I read a recent article from the North Jersey Media Group on the increasing trend in the travel industry for Airlines, hotels and car-rental agencies to offer programs, such as lock-in ticket reservations and prepaid non-refundable booking programs, which count on customers’ fear of steep cancellation fees to encourage them to make purchases immediately. (If you are interested in reading the full article you can click here). The article discusses the ways that these organizations will try to confuse the consumer by offering a matrix of rates in a presentation that is often difficult to understand or follow. Not helping matters is the fact that often the big booking engines will also contribute to this confusion. As an example Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz all advertise “secret” or “unpublished” room rates offered by hotels. What they often don’t tell you is that the rates are non-refundable. Since both Expedia and Orbitz tout the fact that they don’t charge cancellation or change fees, website users may never consider the possibility that they will lose hundreds of dollars by booking through these no-penalty websites. Over at Travelocity a simple search for hotels in a city on specific dates yields a list of properties and prices, but it lists no mention of non-refundable restrictions. (To its credit It does provide that caveat when the traveler selects a particular hotel). And so it goes. As you are likely aware the charging of fees is also on the upswing. One new trend in this arena that gives us particular concern is the fee to pay more to be penalized less. A fee to pay a smaller fee, in effect. One example of this is American Airlines Boarding and Flexibility Package. The packages, which cost anywhere from $10 to $30, depending on your itinerary, allow you to, among other things, get $75 off a change fee. Of course then there are the other fees you have likely heard of such as baggage, seat and other similar fees. Car rental companies are also not exempt and now offer a “discount” for advance, non refundable payments. As a travel professional whose goal is to find you the absolute best value in all of your travels, such trickery and deception quite truthfully dismays and upsets me. At the same time however, for the traveler who truly desires to attain the best value and advice, this article displays yet another reason to work with an ASTA certified travel professional such as Travel N Relax. Rather than try to confuse or deceive you, our guest is whom we advocate for. As such, we value the opportunity to work with every guest to discover your individual travel desires and needs and then hunt out the absolute best value available for you. Along the way we also caution (and educate) you on what may “appear” to be a good deal but in fact may not be. That said, once again we offer the wise consumer the advice of “Buyer Beware.” As this economy continues to progress in its current state, more and more companies are looking for ways to “bait and hook” you through increased costs and fees which you should be aware of. Sadly, just like the airline baggage and seat fees that are now here to stay, this trend is likely to continue even after the economy gets turned around into a better state. As such, whether you book on your own, or use the council of a certified travel professional, we urge you to be cautious and to not fall into this trap. Good prices can still be found. You just have to have the time and know how to find where those best prices are residing.