Signing up for a tour package is supposed to take the pain out of planning a holiday. Many of us leave it to the travel agency to do up the itinerary, plane ticket bookings, room reservations, etc.
But when things hit a snag, like if the trip doesn’t go according to the itinerary or the hotel room you were given was not what was promised, you find yourself faced with the task of finding alternatives to fall back on or getting compensation.
So here are things to look out for before signing up for tour packages to hopefully help you avoid such unfortunate incidents:
1. Majority of you have not done this before - check if the travel agency is a licensed one.
Just because a travel agency has a nice shop front - whether brick and mortar or online - does not mean it is a licensed travel agent. That also applies to those that set up temporary booths at travel fairs or roadshows.
Don’t be taken in by attractive discounts and promotions either, and forget to do this most basic check.
Travel agents are licensed with the Singapore Tourism Board and are required to adhere to industry standards. So they will be sanctioned accordingly if they run foul of these standards.
To check if your travel agent is licensed, click here.
2. Just freakin’ buy some travel insurance.
Buying insurance these days has become very convenient with many companies offering travel insurance over the Internet.
Yet some people still feel that buying travel insurance is optional when going overseas.
Travel insurance covers a plethora of situations including misplaced/damaged baggage, flight delays/cancellations, medical costs incurred overseas, your travel agent going bust overnight, etc.
A tip when buying travel insurance - make sure to read through the details for your insurance product as there are different types of coverage. Always good to purchase the product that meets your specific needs.
3. Check the terms and conditions of your tour package
This is where most of us mess up. Seduced by the epic discounts and jam-packed itinerary promised to us, we ignore the fine print found in tour packages.
5-star hotel rooms, atas airlines, and scrumptious buffet meals on the brochures?
Better check the terms and conditions of the tour package to make sure it really is as good as it sounds.
Don’t be pressured to sign anything on the spot just because a promotion is on for ‘a limited time’. Fact is, many promotions are still valid for a short period of time after the travel fairs.
4. Check Facebook reviews
With the power of social media, it is easy to find out more about a travel agency’s reputation amongst other travellers.
Always make it a point to read a good mix of negative and positive reviews and comments to get a sense of whom you’re signing up with and what you are getting yourself into.
While some negative reviews may be a result of a series of unfortunate incidents - like bad weather or a tour guide getting lost because he helped a tour member track down some obscure souvenir shop - you should be on your guard if a travel agency has an overwhelming number of bad reviews.
Again, you should also check if the travel agent is licensed here.
5. Understand that sometimes, you are the biggest problem
Are you one of those people who kick up a big fuss at the boarding gate security check because you packed liquids that are more than 100ml?
Did you ignore warning signs which say that power banks and other lithium-ion batteries are no longer allowed in check-in baggage and had your bag pulled from the plane?
Did you willingly sign up for a tour package without reading the T&Cs and then whine about how the travel agency somehow shortchanged you for something you agreed to?
Actually, a good tour experience can be determined by a traveler’s willingness to understand what’s going on. Regardless of how good a tour guide/travel agent is, if he has to lead a group of 20 - 30 blur sotongs on a trip together, you can bet that it would be one of your worst travel experiences ever.
So play your part, do your research, understand your rights AND responsibilities as a traveller and the next tour experience may turn out to be your best yet.
This post is in collaboration with the Singapore Tourism Board who just wants Singaporeans to enjoy their holidays as much and as safely as possible.