Buying Holidays and Travel by auction? .............

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Buying holidays and travel by auction

Auction sites now offer a new way to buy holidays and travel on-line – We investigate what's on offer and how it all works.

Holidays and travel available by auction
Auction sites are fast catching on as the latest way to buy holidays and travel on-line, often at bargain prices. There are now several auction sites to choose from but we've taken a look at the most popular and largest of these – watching over a number of weeks to see the type of holiday auctions and travel deals they have on offer.

eBay has it all covered, their travel and holiday sections include airlines, ferries & cruises, hotels, bed & breakfasts as well as sections for travel accessories, travel guides and the like. Most popular are the general, short breaks and packages sections; while car hire and coach holidays have the least entries.

Many sections are seasonal of course, with the caravan & camping and villa & timeshare sections most popular in the summer and the snow and ski holidays becoming popular as winter approaches. However it's always worth a look anytime, whatever you are after, we were surprised to find a European, Dec/Jan, snowboarding holiday available in early June!

Will you get a bargain?
There are certainly bargains to be had but it depends on what you go for and how much you end up bidding. Don't expect to get fantastic bargains on popular destinations during peak holiday periods like school holidays during the summer. But increasingly hotels, B&Bs, villa and cottage owners, and even package and specialist travel companies, are recognising the value of putting unsold accommodation and late travel deals onto the auction sites. Selling a room or holiday at a reduced rate is better than an empty room or unfilled place, so good deals are possible, particularly during the low seasons.

Just beware of bidding fever – we tend to fall into one of two types, those who have a strict upper limit and who stick right to it, and those who get to enjoy the bidding process itself and just keep going higher and higher! If you are one of the latter then just remember not to bid more than the item is really worth to you!

How it works
You are able to browse eBay's listings just by visiting the site, but to buy and sell you need to register, a simple enough process, made all the easier by on-line tours and comprehensive instructions. There is also plenty of advice on how to make the best of the site search options to find what you are looking for.

Once you have found something you are interested in and have satisfied yourself that it's really what you are after, you are ready to place a bid. Here again the help pages take you through the process and explains it thoroughly; and if you then go on to win the bid they talk you through the buying process too.

What to watch out for
There are safeguards built into the site, but in the end it's really down to 'caveat emptor' – buyer beware. eBay operates a' Fraud Protection Programme' that will pay out up to £120 in the event of a major problem, but holidays can be high price items so this may not cover you. Our advice is to check out the item you bid for as thoroughly as possible before you make a bid. Read the seller's 'Feedback Profile' which catalogues comments on sellers previous transactions. Get all the details you can about the item, read all that is available on eBay and then email the seller if necessary to find out more, an email link is provided from the advert.

A number of the travel items, particularly in the 'Package' section, are in fact travel vouchers of one kind or another. We suggest you take great care to check these out in particular. Many are good deals offered, perhaps by people who are unable to take them up themselves, or travel companies/hotels etc. who see discount vouchers on an auction site as a good way of promoting themselves. However there are vouchers, and even free holiday offers, that are not such good deals. For example, timeshare 'free holiday' offers that require you to attend a very 'hard sell' timeshare presentation before you qualify; or vouchers with conditions that are very hard to meet. Get sight of the full terms and conditions of any voucher before you make a bid.

Remember eBay's own advice: 'If you are worried about the seller, or are unhappy in any way, don't bid. With millions of items for sale every day, there is bound to be another up for sale soon'.

Recent holiday and travel offers
As a taster, in the time we have been monitoring the site we have seen offers such as:
– two return flights from Newcastle to San Francisco
– holiday for four to the USA
– four day break in romantic Paris
– a Coachman VIP 4 Berth caravan
– Ireland ferry voucher for 5 people
– Costa Dorada and Barcelona travel guide
– brand new wheeled luggage/weekend case
– shoe shine travel kit

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