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29 Dec 2021

Five mistakes you're making when booking a holiday in the January sales

Common traps you could fall into when planning a trip in 2022 - and how to avoid them

The New Year is a popular time to grab a holiday bargain. But in our eagerness to book, there's a danger we'll be seduced by travel deals that don't offer a genuine saving.

Which? Travel investigations in recent years have tracked 'book early' deals, last-minute sales and Black Friday promotions. We found that in around half of cases the deal price was the same - or cheaper - after the sale had ended.

This year we also have the added complication of Covid uncertainty threatening our plans. Here we highlight some of the common traps you may fall into when booking your 2022 holiday - and how to avoid them.

1. Rushing to book

We've all seen the taglines urging us to 'hurry, book now' or pounce on a 'time-limited offer'. Icons like lightning bolts or countdown clocks can add to that sense of urgency.

But when we looked at hurry deals in the past, we found in more than half of cases the price was the same - or even cheaper - after the sale had ended.

Companies could be in breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs) if a retailer's actions can be shown to be misleading, and likely to cause the average person to rush into a buying decision they wouldn't otherwise have taken.

It's vital to take a step back and ask yourself: is this really a good deal? You often have far longer to think, and shop around, than you are led to believe.

2. Falling for a 'discount' that isn't genuine

It was a similar story when we looked at early-bird promotions and Black Friday deals. Again, when we tracked prices, we found the sale price failed to offer a true saving at least half of the time.

It's easy to be seduced by 50% off pop ups or crossed out prices, but it's not always clear how those savings were calculated.

Instead use sites like Ice Lolly and Skyscanner to compare prices over time. The latter will let you set up price alerts on your desired dates and destination so you receive an email when the fare drops.

3. Not choosing a flexible provider

It's tempting to get carried away with a cheap holiday deal, but make sure you look at the T&Cs before you leap. Millions were left out of pocket early in the pandemic when airlines and tour operators stalled on refunds.

With rules on travel and testing still changing constantly, it's vital to know you'll get a refund or fee-free amendments if your plans are disrupted. For the best protection, choose a package holiday with a tour operator offering good flexible booking policies.

Which? Recommended Provider (WRP) Trailfinders will process your refund in one day if your destination moves to the red list. Fellow WRPs Explore and Exodus will also hand your money back if you're told to self-isolate by NHS test and trace.

See the package holiday companies we recommend with flexible booking policies.

4. Stalling on travel insurance

It's never been so important to have comprehensive travel insurance before you jet off. But it's easy to forget that you need the policy in place from the day you book, not just the duration of the holiday.

That way you're covered if any unexpected situations prevent you from travelling. We found that only around a third of holiday providers will cover you if you, or a member of your party, test positive for Covid before travel. The majority will bump you to your travel insurance provider.

Make sure you have pandemic-proofed your holiday with our guide to travel insurance companies with the best Covid cover.

5. Being swayed by fake reviews

It's easy to be influenced by five-star reviews when planning a getaway, but those glowing write-ups can't always be trusted. In 2020 Tripadvisor removed or rejected more than two million reviews - with 3.6% of all submissions identified as fake or fraudulent by the platform. But a Which? investigation showed that some can still slip through the net.

We found that some of the highest-ranked hotels on Tripadvisor had reached the top with blatantly suspicious reviews. Tripadvisor argued that our analysis was 'flawed' - but it subsequently removed 730 five-star reviews for a hotel in Jordan highlighted by our research.

It's a red flag if the majority of reviews are from people who've never posted anything else on the site. Repetitive language (as fakers are often given a template) and a flood of five-star reviews all at once are also cause for suspicion.