What to Know Before You Book Your Vacation

The Krystal Puerto Vallarta Hotel. (Image Credit: Krystal Puerto Vallarta)

With summer finally here, many soon-to-be travelers will be tempted by all-inclusive packages that offer great deals to exotic locations that include flights, hotels and, sometimes, even food and drinks. What could be easier?

But experts like Jennifer Garfinkel, special projects editor at Oyster.com, a hotel review website, want you to consider some points before you book your next trip to make sure your vacation is exactly as you dreamed.

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1) Book Directly With the Hotel

Garfinkel recommends scoring deals by booking your stay directly with the hotel. Doing so, she says, is the best way to get the lowest price. She says doing this eliminates the middle man and if anything were to go wrong during your vacation, the hotel is immediately responsible for your accommodation and cannot refer you to any other tour operator or service provider. "You're their customer. So, they're going to help you. They need to help you," she says.

2) Confirm Your Details

Whether you're working through a tour operator or another service provider, Garfinkel recommends calling the hotel to confirm details, "because the hotel knows best." If you have any questions about your vacation package, or want the most up-to-date information regarding restaurants, activities and such, hotels will be your best resource. "Tour operators can't possibly keep up with all of their facts," she said. "So, you really need to kind of be your own advocate, [and] do your own research," to find out what to expect.

Online vs Reality: Hotel Marketing Ads compared to Guest Photos: See The Photos

3) What You See Isn't Always What You Get

When researching online, Garfinkel has some tips for vacationers to be on the lookout for to not get stumped by hotel marketing tricks. She says to be suspicious of things left unsaid or unseen. "So, if it says it's a beach resort, see if there are beach photos. If there aren't, there's probably a reason," she says. "If you see illuminating blues and greens in photographs online, prospective visitors should realize it will not be that bright in person." Garfinkel also cautions travelers to watch out for strategically cropped images that leave sizes of hotel features ambiguous for the viewer. Another marketing favorite of hotels is the sexy lady phenomenon, where a beautiful women is the only one enjoying a hotel's amenities. Good luck trying to find her on your next vacation!

4) Every Package Is Not the Same

Price ranges vary for all-inclusive packages and resorts, so it is important to know what your "must-haves" are during your vacation. Ask hotels and tour operators specific questions to make sure you are investing your money wisely. Some all-inclusive packages might end up even charging you extra for certain foods, alcohols and even certain activities such as various water sports. Garfinkel also cautions families to think twice before booking all-inclusive packages because, "with the kids, they're not drinking and they're not eating a lot, so you're really usually not getting your money's worth."

5) Wait to Book the Extras

Garfinkel recommends waiting to book local excursions or tours until you reach your destination, so you can talk to knowledgeable concierges that will ensure you book exactly what you want. She also recommends signing up for activities on your first day because certain tours or activities are only offered on certain days or book up quickly.

6) Upgrade to Save

For your next vacation, consider looking for a room or a suite that has either a kitchen or a kitchenette to buy your own groceries, and not eat out at a restaurant for every meal. Garfinkel points out that, while the suite with a kitchen is more expensive than your standard room in dollars per night, you might actually save money during the course of your vacation.

7) Don't Settle

If you are completely underwhelmed and dissatisfied, Garfinkel suggests talking to a manager. "If it's at all a decent hotel, they'll work with you. They'll try to upgrade you," she says.

8) Travel the Off-Beaten Path

Often times, especially in cities, looking for resorts or hotels outside the main tourist area can help you score better deals, as well as calmer surroundings.

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