When you go shopping at the mall, you don’t get your credit card out for the first pair of shoes or TV you see in store. You weigh up your options and ask yourself (and sometimes staff members) what makes it a good purchase and whether it will suit your needs. Booking your holiday is similarly not as cut and dry as this. Picking out flights and accommodation may be something you’ve done many times before, but it doesn’t mean you should go ahead and hand your money over without thinking it over.
If you’ve spent the last few months in wanderlust mode and feel ready to get your vacay booked and done with, you might want to hold off before buying the first options that show up. If you’re in need of a well-earned break, you won’t do yourself any favors by accepting everything at face value and neglecting to do a little research before traveling. Asking around for the best deals and how to avoid certain pitfalls can help you save a bundle in the long term and get you the relaxing holiday you deserve.
In lots of ways, travel should be about throwing caution to the wind and living it up, but it doesn’t make you a party pooper to do your research before hopping on a plane. Spontaneity can be a great thing on holiday, but doing little to no research about your accommodation or flights can be plain dumb. Don’t plan another holiday without asking these 20 questions (you’re welcome!).
20 Hotel - What’s The Hotel’s Cancellation Policy?
While some hotels try to be upfront about their cancellation policy when you book with them, others can sneakily leave it in the fine print, leaving you to pay an unexpectedly steep cancellation fee when things don’t go to plan. To ensure you’re prepared for any eventuality, make sure you check out their policy on refunds and cancellation deadlines ahead of time.
Every hotel can differ, but most places will offer guests a full refund if they’re notified of a cancellation between 24 and 72 hours before the first billable night’s stay.
If the policy isn't advertised, be sure to ask and avoid losing out.
19 Airline - When Is The Best Time To Book My Flights?
Remember the number 52. This is the magic number when it comes to scoring the cheapest flights possible for your trip and refers to the number of days in advance you should plan to buy them. On average, customers who wait a week or less until before their travel date to buy their airfare can end up paying up to $200 more than the advance price!
Booking your airfare between at least 3 weeks and 3 months ahead is not only the best booking window for cheap flights, it can also increase your chance of being able to select the seats you want if you’re traveling as a couple or a group and avoid ridiculous seat reservation charges.
18 Airline - Is The Flight Refundable?
Despite our best intentions, life gets in the way sometimes and whether it’s down to reasons of ill health or a family emergency, we may find we need to cancel our flight. Which poses another dilemma – will we be able to get a refund, or will canceling mean letting hundreds of dollars go down the drain?
Depending on certain airline policies, extenuating circumstances may be factored into a last-minute cancellation, otherwise, good timing can be on your side in the hopes of getting a sizeable refund. The majority of airlines will normally charge a $100-$200 fee for canceling a flight so you may receive $600-$700 back from an $800 ticket. It's worth researching your airline’s specific refund policy just in case.
17 Hotel - Does My Stay Include Free Breakfast?
Knowing that breakfast is included in a hotel stay is always good to know, but when you’re traveling to a foreign country, a complimentary breakfast can go a long way towards putting your mind at ease and leaves out one less thing to worry about budgeting for on your travels.
Thankfully, it’s pretty rare nowadays for a hotel not to include breakfast within the price of your stay – even some hostels and Airbnb accommodations are making it a priority for guests. Be sure to do your research into what a typical breakfast is like at your chosen hotel on TripAdvisor and similar sites, since the complimentary breakfast could mean the difference between a hearty buffet or a few rounds of toast!
16 Airline - Is The Price Of Baggage Included?
Always be sure to check your airline’s allowance when it comes to baggage. The majority of airlines permit passengers to bring on one piece of checked hold luggage (to be stored in the plane) and one personal carry-on item to be taken with you on the flight. Any extra baggage after this will carry a fee, but this isn't always the case.
On some budget airlines, passengers may need to pay a steep fee to bring any amount of baggage with them (no matter what the size is, or what the weight dimensions are), as this is how they’re able to sell airfares at such a low price. Ensure that you research your airline’s specific fees beforehand or add on the price of your luggage online so there are no nasty surprises on the day.
15 Airline - What’s The Legroom Situation?
Most flyers have come to expect that the legroom you get on a typical flight is not the best, and depending on who you’re flying with, the legroom quality can range from meager to full on crammed and close to bear-hugging the passenger in front!
Like the in-flight meal, the legroom in your seat may not be what you had in mind, but if it’s crucial for you due to health reasons or because you’re flying long-haul, this is definitely something to find out about beforehand. Google Chrome users can find out the legroom on a specific flight in real time using the Legroom for Google Flights extension. This allows you to see in inches the approximate amount of space you’ll have on the flight.
14 Hotel - Does The Hotel Offer Free Parking?
You’ve been driving for hours only to finally make it to your accommodation and find that the parking fee is around $30 a night. This can be one of the most frustrating hidden charges of staying in a hotel and not something you want to leave up to assumption when there's nowhere to park for miles around. The majority of hotel chains and B&B’s will normally state on their website whether or not free parking is available on their premises and if it’s not,
you should feel free to ask the hotel staff about any vouchers or discounts on parking.
Some places will advertise this as a first-time customer deal, so it’s always worth asking and doing your research.
13 Airline - What Happens If The Flight’s Delayed?
Dealing with a delayed flight can be one of the most frustrating parts of air travel. Fortunately, there is help on hand if and when this happens. Flights can get delayed for reasons that are out of the airline’s control such as poor weather conditions, but whatever the reason for a delay, most airline companies have a similar reimbursement policy for delayed or stranded passengers.
While policies can differ from one airline to the next, the least you are entitled to is an automatic booking on the next available flight or at the very least, transferred on to a different carrier headed to your destination. In other cases, a refund, meal vouchers, and hotel stays may also be provided for you.
12 Hotel - Are Restaurants/Shops Within Walking Distance from The Hotel?
Unless you’re looking for a completely secluded getaway, hotels know that most guests will be on the lookout for places that are near to amenities like shops and bars and will normally advertise these as being “within walking distance” of the hotel itself. But
before booking, always make sure that the “walk” is itself convenient and safe.
Doing a Google Maps check is a good way of finding out for yourself whether the walk to nearby stores and restaurants is on a legit footpath or instead on a rugged stretch of highway or through half a mile of construction site work. If not, relying on taxis every day will add up pretty fast.
11 Airline - Do I Need To Print My Boarding Pass?
Passengers are normally given their boarding pass by airport staff at the check-in desk. When you fly with certain budget carriers, however, you may be required to print out your own boarding pass either at home or at the airport and if you do the latter, it’s not unheard of for budget airlines to charge you between $10-20 to print out your own pass.
In the same way that budget airlines charge you for luggage to keep their airfares low, they’ll find a way to slap you with a fee for printing out your own travel documents too. Luckily the rise of e-tickets and mobile passes means you may be able to swerve the printing costs and save your boarding pass in a flight app instead.
10 Hotel - Does The Room Have Free Wi-Fi?
When booking a hotel stay, many travelers can get tripped up by the phrase “Room includes Wi-Fi”. If internet access is advertised as being “included” in the room, it may not necessarily mean that Wi-Fi is constantly available in the room and
included often means that guests are granted a free 30 minutes to 1 hour of complimentary Wi-Fi before the hotel starts charging a pretty steep amount.
Be sure to ask hotel staff whether or not complimentary Wi-Fi is included as 30 mins should be an adequate window for quick browsing. If you’re traveling on business and plan to work in your room, be sure to inform the hotel beforehand and see if you may be able to wrangle a longer complimentary Wi-Fi window.
9 Hotel - Are The Rooms Adjacent To Each Other?
Adjacent or joining rooms can be a godsend for families staying in a hotel together, especially when you’re traveling with small children. Rather than waking up your neighbors by fumbling about in the corridor trying to round up your toddlers for breakfast or an early morning swim, staying in two connecting rooms allows you to (almost) be together in one place.
Connecting rooms also allow parents to have a bit of me time while knowing they can check on the kids next door, making them as safe as they are convenient while on holiday. If you prefer adjacent rooms for whatever reason, just make sure the hotel or resort knows about it in advance.
8 Airline - Does The Flight Fly To A Secondary Airport?
You might be familiar with the 2017 story of a teen backpacker who ended up in Sydney, Nova Scotia when he thought he had booked a trip to the Australian capital... Unfortunately, this can happen more often than you might think when it comes to booking flights, so it’s crucial to double and triple-check your flight details before booking!
Even if you land in the right country, like the unfortunate teen backpacker, it may not always be clear whether your flight is headed to the right city. For example, certain budget airlines may advertise the destination as Paris or London when the flight may actually wind up 30-40 miles outside the capital at a secondary airport. If certain flights seem way cheaper than the rest, there’s probably a good reason for it!
7 Hotel - Can You Offer Me A Better Room Rate?
A lot of us can be uncomfortable with the idea of haggling for a better deal while on holiday, but as long as it’s done in a friendly and confident manner,
hustling for a cheaper rate is always worth asking for (and let’s be real – you probably won’t be the first guest to ask for deals and discounts that day).
While it can be worthwhile to ask about discounted room rates any time of day, your best chance of scoring a great last-minute deal can be to arrive later rather than bang on the check-in time since there may be more vacant rooms needing to be filled. Mentioning that you’re celebrating a special occasion can also help your chances (so long as it’s the truth!).
6 Airline - Does The Flight Include A Free Meal?
Some less than seasoned flyers might assume that a complimentary in-flight meal is waiting for them once they board the plane, but this is an assumption that could cost you big bucks in the air.
Once upon a time, most airlines served complimentary meals to passengers flying over a long haul period, but today, you need to either pre-order your in-flight meal with your flight booking or pay a small fortune once you’re on board.
Airline food may not be the most amazing taste experience, but it costs a fair amount to prepare meals for air travel and unless stated in the price of your cabin ticket, in-flight grub isn't normally free. Bring plenty of snacks on board (or your credit card).
5 Hotel - Does The Room Have A Bathtub Or Just A Shower Stall?
Because people tend to prefer a quick shower over a bath, hotels are more likely to include a shower and bath combo or else just a shower cubicle on its own. For most travelers, this isn’t such a concern as long as they have some way to freshen up during their stay, but for families traveling with young kids, a shower-only bathroom could be an issue.
Before children are old enough to safely stand in a shower, bath times are all they know, so swapping this gentle way of bathing for a high-pressure power shower could be uncomfortable (and even a little frightening for them). So if you’re traveling with very young kids, you might want to ask about the bathroom facilities first.
4 Hotel - Is The Hotel Family Friendly?
Unless you plan to stay at a Disneyland hotel suite, certain hotels may not always make it obvious that they are family-friendly and therefore “child-friendly” places. Despite appearances, some hotels may not have the kind of kid-friendly amenities a young family may need like available cribs, high chairs and kid’s menus in the restaurant.
On the flip side, you may not want to spend your holiday in a 100% kids zone kind of resort filled with screeching children if you’re traveling with a newborn and a teenager and are craving a quiet vacation. Shop around to find a hotel that’s tailored to your family needs.
3 Airline - Can You Select Your Own Airline Seat?
If you’re traveling alone, chances are you're probably happy to sit in whichever seat is allocated to you by the airline (unless a screaming, teething baby has you tempted to switch!). Once you’re traveling in a couple or with a few friends, it can be nice to sit with your traveling companions, but be warned that this could cost you.
If you book your flights well enough in advance, you may be entitled to pick out your preferred seats from a seat map during your booking process. Otherwise, some lower-fair airlines may charge you for each seat selection, so be sure to decide whether some company on the flight is worth the extra $5-$10.
2 Hotel - Where In The Hotel Is My Room Located?
Where you stay in a hotel may seem like a trivial query, but the location of your room in the building can have a big impact on your comfort and enjoyment during your stay, particularly if you’re visiting the area on your honeymoon or to attend a crucial job interview.
Ensuring guests a good night’s sleep is always something a hotel aims for, but if guests are put in a room by the elevator or right above the pool, they may be at risk of waking up cranky and bleary-eyed from a night of constant noise disturbance from party-hard guests. Don’t be shy – if it’s an important occasion, ask about the room location.
1 Airline - How Do You Score A Free Flight Upgrade?
With some difficulty is the short answer. Getting bumped up to business or first class can happen, but it’s not a guarantee on most flights, no matter how early you turn up to the gate. Gone are the days when you could bank on a few premium seats going spare, but realistically, an upgrade is going to cost you in this day and age.
Signing up to an airline loyalty program or frequent flyer miles membership can be a good start if you’re hoping to grab a few extras and upgrades on your flight.
You should also keep an eye on short-term deals on premium seats put up by the airline a couple of days before the flight as you may be in with a better chance than on the actual day.