HOLIDAYMAKERS in Huddersfield are being urged to brush up on their consumer rights before jetting off this year.
Consumer Direct - a watchdog funded by the Department of Trade and Industry - discovered that 17,000 people had their holidays ruined last year.
Now, to prevent more people having vacations spoiled, they are offering travel advice to holidaymakers.
Consumer Direct centre manager John Field said the most common problems include delayed flights, substandard accommodation or facilities not matching the brochure description.
He said: "Thousands of people calling Consumer Direct complain the holiday they experienced in no way matched their expectations."
Mr Field said holidaymakers can start minimising the risk of things going wrong as soon as they enter the travel agency.
He recommends choosing a travel agent approved by the Office of Fair Trading, which will ensure fair treatment if something goes wrong.
After picking a holiday, travellers should ask the agent about hidden costs - such as extra charges for airport taxes or room supplements.
They also need to check whether the tour operator is ABTA bonded - if they are it means holidaymakers will be transported home if something goes wrong or the company goes bust.
People should also consider taking out travel insurance which covers them if the airline, hotel or operator goes out of business. It is also important to ask if visas are needed and they should be applied for early to ensure they arrive before the departure date.
Before signing the contract, holidaymakers are advised to read the small print, especially the section about cancellations and refunds.
Mr Field recommends using a credit card to pay for the holiday, as some issuers allow claims against them if something goes wrong.
He said it is also important for travellers to have a European Health Insurance Card.
This has now replaced the E111 form, which allowed you to receive healthcare in any European Union country as well as Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein.
Mr Field said: "Knowing your consumer rights can help stop things going wrong in the first place and help sort things out when you do encounter problems."
If holidaymakers encounter problems after booking the holiday, there are several things they can do.
Mr Field said the first port of call should be the tour operator's representative at the resort.
Holidaymakers should gather evidence of the problem, including photographs or video footage and statements from other holidaymakers.
If the problem is not sorted out, Mr Field recommends contacting the tour operator and sending copies of the evidence - not the originals.
If the operator fails to resolve the complaint, people can contact Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06 or visit www.consumerdirect.gov.uk.