Using Third Party Services

We live in the age of third party sites who offer deals and services for less. While they offer a great way to save, there is also some risk that come with dealing with some of these sites. Certainly, the risks vary from low to high depending on what deal you are looking for. I want to share with you some of my tips on how to get the best experience when using a third party service.
Shop around and compare – Whether you faithfully use Groupon, LivingSocial, or TravelZoo to name a few, you must always be aware of the competition. Some deals are sometimes offered through more than one of these sites and a lot of times, the prices vary. My suggestion: do not be faithful to just one of these sites! Sign up for all of those that appeal to your needs most and compare them. Hey, the sign up is free, and if you are worried about your email inbox being flooded with daily emails, have one email address dedicated for your deals emails! The best part about this? These sites always have days of the week (or time of the month) where they will have an extra discount off of any deal purchased during a specific time frame!
Always do your research – No matter what deal you are looking to purchase, always research the product, the company, or the individual with whom you will be doing business with. Be aware of the fine print included in the deal such as “valid only on these days”, expiration dates, company or individual’s reviews. And lastly, trust your instinct! If you don’t feel comfortable with a company or with an individual, do NOT go into business with them! This is especially true if you are spending a high amount of money on the deal.
One of my favorite third party sites is AirBnB! However, if you follow the news, you have probably heard of some stories that may make you weary of using their services. This is probably one of the areas where research is crucial! Do not ever book a place without the following:
Having verified basic information for the host/owner of the place – name, phone number, and email contact. Prior to booking, you should be at least able to see whether or not the host is a verified user, a picture of them and a link to contact them. Once the place is booked, you will definitely be provided with a private email address and a telephone number from AirBnB.
Seeing verified pictures of the place – AirBnB sends employees that will take pictures of the place that is listed and is very good with taking all important rooms (bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom) along with a street view or neighborhood picture.
Having the complete address of the place – This will be helpful for you to then search it on google map. Don’t feel like you are being paranoid! I’d rather be viewed as “paranoid” than be viewed on a billboard with the words “have you seen me” above my picture! Be sure that your rental is located and ensure that it is safe and also near major hotels or major tourist attractions which means that there will be higher police and/or security presence. You should even be able to pull a neighborhood report on crime in the area.
Reading every single review of the owner – most AirBnB users are very good at leaving a review for their hosts and the company usually will send you reminders after your stay as it also helps them rate their hosts. These are very important! I normally would not suggest staying in any place that do not have at least 5 reviews with a paragraph or so detailing their stay.
Overall, as I mentioned before, always go with your instinct when in doubt. Also, I would not suggest to use this site for a stay if you will be alone in the apartment or home. In that case, bite the bullet and spend a little more for a hotel and look through third party sites such as Expedia or CheapTickets first so you can find better pricing. Lastly, always share your travel information with a friend or family member with whom you are in regular contact. You can never be too careful. However, once you have done your homework and it all checks out, be sure to enjoy your deal to the fullest!

Feel free to share some of your tips in the comment below!

Have fun saving!
Reese

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