How to find the best online travel deal for you

CLEVELAND - With winter and the holidays just around the corner, you may be spending some time online looking for ways to save on travel. And travel deals promise dream vacations at unbelievable prices.

But they may not always be the deals they seem to be.

You have to act quickly to get the deal and most of these sites require advance payment. Sheri Wallace, the editor of www.roadtripsforfamilies.com said don't be pressured into making a quick purchase.

"You have to know what you're supposed to pay if you didn't have a deal," Wallace said.

Take this LivingSocial deal for example: Stay at the Arizona Grand for $139, which includes one night, free breakfast for two, four passes to their water park, a $50 spa credit toward a 50-minute treatment, and the resort fee is included.

It's supposed to be a 57-percent savings. But we checked the resort's website and found you can get the same deal directly from the hotel. Water park passes are included with every reservation. Forget the spa credit and you're really saving about $50 on breakfast and the resort fee.

Not the 57-percent savings promised, and you're losing out on flexibility.

"I really have to stress if you're pre-paying for something in advance, stuff can happen that you don't anticipate and then if you're out all that money it does lead to a lot of frustration," Wallace said.

For many sites, once you buy, there is no refund and the hotel's cancellation policy doesn't always apply. You also have to use the voucher by a certain time.

To prevent some frustration, listen to the experts. On www.flyertalk.com , frequent travelers share their secrets on using airline and hotel points to get the best savings. And www.oyster.com goes around the country taking regular photos of resorts without any type of photo shopping.

Bottom line, vacations are great, so don't be fooled by mediocre deals.

Check sites like Expedia, which teamed up with Groupon, for good deals.

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