Spring Break and Travel Ripoffs

Spring break trips can go from paradise to disaster when prearranged travel packages turn out to not be what they seem. We surveyed spring break travel ads found at colleges in a dozen communities around the country in our report Spring Broke: How to Avoid a Spring Break Rip-off.

Our survey found that travel agencies offering spring break packages often engage in deceptive advertising. We found that the final price for a spring break trip could on average be as high as 62 percent higher than the advertised price. In addition to deceptive pricing, companies also require travelers to give up many of their rights. They reserve the right to change travel and accommodation plans at their discretion. Companies also require travelers to sign contracts in which they must waive or limit their legal rights to file disputes with the travel company.

Here are some common hidden fees to watch out for:

  1. International Departure and Arrival Taxes
  2. Processing Fees
  3. Peak Week Surcharges
  4. Late Booking Fees
  5. Departure City Surcharges
  6. Travel Insurance
  7. Fuel Surcharges

How to Avoid a Spring Break Rip-off

Read ALL of the fine print carefully. This is by far the best step you can take to protect yourself. Companies need to tell you how your trip will operate. Even if they make their policies difficult to read, smart consumers will look them over before sending any money. If you can’t get answers to your questions, or are misled or deceived, you should avoid using that company.

Avoid any company that mandates arbitration for disputes. Don’t give up your legal rights.

Read your invoice. You should understand the purpose and amount of each fee.

Research a company before sending money. Do not assume that a company is legitimate based on its flyer. Ask friends if they know anyone who has used the company before. If you’re unsure, contact your Attorney General’s office to find out if any complaints have been made against them.

File a complaint if you have a dispute. In most states, you can do this through the Attorney General’s office. This calls attention to the company so that future travelers will not repeat your experience. Also, the attorney general may mediate your dispute to help resolve it.

Be aware of cancellation policies. Before sending any money, you should know how much you will lose if you need to cancel.