By Daniel Hunter

The days of popping to your local travel agent to book your holiday are on the wane. As online bookings increase, here’s how to make sure you stay safe.

Only 18% of shoppers arranged their holiday in a high street travel agent in the last two years while a quarter of Britons did it online, according to Mintel’s annual British Lifestyles report.

The move to researching and buying online has been helped by the rise of comparison sites for flights, hotels, car hire and much more.

If you’re planning your holiday, here are tips for getting one online.

Use websites you trust

There are hundreds of websites offering cheap flights and accommodation. Make sure they are legitimate and check customer feedback. Look for ABTA membership for agencies and ATOL protection for airlines if you’re buying a package.

It’s also important to check the security of the site itself before going ahead. Look for a padlock symbol and web address starting https.

If you're booking a villa or apartment directly from the owner, look on TripAdvisor to see if other visitors have commented on it or check on internet forums using its name. Some unfortunate holidaymakers have been caught out finding the accommodation is nothing like the pictures or, in extreme cases, doesn't even exist.

Don't forget to buy travel insurance at the same time as booking your holiday. Check for exclusions and top up cover if it isn't enough for your needs.

Pay by credit card

Spending over £100 on a credit card can give you valuable legal protection if the company you’re buying from goes bust or doesn’t deliver what it’s promised, and you may be able to claim a refund from the credit card company. Be careful of interest charges — try to save beforehand so you can pay the card off in full straight away.

In some cases, if you buy a flight only from a third party, such as a travel agent, you may not be able to make a claim because the third party was only contracted to provide the tickets and not the flight.

Use price comparison websites

When it comes to shopping online, whatever it is you're looking for, there's likely to be a site to help you find the cheapest price.

Just by visiting a price comparison site and tapping in what you're after, you can start comparing dozens of prices in minutes.

Always check more than one site to be sure you're getting a competitive deal.

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