The classic package in form of a ready-laced complete package is not the only type of holiday that is offered on the Internet. Accommodations of all types, rental cars, plane-, train- and ferry tickets are available individually or as tailored packages.
Holiday packages and individual travellers
If all goes well during the trip, you won’t notice any difference between a package holiday and one put together individually. Should the dream vacation turn into a nightmare, a package holiday enjoys under the EU Package Travel Directive more legal protection than an individual trip.
This should not dissuade you from your vacation plans, but you should be aware of the fact that with an individual booking foreign law and a foreign jurisdiction more likely applies. Also, when you book a package holiday, you contract with one party only, but when it comes to individual bookings, you get into a contract with different contractors.
Who is responsible?
Check before booking who you’re contracting with, this person is your contact in case of complaints. Even if a car rental chain has a branch Austria, you might get into contract with a company in Greece, under Greek law.
The first appearances can be deceptive
Just as the travel agency "around the corner", many online travel agencies are merely travel agents and not portal operators or service providers. An agent is responsible for the careful selection of its partners and the proper design of its website, but cannot be held responsible for the proper service provision. Contractor in this regard is either the tour operator or the service provider (e.g. the hotel).
Game of luck: last-minute
Last minute portals are in legal terms not different from other competitors. Also, it would be wrong to assume that last-minute offers are necessarily cheaper than early bookings, where you could e.g. benefit from an early bird discount.
Hide and seek unwanted
Reputable online sellers have nothing to hide, thus you can easily find clarification in their terms and conditions on their homepage as well as the name, address and phone no/ email address of the person you can contact.
Take your time
Read all the articles on a website before answering a question with "Yes" or "No", enable or disable a function with a mouse click or click "Next". This includes accepting the terms and conditions.
Note: The T&C include important information regarding the withdrawal policy and other important details of the contract.
If you have special requests or would like to make additional agreements, add these explicitly when booking. In any other case, you have to demand a written statement of particulars.
You should also take the time to control your personal data. One mistake in your postal address and sent documents end up in the middle of nowhere. The same applies to your e-mail address and you should not err in entering your passenger data either. Golden rule: always double check!
No cancellation option
For all types of online travel bookings: A single mouse click is enough to sign a valid contract. A statutory right of withdrawal does not exist in these cases.
If a seller provides you with the right of cancellation, in most cases this is rather expensive. Therefore it is important to plan before and during the booking. Entering credit card information is by the way not a prerequisite for the validity of a contract because the contractor can just as well send you an invoice with a payment form.
Don’t only print every step of the booking process and the full contact details of the seller but also the terms and conditions. This is time-consuming, but you can reconstruct the reservation process if necessary. The content of web pages may change within a few hours, so if you have no documentation, you have no proof.
If it is not possible to print a webpage, you can always make a screenshot. Depending on the keyboard you use, look for the "Print Screen" / "page photograph the (SysRq)" button on your PC or the shortcut "Command + Shift +3" on your Mac.
Spam filters sometimes mistakenly also sort out important confirmation mails from previously unknown senders. Therefore potential spam should not be deleted automatically, but left in the spam folder. Check its contents regularly.
You can only be sure your booking actually arrived at the contractor if you receive a written confirmation. With plane-, train- and ferry tickets you need to receive an "e-ticket" or regular mail a ticket with a code.
If you book a package holiday through an agency, you only a make booking request by expressing what you are looking for. The first confirmation that you should get from the online travel agency is therefore the confirmation of the booking request. This just means that your request has been received; the agent will try to book your request at the tour operator.
If the offer e.g. should be no longer available at this price, the agency will tell you. You can then decide whether you want to book with other terms.
The trip is only booked, when not only a request, but the booking itself has been confirmed! If this does not happen, make sure to check with the online travel agency.
If you do not want to book, but check the availability of a non-binding offer or clarify details and any special requests in advance, you are more than allowed to do so without filling out the online booking form. Send an e-mail or fax and stress explicitly that this is only a non-binding request for information.
Hence, as promptly as detailed and as a provider responds politely, can also be certain conclusions about its seriousness and its customer pull in the complaint.
Clarifying insurance policies
Standard travel insurance packages can turn into expensive traps. Learn about the extent and costs of the insurance and check whether or not some of it is already covered by your e.g. your credit card insurance, EU healthcare or private health insurance.
Credit cards are the most common means of payment, especially when purchasing items from foreign companies. To be on the safe side, you should make sure the provider is using a secure connection before entering your data.
The most common signs of encryption are the initials "https://" instead of "http://" in the address bar. A padlock icon in the lower right corner of your screen can also be trusted, but make sure to click on it to double check its validity.