You save long and hard for your holiday — a year (perhaps longer) — and therefore you don’t think it unreasonable to expect that everything goes according to plan. Indeed, for the most part, that is precisely what happens day in and day out for countless thousands of satisfied holidaymakers every season. The planes leave more or less on time; the resorts turn out to be exactly as described in the brochures and the accommodation invariably lives up to people’s expectations. Occasionally, however, things do go wrong — and for a mind-boggling variety of reasons. Knowing what to do and how to deal with such situations (or, better yet, how to avoid them in the first place), can often represent the difference between a minor inconvenience and a potential disaster. Whilst following some or all of the suggestions contained in this blog won’t be like waving a magic wand, it will, nonetheless, help to minimise some of the inconvenience or disappointment that might otherwise occur.
Government legislation now ensures that consumers are more than adequately protected in the event of their ‘package’ arrangements failing to meet very strict conditions. You will find these conditions clearly spelt out within the small print of the booking conditions. By law, these booking conditions must be reproduced within every holiday brochure that is distributed for sale in Ireland. The booking conditions clearly outline what the obligations of both the consumer and the tour operator are, with the result that you need have no difficulty in trying to identify what is and is not permissible in respect of say, changes to your original holiday booking. The booking conditions represent in fact, the legal contract that you enter into when you sign the booking form (or when some other member within your party signs it on your behalf).
By taking the time to familiarise yourself and other members of your party with these booking conditions, you are in effect, finding out what the tour operator can or cannot change; what alternatives must be offered in the unlikely event of a change and the level and form of compensation which must be offered in the event of the alternative being unacceptable. Above all, make absolutely sure that everyone in your party has taken out adequate travel insurance for the duration of your stay abroad. Never travel abroad without travel insurance!
From time to time, the disappointment experienced by certain travellers with regards to their holiday packages often turns out to have more to do with over expectations of the ‘package’ they had purchased than any real shortcomings with the package itself. No matter how accurate the written descriptions or the photographs that illustrate the various packages contained within holiday brochures are, it is inevitable that from time to time, a person’s perception of what they believe they are purchasing will, in reality, occasionally fall short of their expectations. There is no simple solution to avoiding this potential pitfall other than by following the old advice: ‘You get what you pay for’. With few exceptions (usually knock-down prices brought about because of over capacity or stiff competition on a route), a package that costs €299.00 should never be expected to provide the same level of quality as one which costs €499 or even €399.00.
As already mentioned above, with few exceptions, price will nearly always be the most representative indicator of what you are getting, quality-wise. Some of the components of a package holiday that have an effect on the price you pay are obvious:
Flight Duration: — The most expensive component of any package.
Carrier: — Sometimes you might have to pay a premium for flying with certain carriers, such as Aer Lingus.
Departure Time: — Day flights and weekend departures are usually more expensive.
Transfer duration: — The longer the transfer, the more expensive the cost content.
Location of Accommodation: — Proximity to the beach/centre of resort and/or greater choice of facilities is usually reflected in higher prices.
Standard of Accommodation: — Ask yourself, do you need all those facilities?
Room or Apartment Occupancy: — The less full the occupancy level, the greater the per-person cost.
Sometimes however, a difference in price between apparently similar products from competing tour operators can be accounted for by less obvious signs of quality:
- The likelihood (or absence thereof) of overbooking.
- The efficiency of staff in processing your booking.
- Receiving your travel documentation in correct order and on time.
- The friendliness of cabin crew.
- The professionalism of your resort representative.
- The frequency of his/her visits and ability to resolve problems on the spot.
- The degree of willingness to address complaints when they are made.
- The experience of being made to feel important and being valued as a customer.
Clearly, you cannot be expected to know which companies meet the criteria mentioned above, and which do not. As professionals, that is the function of your local Travel Centres affiliated agent. By appreciating that there is a lot more to choosing the ideal ‘package’ than just simply picking the cheapest, most attractive looking or best located property — you will have already started the process by which you are much more likely to find something that provides you with that more elusive of qualities — value for money. Sometimes, it will turn out to be the slightly more expensive holiday. Rarely, will it ever be the cheaper one!
Because the booking form inside a holiday brochure represents a legal contract that you make with the tour operator, it is vital that you organise your domestic/personal arrangements before you commit yourself by signing it. For example; make sure that you have been given permission to take time off work because if you subsequently run into problems in this regard, it will not be covered by your insurance policy, if you have to cancel. Also ensure that you have a passport that will be valid for at least six months after you return from your holidays and that it contains any visas that may be required for the travel arrangements that you have booked. If you do not possess a passport or the relevant visa (where required) make sure that you have enough time to comfortably apply for both before you commit yourself to the purchase of travel arrangements or a ‘package’ holiday. Visas for certain countries must be obtained from overseas embassies and can often take several weeks. Also bear in mind that visa endorsements for certain countries contained within your current passport may prohibit you from entering other countries. Consult with your Travel Centres affiliated travel agent if you are in any doubt whatsoever on this particular point. Certain authoritarian regimes also prohibit entry to persons who are in possession of one-way tickets; persons who wear their hair too long or whose mode of dress is considered to be ‘undesirable’.
Many of the problems that beset travellers can be easily avoided with a little bit forward planning! For example; if travelling to some destination which requires vaccination, be sure to organise your inoculations at least two months ahead of time because some of the vaccines take this long to become truly effective. Also, remember to bring an international certificate of vaccination with you as proof that you have been inoculated as failure to have proof of such inoculations (particularly if arriving from an endemic area) may, in some cases, cause you to be denied entry into certain countries.