Arranging Travel Through eBay or Craigslist

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As if you didn't have enough places to look for travel deals, you can also find pitches on eBay and Craigslist. A reader asked about whether they're worth checking:

"Do travel ads on eBay and Craigslist offer anything I can't get anywhere else, and are there any problems with them?"

The short answer is that some of them might be interesting, but you have to be careful any time you buy something—and pay in advance—from a private individual. I checked online offers in early September on eBay and on two Craigslist locations: my local area of Medford/Southern Oregon and Boston. I found a mixed bag.

Vacation Rentals

Vacation rentals are the primary reason you might want to visit a general online marketplace.

  • eBay posts several thousand offers in the "lodging" heading. Most are for vacation rentals and resort packages, along with a few conventional hotel postings. Although many are nominally posted as auctions, bid prices are maybe 20 percent or so below "buy it now" rates—an indication that the postings are not really auctions at all but instead simply apparent discounts from what may or may not be legitimate list prices. Some of the postings seemed to be good deals—especially those for privately owned single-unit rentals—but others seemed to be just another place for promoters to list their usual programs.
  • Both Craigslist sites show lots of vacation rental listings, mostly for local and regional rentals, with a few for rentals in other prime visitor destinations. Most appear to be much the same as what you'd find on VRBO or any other large rental listing site, although the listing includes a few hotel/resort advertisements. Some of the prices look quite good, although, again, much as you'd get through other sites.

Vacation Packages

eBay posts almost 800 listings for vacation packages. Several—at what look like ridiculously low prices—are obviously come-ons for timeshare promotions. That's the sort of promotion you often get "free" as a vacation certificate, supposed "Bahamas cruises," resort weekends, and the like, where the idea is to get you onsite for a high-pressure timeshare pitch. Other postings are simply "discount" promotions from hotels and resorts that may or may not be good deals.

Airline Ticket Deals

Of the two dozen or so eBay listings under the "Travel/Airline" category, only a few are genuine travel offers:

  • One travel agent posts five specific flights in the West. One, for example, offered a round-trip from Los Angeles to Anchorage at $680. "This is not a ticket purchased from someone's frequent flier miles," says the agency, but is instead a newly issued ticket. The posted price, continues the blurb, includes federal taxes, but not airport, departure, fuel, and security taxes. The problem? I found a round-trip fare from Los Angeles to Anchorage for $491 on Delta, including all taxes. Maybe the agent's ticket entails fewer restrictions than Delta's, but that's a big price difference. The agent's price, incidentally, is "buy now," not subject to bid.
  • One seller in Australia posts two round-trips from Brisbane to Melbourne "for the Cup" on an airline that allows name changes on tickets, at a price that included the name change fee. Given that the trip is for a major event, this is probably a good deal for someone hoping to attend.
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