What rest and relaxation 25-year-old travel coordinator Sanndra Orosa managed to soak up in Boracay was negated at the Caticlan Jetty Port, when, after queuing only for fellow passengers to cut ahead of her every which way, she was greeted at the holding area with a, “Please go to the [former shipping line's] office. What you have is not a ticket; only a confirmation letter.”
Orosa had earlier booked a ticket online, printing out a confirmation letter she thought would serve as a ticket. It would turn out that she wasn’t the only one confused by the instructions on the former shipping line’s website.
She steeled herself to brave the melee that was the line for the payment of the terminal fee merged with the queue for the holding area, in the pouring rain, at that.
Thankfully, one of her three travel companions was game for the task. Together they presented their IDs and the credit card they used to previously purchase their “eTickets” at the former shipping line’s website, returning more than an hour later to the holding area.
“Kulang na lang manuntok ‘yung isang lalaki,” was how they described their experience with other irate passengers whose physical tickets were being processed at the shipping line’s office. Another passenger got demoted to a lower class of accommodation. The customer was furious.
Finally they all managed to board the vessel, only for the four friends to discover that their accommodations were different from what the photos on the former shipping line’s website were.
Instead of having their own room, the four were bunked in with some hundred other passengers for the night.
A lack of privacy, concerns for their belongings, and noisy “roommates” were just some of the things that kept them from enjoying a good night’s sleep for the rest of the voyage.
Never again, they vowed.
Such inconveniences can come with booking online. But are they really part of the package? Or can they be avoided?
Frequent travelers shell out their two cents’ worth on online booking, with some important dos and don’ts.
1.Â DO book with reliable and trusted websites only.Â ”Travelocity, Kayak, Agoda and Expedia, I trust,” said Denise MiĂ±oza, who travels abroad twice a year.
“[I] tried booking via Travelocity and Agoda, ayos naman. Kayak, I use primarily to look up fares only.”
Booking online allows her to search for cheap flights and good deals.
“Air China plus Cebu Pacific MNL-HKG-MIL-HKG-MNL for 31 to 32 thousand pesos lang! KL trip booked via Air Asia and Agoda, P5,000 lang!”
She has also tried booking with Agoda. “No hassle at all pagdating sa hotel sa KL. Maayos yung hotel.”
Aaron Roselo, who flies abroad at least twice a year, likes the convenience online booking affords.
Airlines such as PAL and Qatar Airways have provided him with “smooth sailing trips, plus the added function of efficient online check in.”
2,Â DO observe how their website works.
“If they have an operating, updated, and organized website, I expect their service to be professional and hassle-free,” said Amaris Cabason, who travels around six times a year.
“Little details like [grammatical] errors and broken links which OC people notice might mean that they could be careless with their booking as well.”
Inconveniences such as a “lack of customer support, buggy websites, and slow loading when there’s a lot of traffic” can come with booking online, too, said Roselo.
3.Â DO look for hidden costs. Also uncheck costly and unnecessary options.
“If you’re on a budget, make sure to uncheck extra expenses sites may have, such as seat selection, baggage allowance, etcetera,” said Seleena Male, who heads out of town around five times a year.
You might be able to do without such extras as eye shades, blankets, or meals when flying short distances.
4.Â DO canvass.
The great thing about booking online, said Male, is that she can “do it from anywhere, anytime. And depending on the site or my Internet connection, I can get it done quickly.”
This ease and convenience makes going through a number of sites a no-brainer. If you really want to get the best value for your money, comb through the Web, and compare different deals on offer.
Also maximize flight, hotel, and tour promos. Online booking sites will usually send you newsletters, so even if they flood your inbox, it’s still a great idea to read through them every now and then.
You might just end up on an unexpected, yet unforgettable trip to places you’ve never even considered going to.
5. Â DO pay attention to instructions.
Reading the terms and conditions of your booking allows you to know what you’re really getting into. Doing so will give you an idea of what other processes you’ll have to go through, whether at the hotel, pier, or tourist destination.
Should you have any queries or concerns, don’t hesitate to ring their call center or head to their physical office.
You should also confirm your booking through these means.
Although he’s had “no issues so far” when booking online, Roselo said “It still pays to confirm your bookings through call centers or an agency.”
With Cebu Pacific, in particular, he finds it “more reliable to book via their call center.”
6.Â DON’T get scammed.
The Deparment of Trade and Industry has recently “advised the public to be extra careful in availing travel, food, and leisure promos proliferating on the Internet,” according to a story on InterAksyon.com. (http://www.interaksyon.com/article/34002/dti-warns-public-vs-fraudulent-online-vending-promos)
It cited an alleged scam by group-buying site Cleverbuy.com, with customers complaining to the National Bureau of Investigation.
Some paid for travel packages “but failed to get confirmation from the website.”
Others paid for vouchers which “an airline company did not acknowledge.”
7.Â DON’T leave without a receipt.
Also a must, according to Orosa, is printing your confirmation receipt. You can present this in case of any mix-ups.
“List down all pertinent details (price, flight number, etcetera) so that if something goes wrong, you can give them all the details they need to fix the problem,” added Male.
8. Â Â Â DON’T just rely on websites.
Remember that these might not be updated regularly, which could affect how faithful their promises are to the actual experience.
“Research well on the hotel and read reviews carefully” is Cabason’s recommendation. “Patience is the key to finding that perfect hotel that fits the budget.”
The same piece of advice can also apply to flights, restaurants, and destinations.
“Ask friends who have been there [about] where [they] stayed, what destinations they went to,” she continued.
“Go on a do-it-yourself tour if possible because this is cheaper and will really let you be immersed in the culture of the place you’re visiting.”
9.Â DON’T just book any inexpensive room.
“When booking a hotel in an unknown city, one tends to look at the map and see if the hotel is near public transport,” said Jay Espinas, who travels around the country every month.
“Another key element is to know if it is near the area you will be frequenting, or a place of interest.”
He added, “Sometimes I feel like I’m better off just booking on the spot.”
What travelers can also do, according to him, is to “pre-book only for one night â€“ to have a sure accommodation for the night upon arrival, then transfer to a new spot.”
10.Â DON’T let hassles ruin your trip.
“Traveling isn’t only about sightseeing,” said Cabason. “It’s about enriching your knowledge about people and their way of life.”
So “keep an open mind,” go on, and jet set. You’re not headed to an adventure for nothing!