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What is a Travel Auction?

By Michelle Baugh
Updated: Feb 03, 2024

A travel auction is a process that allows people to bid for travel packages, airfare, and/or hotel stays. There are many different online auction sites that offer discount travel through an auction format. Bidding can take place either over a few days or for a set time on a specified day. Most travel auction sites are open, meaning multiple bids from the same user are permitted.

The most common type of travel auction is the traditional English auction style, which uses an ascending price model that starts out at a low minimum and increases with every bid. Bids can go up by a pre-determined increment, or they can also go up based on each user's maximum bid price. Depending on the rules of the auction site, users can bid anonymously or with a registered username.

Another type of travel auction is a variation of a Dutch auction. Instead of prices starting at a high point and coming down, however, bidders submit their highest possible price to the auctioneers, who decide whether or not to accept it. The travel seller can also counteroffer, but the bidder is not contractually obligated to continue with the transaction.

One online auction format that is gaining in popularity among travel providers is the buyout auction. This is where the seller offers discount airfare or cheap travel packages at a fixed price. The travel package can be purchased at any point in the auction as long as the bidder is willing to pay the buyout price.

Most bidders view a travel auction as a way to save money over traditional land/air packages. That can be true sometimes, especially when the auction ends at an abnormally low price. There are often added fees involved with winning a travel auction, however. For example, a bidder who wins discount airfare may still be responsible for paying airport taxes and fees, which can total hundreds of dollars depending on the destination. As another example, hotel stays often come with daily taxes, which are not usually part of the auction.

To prevent fraud on either part, both buyers and sellers of travel auctions sometimes go through a third-party escrow company to finalize payment. The high bidder will make payment to the escrow company, which holds the funds until the seller provides the travel arrangement information and the buyer confirms the reservations have been made successfully. Once the escrow company has confirmed that the transaction is complete, it will release the funds to the seller.

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Discussion Comments
By popcorn — On Dec 25, 2011

Do you need to download any special auction software if you want to use some of the travel auction websites?

I am new to the idea of using travel auction sites and am wondering if they all work like ebay or if you need to install things to be able to bid. I know that one auction site I use to look at cars required me to install some security software so I could bid.

I don't mind having to install things I just want to know beforehand so I don't get any surprises. On that note, what would you say is the best online travel auction site?

By manykitties2 — On Dec 25, 2011

There are plenty of holiday travel auctions going on around Christmas time as a lot of hotels offer great deals towards the end of January. If you can figure out a way to get vacation time during that time you can save hundreds of dollars of the prices of vacation packages.

My husband and I got a week long inclusive hotel stay, airfare and airport transfers with a few various activities for around $500 USD. We never thought we could get a package that cheaply, but if you are willing to bid on packages that happen outside of the typical vacation periods you can save even more money. Definitely something to think about.

By Mykol — On Dec 24, 2011

@julies - If you are comfortable with eBay, they actually have a travel auction site. Many of them are at 'buy it now' prices, but there are also packages you can bid on.

This would be a site that you should feel comfortable using, and they also have the seller ratings listed.

Online travel auction sites are becoming more popular, so there are many choices available. I know many people just like to pay a set price and be done with it.

I love to spend time online and see how I can get the best deal when I travel. I am going to start bookmarking some of the travel auctions online and start keeping a closer eye on their prices.

By golf07 — On Dec 24, 2011

@julies - One travel auction website you may want to look in to is called WCNY travel auction.

I have never personally used them, but have a friend who went on a trip through this site, and she was very pleased with everything.

They have a wide selection of packages to choose from. There are places all over the world and for every budget.

I would just make sure you pay close attention to any restrictions and read any fine print. I think this is a great concept, but it does take some time and monitoring.

By julies — On Dec 23, 2011

What are some good travel auction websites to bid on a package like this?

I think this sounds like a great idea, but would want to make sure it was a company I could trust.

My biggest fear is getting the winning bid, sending my money and then find out it was a fraud.

I love to travel, and am always looking for ways to save money, yet not compromise on quality. I see this working similar to something like an ebay auction site.

I trust ebay because they have been around for a long time. I also heavily rely on the sellers rating when I am ready to bid on something.

Do a lot of these travel auction sites also have ratings similar to this?

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