College students and spring break comprise a travel agent’s dream. Pamphlets, e-mails and advertisements promoting student travel services are not difficult to find during the months preceding college breaks.
But for those who have yet to figure it out, most e-mails boasting “exclusive discount travel offers” or declaring recipients as “specially selected” are not legitimate and are generally sent to millions of specially selected consumers at the same time.
Jim Rink, spokesman for AAA Michigan, said that all travelers, but especially students, need to be careful when planning vacations through agencies and should keep an eye out for travel scams.
“The first rule of thumb is that if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is,” he said. “You need to make sure you are using a reputable travel agency.”
The most common scams often promise discount prices, only to charge numerous fees or provide low-quality services after agreements have been signed.
“Sometimes you’ll arrive and find the hotel has been overbooked,” Rink said. “Then you’ll have to spend the night on the beach.”
Rink said there is very little a consumer can do after all agreements have been signed. The only course of action is to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
The FTC does not resolve individual consumer problems, but complaints help them investigate fraud and can lead to law enforcement action. However, it is unlikely that travelers will be refunded.
“I would say nine times out of 10, you would not get your money back,” Rink said.
Consumers can avoid travel problems by following a few precautions recommended by the FTC. It is recommended that travelers book vacations with a well-established travel agency, use extreme caution when giving out credit card or checking account numbers, inquire about cancellation policies, ask about extra charges and reconfirm arrangements with the hotel, airline or cruise lines.
Many University students go through student travel services when planning winter and spring breaks.
“Students are definitely targeted,” Rink said. “They have lower incomes, and agencies know they’re looking for lower prices.”
LSA junior Yuto Ito said he ran into a few problems when using an agency to help plan his trip to Daytona Beach last year. He found the service online by comparing prices and locations.
“Our hotel … well it wasn’t exactly a hotel, it was more of a motel,” he said. “They made is sound like it was a nice place – right near the beach – but you had to walk to the beach for quite a while.”
Business junior Derek Scholansky, said he used a student agency in high school and didn’t run into any problems, but he said he probably shouldn’t have put as must trust in it as he did.
“You never know with those spring break agencies,” he said. “Especially being in college, you get targeted all the time.”