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Be wary of ‘too good to be true’ travel auctions

We’ve all been tempted by a seemingly great deal: Three nights in Cancun for $100. Two-for-one airfares. You know the ones I mean. Oftentimes these deals don’t actually exist (once you read the fine print), but there’s no real harm: You check prices, find they’re not available, and head off, a few minutes of your time the only thing lost.

With auction sites, however, things get trickier. The deals are tempting (I saw an eight-night vacation to Italy starting at a $1 bid), but you may pay in other ways, with tacked-on fees and poor customer service. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If you are enticed by a travel auction deal, take the following precautions:

  • Research the seller on the Better Business Bureau. Does the company have an unsatisfactory rating? Why did customers complain? This can show you if the company is reputable.
  • Post on travel message boards, inquiring if others have used the company and if the experience was positive. The forums on and TripAdvisor are pretty active: In my experience, I’ve had answers within a day of posting. Googling the company name can link to forums and blogs that praise or trash the seller.
  • Compare other offerings. What should you be paying for a similar deal from other providers? By having a benchmark, you can determine whether the auction deal is realistic or not. Read thoroughly the fine print on the auction’s offer. Will you be gouged with taxes and fees?

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(Editor’s Note: is published by Smarter Travel Media LLC, a member of the TripAdvisor Media Network.)

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