My sister told me recently how she was defrauded of around three thousand euro while booking a ski chalet through airbnb.
If it wasn’t for a bank connection who subsequently involved interpol(!) their ski trip would have been a disaster. Lucky for her she got her money back.
Her story inspired me to write this post. What follows are pitfalls to avoid and suggestions to consider to help you achieve holiday nirvana.
1. Plan A Holiday Using Pinterest
Research suggests that choosing a holiday destination can be a major source of disagreement.
If you are planning a trip involving other people, include each traveller in the process, and decide where to go by consensus. Dictatorship creates animosity.
Consider creating a pinterest board, and invite each member of your group to pin destinations to it.
Set a deadline for completion.
When everyone has pinned, consider affordability and eliminate out-of-budget holidays. Vote on or a pick destination from a hat, making it difficult for anyone to grumble.
With the destination chosen, start another Pinterest board. Invite your fellow travellers to pin nearby attractions and activities they would like to see and do. This will help to create buy in from those who may have been disappointed that their destination wasn't picked.
A democratic approach to planning the trip helps everyone get involved and excited about it.
Members can pin from outside of Pinterest. The most convenient way to do this is by installing the Pinterest Save Button for Google Chrome, though it is not necessary.
Any webpage can be pinned to a Pinterest board by copying the URL, logging in to Pinterest and clicking Add a Pin.
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2. Avoid Paralysis By Analysis When Searching For Flights And Hotels
Once a destination is settled on, limit the amount websites you check for flights and accommodation to three.
Too much research at this stage can lead to overwhelm and you may run the risk of aborting the search only to return later to higher prices.
More on how to avoid paying over the odds for flights below.
3. Rest, Relax, Pamper, and Wander
Sometimes we need reminding of what it means to be on holiday. The word vacation is derived from the latin ‘vacare’ which means ‘be unoccupied’.
A holiday is the chance to take it easy and recharge our batteries to protect year round productivity and safeguard health. So consider doing no work for at least some of your days away.
Go off the beaten track. Provided the country is safe, this will help you avoid tourist traps, get the local experience, and hopefully enjoy some local prices too.
To get inspired to wander read Vagabonding by Rolf Potts, which is geared towards the long term traveller, but the lessons are applicable across the board.
4. Beware of Rental Scams
Nothing can ruin your chance of a perfect summer holiday quite like a rental scam.
Rental homes are becoming increasingly popular, which means they’re now a haunt for fraudsters.
If you plan on renting a holiday home, follow some / all of the guidelines below to protect yourself.
Get proof of property ownership. Ask the host to take you on a live tour of the property via Skype / FaceTime
Use Google’s ‘reverse image search’ to establish if the pictures of the property are being used elsewhere online. To do this you will need to use Firefox browser.
1. Log in to airbnb.
2. Click on a property listing
3. Click on a picture to view it
4. Right click over the image and select "View Background Image"
5. Right click again and select "Copy Image Location".
6. Open google images (images.google.com) and over the search bar right click, select paste, then hit enter.
Ideally you want the images to be on airbnb only. If they show up multiple times all over the interweb, it suggests that the person who created the listing has “borrowed” images from elsewhere, and the property is to be avoided.
Another method of proving property ownership of your rental home is to do a government database search. Some countries have a land registry search which, for a nominal fee, will tell you who owns the property. If this matches the person who owns the rental listing you should be good to go.
The UK Government charges just £3 to do a property search on its Land Registry site.
Scammers prefer cash and money transfer services - never agree to pay using these methods. Always use a credit card to pay for your holiday rental and benefit from the fraud protection it offers.
Another method for confirming legitimacy and ownership is to pay a local agent to do a check of the property for you. If employing this type of service, you have the opportunity to ask for additional information not covered in the listing e.g. noise and nearby building works, local area amenities etc. You can also agree a live tour with your agent via Skype / FaceTime.
Golden Rules of Communication with an Airbnb Host:
- Keep all communications on the Airbnb messaging service
- If a host asks to send you an email do not respond. Report the listing to Airbnb immediately.
- Never (ever) move the conversation to email - this is how fraudsters begin to play you. It is a psychological fact that once you start saying yes it is so much more difficult to say no. Do not get sucked in to begin with.
- Honest hosts will want to communicate only on the Airbnb site (email is against Airbnb terms of service).
If using Airbnb rent properties only from the site, pay only through the site, and remember ….
“when it looks to good to be true it usually is”
(don't end up like him)
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5. Buy Travel Insurance
Medical bills can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds. For this reason alone travel insurance is a small but wise investment.
If you are an EU citizen holidaying within the EU or Switzerland an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) is free and offers access to state medical treatment in the country you’re visiting.
Apply for an EHIC at https://www.ehic.org.uk/Internet/startApplication.do
Expect delivery of the card to take about 10 days.
6. Harness Technology….But Take A Break From It Too
Technology is helping us find more, share more and learn more, but blue light from screens and 24/7 connectivity could be taking its toll on our brains.
The long term effects of blue light is serious. Blue light destroys the macular at the back of our eyes, leading to old age blindness.
So what better time to switch off the device than on the beach. An iPod shuffle can suffice as a music player and a kindle is glare free and holds tons of books to keep you entertained.
7. Avoid Unplanned Expense
The simplest method to avoid paying over the odds for flights is to open a private browsing window (called Incognito window in Chrome) each time you search for flights.
This prevents airlines seeing that you searched for the same flights before and ensures you pay the lowest price on the day.
To open a Private Browsing Window open your browser, click File, then
In Google Chrome select "New Incognito Window"
In Apple Safari select "New Private Window"
In Firefox select "New Private Window"
Check your booking confirmation for luggage restrictions, and follow them.
Most UK carriers allow 20 kg of checked luggage, with US carriers typically allowing 50 lbs, though it is still wise to check limits in advance as they can vary from airline to airline.
Always weigh luggage using a luggage scale before leaving for the airport and take your luggage scale with you to weigh your luggage before leaving your accommodation to return home.
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Hopefully you found these tips useful. There is a lot involved in getting the basics right, especially as our world changes so rapidly.
Being organised, asking the right questions, doing your homework, and taking your time are useful strengths to cultivate in the planning phase. Letting go and relaxing is critical in the holiday phase.
What makes a holiday perfect for you? Let us know in the comments below.
If you know someone who may benefit from this post, please share it using the links on this page.
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