The Internet: How To Save Time When Booking A Bargain Package Holiday

One of the difficulties facing travel companies is that there is no “one size fits all” solution when it comes to providing for customer’s travel needs. Many factors cause our needs to change over time, such as how much disposable income we have, how much free time we have, whether we do or don’t have children, and they mean that in reality every holiday maker wants something different.For travel companies, trying to satisfy such diverse customer needs is a constant challenge. Now, with the mass adoption of the Internet, customers have an extremely powerful tool to tailor-make their own holidays -and this is what they are doing in increasing numbers.A large number of on-line travel companies have sprung up over the last five years offering the component parts that go to make up a holiday (flight, transfer, hotel) but this seemingly endless choice can actually lead to a fairly negative on-line experience. After too many hours spent researching online and then attempting to make bookings with two or three different suppliers, potential customers sometimes justifiably conclude that half an hour spent with a traditional high street travel agent might actually look like better value.To help get through the process and reduce the amount of time wasted it really helps to do some thinking first. Apart from the obvious things like where and when you want to travel, it helps to have answered the following questions:1. Do I want to buy a package (flight, transfer, accommodation booked as one item) or do I want to attempt to save money (or tailor the holiday to my specific requirements) by booking my holiday components separately?2. Do I want the reassurance of booking a holiday with a brand that I am familiar with or am I happy to try somebody new?3. Am I confident enough to deal with any issues that may come up whilst I’m in resort (as, unlike on a package holiday, there will be no representative to turn to)?4. Do I want to book a holiday that is covered by some sort of financial protection scheme such as ATOL or do I not mind either way?There is no doubt that one of the key trade-offs customers need to make when booking on-line is between how much “reassurance” and “supplier accountability” they want (if something goes wrong) versus how much “tailor making” and perceived cost-saving they want.
There is a spectrum which reflects this trade-off right from, at one end of the scale, buying a two-week brochured package holiday from one of the major players such as First Choice (firstchoice.co.uk) or Thomson (thomson.co.uk) up to the other end of the scale where somebody goes to British Airways (ba.com) to buy a flight, Sol Hotels (solmelia.com) for the hotel and Holiday Taxis (holidaytaxis.com) for the transfer.All the way across this spectrum are a huge number of other suppliers and online companies who are providing services that fall between the two extremes. The best-known examples of this would be Expedia (expedia.co.uk) and Opodo (opodo.co.uk) which are examples of sites that provide a “one stop shop” to give customers the feeling that they are “tailor making” a holiday and making a good cost saving but still give customers the feeling that, because they are dealing with one travel agent, a “safety net” is in place.There is then an interesting new breed of online travel companies who are different yet again in terms of what they offer. This group is different in a number of ways:1. They are typically ATOL bonded which means there is a financial guarantee in place if they were to have financial problems (details at caa.co.uk).2. Through advanced technology they link to as many flight and hotel options as any of the other sites – often sharing the same hotels.3. They offer an “on call” representative service in resort so they are only around if you need them.4. They offer “package” holidays but their packages are made up of “components” from many different suppliers and presented to customers in one transaction. A recently launched example of this is Fresh Holidays (freshholidays.com)All of the sites mentioned above have an online booking capability and all work reasonably satisfactorily. Most of the major travel web sites are now quite slick in the way they take customers through the booking process which means that the time consuming part when booking on-line now is the research phase.Many of the shopping comparison sites such as Holiday Watchdog (holidaywatchdog.com) offer opinions from people who have actually stayed in the different properties but the best known for researching travel options is Trip Advisor (tripadvisor.com). This is a justifiably popular site that provides a rich vein of comment on most of the major hotels in the world and is always a good place to start.Best of luck with your mission!