#bidding for travel
How to save big with online travel auctions
With online auctions, travellers have the ultimate platform to name their prices on airfare, hotels, meals and show tickets — and often fly away with huge savings. But the click-happy should beware. Those who don’t do their homework can end up buying something they don’t want, paying hidden fees or, in some cases, entering a bid that’s higher than retail.
Here are a few tips on how to keep from getting burned and a review of the most popular travel auction sites.
Before you bid
- Read the fine print. Look for catches such as blackout dates, commissions, fees, surcharges and taxes.
- Compare the deal with what you could get directly or through other travel websites such as Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity.
- Look for information on the company offering the trip (on SkyAuction and eBay). If there’s none listed, proceed with caution.
- Don’t be tempted to ‘buy it now.’ On travel auction sites, there’s often an option to purchase a trip without going through the auctioning process. These get-it-quick prices are rarely a good deal.
As its name suggests, Luxury Link specializes in high-end trips, from jungle resorts in Bali to spas in Phuket. Those looking for vacation packages with lots of extras can score deep discounts. At the Langham Place Hotel in Hong Kong, a three-night stay for two that includes champagne and chocolate upon arrival, daily breakfasts, a dim sum lunch and nearly US$400 in spa credits retails for US$2,199. In a recent Luxury Link auction, the bidding started at US$857. Registration and bidding are free, but each transaction carries a US$20 fee.
SkyAuction is a travel auction marketplace where bargain-hunters can book airline tickets, hotel rooms, tours, cruises and all-inclusive vacations in destinations such as Shanghai, Singapore and Vietnam. Bidding for some offerings starts at US$1, and a typical auction lasts 24 hours. Travellers should click with caution — the site has a tarnished record due to complaints about hidden fees, blackout dates and other catches. Still, many say it’s a great bargain resource, especially for last-minute flights and accommodations. Winners pay a US$20 to US$50 commission fee.
Yes, the Internet auction giant eBay puts vacation packages up for bid. Travellers can click with some comfort knowing that only legitimate travel companies may auction flights, cruises and vacation packages — no Joe Schmoes off the street operating here. (Individuals are limited to auctioning items such as vouchers, gift certificates and, under certain circumstances, timeshares for rent.)
Priceline bidders must originate travel in the United States, but can select from a list of international destinations. For flights, hotels and car rentals pick the price and dates you want and Priceline will find tickets that match your needs (within reason) and secure the purchase. Usually without the intervention of Bill Shatner.