive, take this as a warning sign. On the other hand, read the positive comments, and what they have in common. Sometimes even bad comments are due to personal mistakes, rather than those of a company, and positive ones are due to experienced travelers knowing how and where to book as well. Learn from these reviews and about what people are doing to make the best of a particular experience.
2. Read about how long a Discount Travel Club has been in business. Companies that have been in the market for a long time, or at least 5 years have more chances of being reliable because they already have enough members, know the industry, have a better discount database.
3. How many members does the Club have? The more, the better. A Company with many members will do everything it can to keep them loyal and happy. There are plenty of Clubs that offer great discounts and have over a million members. This is always a good sign if accompanied by a high percentage of positive testimonials.
4. What companies are they offering discounts from? If you see that the Club offers discounts from recognized brands (hotels, car rentals, cruises, and so on) you can be more relaxed about joining this particular travel club. A genuine travel club will always be open about their discounts, the brands and even locations available.
5. They offer you a way to join without asking for your credit card number. If a company offers you a great deal (certificate, free trip, membership and so on) and wants to take your credit card number over the phone, better to pass on the deal. Most likely it will not be a deal at all. A genuine company may offer you a payment service over the phone, but they will always give you an alternative method that is safe, and most likely done online.
6. Before you buy, or join a club, ask if it is time share. There's nothing more disappointing about a travel experience than getting stuck for hours listening to an amazing sales person talk wonders about their plan. Unless you are willing to spend a morning there and have agreed to do so in advanced, ask before you book. It really is up to a person to join or not to join a time share club, but it is never nice to get hooked on a deal without being disclosed we were going to have to attend a meeting in order to receive what we were promised.
7. Does the company offer you an address and contact information? Companies that deal with enough members and have a reputation to maintain will always give you a phone number, a contact form, email, and / or address. If you have any problem, you will always have a way to contact them to address the issue. A good company will always try to do its best to offer you a great service.
Too Good to be True?
Most likely that it is, but not always the case. Although there are a few companies offering a genuine “too good to be true” deal, if the company does not have the features mentioned above, better to do a defect search, or avoid the company completely.
Some “too good to be true” deals might offer you:
1. A free extra night: where it might be true that they are offering you a free extra night, it would be best to confirm with the company / club / agency the dates that are included in your reservation. If the Company is genuine (according to the features above), you still need to review check out times and book your flights accordingly.
2. A free extra day: Very similar to the free extra night. If the company is genuine, you still want to make sure what the hotel's check out times are. An extra day usually means the time between check in the day before, and check out the morning of departure. Usually, check in is at 4pm or so, and check out at 11am or so. So consider these times before thinking that you will be allowed to stay in your room the whole day.
3. A free trip: Although we can not say that nothing is completely for free, because there are some exceptions, most likely that a free trip will still cost you something. Make sure you have all the numbers straight. A genuine company will give you the exact fees that you will have to pay (other than personal expenses of course). For example, they might tell you will only have to pay taxes, or a redemption fee, or a price for an additional person, or the meals, and so on. Some certificates may be used as a company promotion, and could be given away for free, but you may still need to pay redemption fees and taxes for example. It will all depend on the type of company that you are researching. It if looks safe, has been in the industry for many years, has many members, and so on, a free trip might be something worth looking at. But ALWAYS make sure you have all the facts before you book or join.
4. Travel Certificates: Very common to be used as scams and have cost thousands of people headaches, money loss and disappointment. So again, research about the company that is promoting them to make sure you are dealing with a real company. Certificates can be a wonderful way to spend a fantastic vacation at a much lower price. Some companies can save you up to 70 or 80% in a single trip. Some Hotels, Cruise ship companies, restaurants and so on, prefer to sell at a lower price than to have an empty room, so these deals are worth looking into. Your research here has to be even more meticulous and it might be best not to buy a travel Certificate from a company you do not know or that only offers certificates as a business. If you join a reliable club that offers them as a service or as an additional product you might be better off buying from your own club than from an agency you do not know about.
I hope you have found this article useful. Avoid all companies that have questionable websites, and do not give your credit card over the phone!
You can start researching at http://www.discountclubofcanada.com or http://www.hotelsetc.com Once you have found the Travel club of your preference make sure you follow the correct instructions to redeem your discounts. Read well, and follow every step so make the most of your discount travel club.
All the best to you and your family!