BBB: Holiday travel and shopping tips

November 26, 2012 7:56:45 AM PST
The Holidays are a time of cheer, but can also be a time for notoriously busy and stressful travel.

Staying safe should be a top priority for all travelers and the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois (BBB) recommends taking a few precautions when hitting the road this holiday.

"Every year, travelers take to the air and roads during the holiday season," said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois. "Safety should be top priority, and although problems may arise, planning ahead helps to ensure safe and headache free travel."

The BBB recommends taking the following steps for travel this season:

Auto Tips

Create a car safety kit - Holiday driving often includes the threat of dangerous winter weather. Snow and ice can lead to accidents, car troubles, long delays and road closures. You can prepare for bad weather by creating your own safety kit. Basics for the kit include a blanket, flares, flashlight with extra batteries, radio, first aid kit, cell phone with an extra charged battery and charger, jumper cables, non-perishable foods like granola bars and nuts, bottled water, an ice scraper and warm gloves.

Take the car in for a checkup - Breaking down on the side of the road can definitely put a damper on the holiday spirit. If your car is due for a check up, take it in before making that long haul. At the very least, check the car's fluid levels, wipers and tire pressure. Check the condition of your tires and, if you plan on driving through serious winter weather, consider getting snow tires. For a listing of dealers and mechanics you can trust, visit bbb.org

Drop the distractions - When you're behind the wheel, don't text and drive; if you must talk on your phone, use a hands free headset and put someone else in charge of the GPS.

Start early and slow down - The best way to fight holiday travel stress is to allow extra time. The increased number of travelers means longer lines through security check in and more cars on the road. Leaving early ensures that you will not have to speed or rush to make it to your destination on time.

Airplane Tips

Make sure you are organized - Plane travel can get overwhelming, especially when traveling with a family. Make sure you have all the necessary documents, including plane tickets, identification and itineraries, in one area. Having everything easily accessible makes check-in much easier.

Look into the rules of your airline - Different airlines have different ways of handling luggage, and many airlines charge extra to check a bag. Look ahead so you do not get stuck with extra, unwanted fees. Also, airport security has strict rules about carrying liquid in carry-on bags. Check in advance to avoid problems through security check points.

Plan ahead for airport parking- Before heading to the airport make sure to look into parking rates at the airport garage. If you are traveling for extended time, it may be more cost effective to find alternative transportation to the airport. Some taxi companies' offer fixed rates to and from the airport. There are also shuttles that offer daily schedules for airport drop off. Looking into these alternative routes may be a great way to save some cash.

For more advice on staying safe over the holidays, visit bbb.org

BLACK FRIDAY & CYBER MONDAY SHOPPING

CHICAGO, IL - November 19, 2012 - Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the Friday and Monday after Thanksgiving, are the most popular holiday shopping days of the year. Whether heading to the local malls or shopping online to avoid the large crowds, the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois (BBB) warns buyers to be aware of scammers and hackers. "People get caught up in the craze of holiday shopping," said Steve J. Bernas, president & CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and northern Illinois. "Whether it is Black Friday or Cyber Monday it is important to take precautions to ensure that scammers do not ruin the holidays." Tips for Black Friday shoppers:

Research before you shop - If you find a great coupon, be sure to print it and bring it to the store with you. Check out Business Reviews atbbb.org to make sure you are dealing with a reputable business that will guarantee the sale prices they claim to have.

Know Store Policies - Knowing the store policies on returns can help you determine where to buy. Many retailers may include restocking fees and shorter return deadlines.

Ask for Gift Receipts - Gift receipts generally include a description of the item purchased but do not disclose the price paid. Without proof-of-purchase, the recipient may be turned down for returning or exchanging the item, or risk receiving an exchange at a lower price.

Online shopping tips for Cyber Monday:

Shop on trustworthy websites - Shoppers should start with the BBB to check on the seller's Business Review for customer satisfaction at bbb.org Always look for the BBB seal and other widely-recognized "trustmarks" on retailer websites and click on the seals to confirm that they are valid.

Protect your personal information - Take time to read the site's privacy policy and understand what personal information is being requested and how it will be used. If there isn't one posted, it should be taken as a red flag that personal information may be sold to others without permission.

Beware of deals that sound too good to be true - Offers on websites and in unsolicited e-mails can often sound too good to be true, especially extreme low prices on hard-to-get items. Consumers should always go with their instincts and not be afraid to pass up a "deal" that might cost them dearly in the end. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Confirm that your online purchase is secure - Shoppers should always look in the address box for the "s" in https:// and in the lower-right corner for the "lock" symbol before paying. If there are any doubts about a site, the BBB recommends right-clicking anywhere on the page and select "Properties." This will let you see the real URL (website address) and the dialog box will reveal whether the site is not encrypted.

Pay with a credit card - It's best to use a credit card, because under Federal law, the shopper can dispute the charges if he or she doesn't receive the item. Shoppers also have dispute rights if there are unauthorized charges on their credit card, and many card issuers have "zero liability" policies under which the card holder pays nothing if someone steals the credit card number and uses it.

Keep documentation of your order - After completing the online order process, there may be a final confirmation page or the shopper might receive confirmation by e-mail. The BBB recommends saving a copy of the Web page and any e-mails for future reference and as a record of the purchase.

Don't forget those less fortunate this holiday season. If deciding to donate an item to a charity or cause, make sure items are in good condition and the recipient organization accepts such items to help further its cause. Find all charities that meet BBB standards at www.bbb.org/charity.

For more advice on staying safe online this holiday season, visit http://www.bbb.org/


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