True to reality, but hard to accept easily.
Tips by Nina Slawek from Takeoffeh.com on McLeans.ca

Here’s a list of 5 pitfalls I’ve learned to avoid – the hard way.

DON’T

Get “deal” obsessed
It’s easy to get caught in the ‘deal’ surfing cycle. A lot of money is spent by discount travel operators to ensure their offerings appear temptingly at the top of search engine displays. But it doesn’t necessarily mean these are your best holiday options. Go crazy. Expand your search to include ideas which suit your tastes [music, food, surroundings], your needs [kids, rest, excitement] and dream vacation vision. Start out by imagining what makes you happy. For instance, are you active? Or, do you need peace and quiet? If it’s the latter, then a resort with hundreds of children and a busy Sea-doo rental operation may not be ideal – at any price. Start with what you want, then find it for a fair price. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Assume the airlines are out to ‘getcha’
Many consumers seem to approach booking a flight with the mindset that the airlines are just waiting to take advantage of them. And, unless they are extremely vigilant, they’ll end up overpaying. There’s a reason so many airlines go bankrupt: it’s extremely expensive to run one and the margins are razor thin. Especially here in Canada where the distances are massive and the populations small. Just like any other business in today’s tricky economy, airlines struggle to find the right price and product mix to ensure both customer and shareholder expectations are met. Contrary to popular belief, airlines are neither evil nor benevolent — it’s a business. Buy what works for you and stop worrying about it.

Get a travel agent to map out a full vacation itinerary, complete with hotel and activity recommendations – in the hope they will get the business – and then book it all yourself on the web. Some people brag about how they beat the system by operating this way. The only thing they should be bragging about is their lack of ethics. The travel agent makes his/her living accumulating and selling travel know-how. Not compensating a travel professional for their work is tantamount to stealing. If you only want the agent’s advice and plan on doing the transactions yourself, tell the agent in advance and pay them a service fee for their time.

Believe everything you read
Online review sites are a good thing, but you have to separate the wheat from the chaff and learn to recognize reviews by people with similar expectations to your own. If you’re looking at a hotel or resort review it’s worth spending some time going back a few pages to get a real feel for the place, not just some random opinions. It’s also worth checking Canadian review sites, not just the big ones, as you’ll find out what your neighbor thought about that Riviera Maya resort.

Try this at home
The DIY route is fine for simple trips. But, if your vacation involves several different components such as a cruise, connecting flights, an overnight hotel and a destination tour – it pays to have a travel agent coordinate the various elements. There are so many details which can topple your plans. During the recent volcanic eruptions in Iceland, many flights were cancelled and passengers who booked and paid for cruises were left scrambling. Coordination of communications is vital should your flights be delayed or cancelled. Get that agent to advise you on your best insurance options too.

Nina Slawek on McLeans