Do you plan trips on your own or use a [travel agent]?

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camptalcott
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Do you plan trips on your own or use a [travel agent]?

Post by camptalcott » Wed Sep 17, 2014 12:02 pm

So I've decided to visit London UK next summer (feel free to flood me with tips) and I'm beginning researching. I don't have any personal ta so I went to the local liberty travel agent.

While the agent is very nice, we don't seemed to be meshing. basically I told her what type of hotels I like and what she seems to keep suggesting isn't what I like. maybe it's a communication thing. I did not give her a specific dollar amount as at the time I did not know what hotels in the UK ran. I am from NYC so 300-500 a night would not "shock" me.

so my questions are?

1) do TA's get some sort of kickback for steering guest to certain hotels. She seems insistent on Ibis and doubletree lines.
2) will a TA work with you if you give suggestions on properties you like
3) Do you book yourself or use TA for your trips.

TIA
Camp
"He who dies with the most toys is still, nonetheless dead"

barnaclebob
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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a TA?

Post by barnaclebob » Wed Sep 17, 2014 12:10 pm

TA is probably a more common acronym for TripAdvisor.com these as travel agents die off with the rest of the baby boomers. I highly recommend using TripAdvisor.

I used a travel agent once for my honeymoon and probably wont again. I ended up using tripadvisor for most of my research and she just ended up booking everything.

I don't believe that they have special access to any kinds of deals anymore. If they do it goes to their own pocket.

Rupert
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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a TA?

Post by Rupert » Wed Sep 17, 2014 12:14 pm

There are still travel agents?

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Steelersfan
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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a TA?

Post by Steelersfan » Wed Sep 17, 2014 12:28 pm

I used a travel agent once about 1990 to book a cruise because at that time they did get special deals. I'm sure that time has passed. Other than that I've booked dozens of trips all over the U.S. and Europe entirely on my own.

Besides Tripadviser (probably the single best site), check the following for hotel costs and reviews:

booking.com
hotels.com
hrs.com

When it's time to book your hotel, check those sites but also go directly to the hotel site. Sometimes the rates are better on one than the other and availability varies too.

Reading forums is another good way to get insight on the best areas to stay and things to do. I like:

fodors.com
ricksteves.com

obgraham
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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a TA?

Post by obgraham » Wed Sep 17, 2014 12:39 pm

There is still a role for agents, but it is a declining one. In particular, most group travel (I know, that was another thread!) is handled by travel agents.

On some cruise line the TA has pull that you don't have as an individual -- getting a specific room, dealing with flight arrangements when they go wrong, and sometimes getting you a fat on-board credit.

But even there, I tell them what I want, not the other way around.

Otherwise, most travel I'm better off arranging myself -- suits my needs better, and I agree with the Trip Advisor recommend.

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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a TA?

Post by dumbbunny » Wed Sep 17, 2014 12:40 pm

I just completed planning a trip to Spain with 2 days in Madrid, Cordoba, Sevilla, Malaga and four days in Castillo de la Duquesa (visiting neighbors from the US). I used Tripadvisor at first and aborted and went to AAA Travel Services. But I was underwhelmed with their selections (they only deal with "bigger" lodging vendors) and so I only used AAA for a car rental for one leg of the trip. I went back to Tripadvisor planned the whole trip for lodging and trains.

The devil is in the details. For starters you need to call your credit card company to let them know you are going to make foreign transactions. Planning your own trip is a time commitment to say the least. Once you have all your confirmations a good app to use is Tripit. I just use the basic program.

Yes, TAs get commissions for booking you at hotels. Plus they charge you for their services. They will work with you if you have suggestions.

Best of luck.
“It’s the curse of old men to realize that in the end we control nothing." "Homeland" episode, "Gerontion"

jlawrence01
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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a TA?

Post by jlawrence01 » Wed Sep 17, 2014 12:57 pm

I have a lot of friends who are great travel agents. However, for the most part, I book my own travel. However, most of my travel is domestic.

I would use a travel agent to book a complicated foreign itinerary. However, I would use a specialist who is very familiar with the area I want to book.

I think that there is also a benefit to using travel agents for Disney and Las Vegas as there are packages that are available to travel agencies. I have never used them for that purpose but they have been able to find some great deals.

Beck49
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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a TA?

Post by Beck49 » Wed Sep 17, 2014 1:12 pm

We've been going to London the last few summers to visit our son. I did all the planning and background work without a travel agent, and in fact never considered it. It's a lot of work when starting from scratch, but with enough effort there is an answer on the Web for just about every question you might have. As others have said, I would start with Trip Advisor. I also chose an area with Google Maps, searched on hotels, etc, and then looked at every hotel that came up in the preferred location. You won't have any problem find something nice in that $300-$500 price range you mentioned. Things like how to take the Tube in from Heathrow can seem daunting, what's an Oyster card, a 7 day pass, etc. can be confusing, but we always found the service staff very helpful in every situation. Personally we found London a very walkable city so it makes navigating around the city all that much easier. Good luck.

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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a TA?

Post by technovelist » Wed Sep 17, 2014 1:18 pm

There's also airbnb, which I have never used but have heard good things about. Apparently you can save :moneybag compared to hotels.
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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a TA?

Post by Kosmo » Wed Sep 17, 2014 1:22 pm

We generally plan trips on our own. However, for an upcoming trip to Italy, we booked airfare, hotel, and a rental car through AAA. We paid a small premium for their services vs booking directly, but we saved hours and hours of finding the accommodations that met our needs. Certainly we plan daily events and local travel while on the trip on our own.

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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a TA?

Post by Professor Emeritus » Wed Sep 17, 2014 1:29 pm

I never use travel agents except in South Africa where my TA has been fantastic in cutting through the fog.

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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a TA?

Post by Lee Saage » Wed Sep 17, 2014 1:53 pm

A travel agent was helpful to me with a specific need a couple of years ago. We booked a long Mediterranean cruise with a port of embarkation in Rome that terminated in the U.S. We needed one-way tickets from San Francisco to Rome. Doing my own research, one-way tickets were often more expensive than round trip. Our travel agent worked with a consolidator who, apparently, purchased bulk airline tickets and was able to disaggregate trip legs. Through the travel agent, we purchased one-way tickets at a substantial discount to what was available online or directly from airlines.
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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a [travel agent]?

Post by DaftInvestor » Wed Sep 17, 2014 1:56 pm

What's a travel agent :)

Last time I used one it was quite a few years ago - but we were planning a more complex trip that included flights, cruise, land, etc. - thus I thought travel agent could help versus me stringing everything together myself. However - when our flights changed - the airline sent info about the change to the travel agent and the travel agent never sent it to us. When the cruise-line upgraded our cabin - the travel agent never notified us (so our luggage was originally marked with the incorrect cabin). To me - they are just a middleman where information can get lost (maybe I just had a bad travel agent - it was our local AAA office and they were recommended by others....). If I wasn't diligent and double-checking everything myself I would have missed these things and the flights which had been moved. If I have to be diligent - what is the travel agent doing for me. Never again... Cut out the middleman - do your own research and bookings.

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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a [travel agent]?

Post by jane1 » Wed Sep 17, 2014 2:07 pm

I always do my own planning and booking.
First thing - go to your public library and get a London/England guidebook. Fodor's, Rick Steves, Frommer's, Lonely Planet, etc all have the practical advice you need. i.e. how to get there, how to get around, where to stay, where to eat, what to see, etc. Look through them and see which ones align with your way of thinking. Also use their websites as well as rating/booking sites mentioned in the thread for asking questions and additional research.

Travel Agents hardly get any commission these days and also from limited number of places. So they will be somewhat biased.
You can book a tour if you don't want to figure out logistics on your own.

an_asker
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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a [travel agent]?

Post by an_asker » Wed Sep 17, 2014 2:19 pm

camptalcott wrote:So I've decided to visit London UK next summer (feel free to flood me with tips) and I'm beginning researching. I don't have any personal ta so I went to the local liberty travel agent.

While the agent is very nice, we don't seemed to be meshing. basically I told her what type of hotels I like and what she seems to keep suggesting isn't what I like. maybe it's a communication thing. I did not give her a specific dollar amount as at the time I did not know what hotels in the UK ran. I am from NYC so 300-500 a night would not "shock" me.

so my questions are?

1) do TA's get some sort of kickback for steering guest to certain hotels. She seems insistent on Ibis and doubletree lines.
2) will a TA work with you if you give suggestions on properties you like
3) Do you book yourself or use TA for your trips.

TIA
Camp
1) They probably do.
2) Some of them might.
3) We have historically planned our trips by ourselves. The only times I can remember using a travel agent, ironically, was for the two cruises we have taken. Ironic because a cruise is where there is not really much to plan, as they are all inclusive deals other than the excursions which we did not buy through the agents anyway! The jury is still out on whether we got a better deal through the agent or not.

Re: Europe trips, I have been trying to get something put together for a trip of our own, but it is yet to get off the pie-in-the-sky stage. And as for going to tripadvisor.com, I would suggest you don't go there. Let me put it this way - I like Bogleheads as they are for the most part a friendly group. On tripadvisor, when I made it sound like my idea of travelling* (spending a day in a place and moving on, i.e., visiting maybe 2-3 countries over just over a week) did not match theirs (stay put in a place and immerse yourself in the local culture), I opened myself to some ridicule. It was definitely not pleasant.

* - I have come around to their way of thinking to an extent - like, maybe stay for a week in one country but different cities - but that still does not excuse the attitude I came across.

SRenaeP
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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a [travel agent]?

Post by SRenaeP » Wed Sep 17, 2014 3:14 pm

an_asker wrote: 1) They probably do.
2) Some of them might.
3) We have historically planned our trips by ourselves. The only times I can remember using a travel agent, ironically, was for the two cruises we have taken. Ironic because a cruise is where there is not really much to plan, as they are all inclusive deals other than the excursions which we did not buy through the agents anyway! The jury is still out on whether we got a better deal through the agent or not.

Re: Europe trips, I have been trying to get something put together for a trip of our own, but it is yet to get off the pie-in-the-sky stage. And as for going to tripadvisor.com, I would suggest you don't go there. Let me put it this way - I like Bogleheads as they are for the most part a friendly group. On tripadvisor, when I made it sound like my idea of travelling* (spending a day in a place and moving on, i.e., visiting maybe 2-3 countries over just over a week) did not match theirs (stay put in a place and immerse yourself in the local culture), I opened myself to some ridicule. It was definitely not pleasant.

* - I have come around to their way of thinking to an extent - like, maybe stay for a week in one country but different cities - but that still does not excuse the attitude I came across.
What I've found helpful in putting together international trips is to find recommended itineraries from various tour companies and mimic them on my own. That gives you a good starting point but also allows you to customize to your tastes. It's often cheaper when you DIY as well.

-Steph

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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a [travel agent]?

Post by Aptenodytes » Wed Sep 17, 2014 3:19 pm

Good travel agents used to be indispensable. Now they are practically non-existent. Sadly, the on-line tools have not yet caught up to what the good agents used to be able to do.

an_asker
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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a [travel agent]?

Post by an_asker » Wed Sep 17, 2014 3:30 pm

Aptenodytes wrote:Good travel agents used to be indispensable. Now they are practically non-existent. Sadly, the on-line tools have not yet caught up to what the good agents used to be able to do.
Sorry to go off-topic, but I agree. There is only so much trip chaining and kid-swapping between vacation-days-challenged parents* that can be done via online. I bet it used to be much easier with "real" agents.

*sample the following itinerary:

- father takes minor kld(s) to destination/family
- after two weeks, father returns
- kid(s) stay at destination/family for some time
- mother goes to destination/family
- after two weeks, mother returns with kid(s)
- In this case, I have not been able to purchase round-trip ticket for the kid at the kid's rate because there is no one accompanying adult

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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a [travel agent]?

Post by an_asker » Wed Sep 17, 2014 3:32 pm

SRenaeP wrote:
an_asker wrote: 1) They probably do.
2) Some of them might.
3) We have historically planned our trips by ourselves. The only times I can remember using a travel agent, ironically, was for the two cruises we have taken. Ironic because a cruise is where there is not really much to plan, as they are all inclusive deals other than the excursions which we did not buy through the agents anyway! The jury is still out on whether we got a better deal through the agent or not.

Re: Europe trips, I have been trying to get something put together for a trip of our own, but it is yet to get off the pie-in-the-sky stage. And as for going to tripadvisor.com, I would suggest you don't go there. Let me put it this way - I like Bogleheads as they are for the most part a friendly group. On tripadvisor, when I made it sound like my idea of travelling* (spending a day in a place and moving on, i.e., visiting maybe 2-3 countries over just over a week) did not match theirs (stay put in a place and immerse yourself in the local culture), I opened myself to some ridicule. It was definitely not pleasant.

* - I have come around to their way of thinking to an extent - like, maybe stay for a week in one country but different cities - but that still does not excuse the attitude I came across.
What I've found helpful in putting together international trips is to find recommended itineraries from various tour companies and mimic them on my own. That gives you a good starting point but also allows you to customize to your tastes. It's often cheaper when you DIY as well.

-Steph
+1. This is the direction I have been headed. Had some friends recently return from a two week swing through four countries. I am trying to mimic half of it ... in half the time. Besides, I have seen groupons by this travel agency (forget the name - gate1 or something) where they have an 'independent' vacation priced out from NY. Hey, that might just work for OP.

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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a [travel agent]?

Post by SRenaeP » Wed Sep 17, 2014 3:35 pm

an_asker wrote:
Aptenodytes wrote:Good travel agents used to be indispensable. Now they are practically non-existent. Sadly, the on-line tools have not yet caught up to what the good agents used to be able to do.
Sorry to go off-topic, but I agree. There is only so much trip chaining and kid-swapping between vacation-days-challenged parents* that can be done via online. I bet it used to be much easier with "real" agents.

*sample the following itinerary:

- father takes minor kld(s) to destination/family
- after two weeks, father returns
- kid(s) stay at destination/family for some time
- mother goes to destination/family
- after two weeks, mother returns with kid(s)
- In this case, I have not been able to purchase round-trip ticket for the kid at the kid's rate because there is no one accompanying adult
If all three tickets would be on the same airline, it seems like you would be able to call with mom's and dad's confirmation numbers and book the kid's ticket since you can prove an adult will be on each leg.

-Steph

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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a [travel agent]?

Post by SRenaeP » Wed Sep 17, 2014 3:40 pm

an_asker wrote:
SRenaeP wrote:
an_asker wrote: 1) They probably do.
2) Some of them might.
3) We have historically planned our trips by ourselves. The only times I can remember using a travel agent, ironically, was for the two cruises we have taken. Ironic because a cruise is where there is not really much to plan, as they are all inclusive deals other than the excursions which we did not buy through the agents anyway! The jury is still out on whether we got a better deal through the agent or not.

Re: Europe trips, I have been trying to get something put together for a trip of our own, but it is yet to get off the pie-in-the-sky stage. And as for going to tripadvisor.com, I would suggest you don't go there. Let me put it this way - I like Bogleheads as they are for the most part a friendly group. On tripadvisor, when I made it sound like my idea of travelling* (spending a day in a place and moving on, i.e., visiting maybe 2-3 countries over just over a week) did not match theirs (stay put in a place and immerse yourself in the local culture), I opened myself to some ridicule. It was definitely not pleasant.

* - I have come around to their way of thinking to an extent - like, maybe stay for a week in one country but different cities - but that still does not excuse the attitude I came across.
What I've found helpful in putting together international trips is to find recommended itineraries from various tour companies and mimic them on my own. That gives you a good starting point but also allows you to customize to your tastes. It's often cheaper when you DIY as well.

-Steph
+1. This is the direction I have been headed. Had some friends recently return from a two week swing through four countries. I am trying to mimic half of it ... in half the time. Besides, I have seen groupons by this travel agency (forget the name - gate1 or something) where they have an 'independent' vacation priced out from NY. Hey, that might just work for OP.
Gate 1 is the agency I mimicked for a trip to Greece last year. Their site is particularly nice since it gives multiple hotel options of varying price ranges as well as suggested tours, etc. Funny enough, we actually ended up arriving at the airport around the same time as the Gate 1 participants and were able to ride on their van (we paid of course) to the hotel. When the participants saw us again at the second hotel, they started talking to us and we explained what we did. They were a bit disappointed to find out they paid more than we did for the almost exact same trip. Also, when we saw them at the third hotel, they were even more upset because they took a terrible ferry ride (multiple hours standing room only) whereas we had opted for a flight for that leg.

-Steph

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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a [travel agent]?

Post by Watty » Wed Sep 17, 2014 3:41 pm

A good starting point would be to get the Rick Steve's books and then just look at booking the hotels he recommends yourself.

It is way too early to be booking hotels for next summer unless there is some big event where you are going to.

You will have a much more enjoyable trip if you don’t stay at the large chain hotels which will be nearly identical to what you could stay at in the US.
I am from NYC so 300-500 a night would not "shock" me.
You could pay that in London but you could do just fine but you should be able to do fine for about half that or even less depending on how busy the hotels will be when you are there. When I am traveling I rarely spend much time at a hotel so as long as it is clean, quiet, and in a decent location there is not any reason to pay a lot for someplace fancy. Outside of London they will me much less expensive.

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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a [travel agent]?

Post by prudent » Wed Sep 17, 2014 4:05 pm

Used a travel agent on one vacation. We were going to Alaska (inland, not cruise) and had a bunch of specific activities we wanted to do, after researching. I spent too many hours trying to make everything fit in to a reasonable sequence and kept running into "date not available" for some activities I tried to book.

Ended up contacting a travel agent in Alaska and sent them a list of what we wanted to do in our 9 days, and when we wanted to arrive. They made it all work and we got all the activities we wanted - many on dates that were showing unavailable when I tried to book, and even got an upgrade on the Alaska RR to Gold Star level. Didn't cost any extra to use them.

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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a [travel agent]?

Post by KyleAAA » Wed Sep 17, 2014 4:32 pm

London is more expensive than NYC but the $300-500 range is totally doable while still staying in or near The City. At that price range, it should be pretty trivial to just book your own. Are there any hotel brands you particularly like? London has everything.

I have never liked travel agents, personally, because I don't like to plan that much and for things like booking airfare and a hotel, you can do it easier yourself.

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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a [travel agent]?

Post by retire2044 » Wed Sep 17, 2014 4:45 pm

My wife and I traveled to London last year and we did the planning on our own. There are several great recommendations on the posts above, but here are a few things we did that helped with planning our trip.
1) We used Orbitz to book our flight. We were flexible in our dates to travel, so we searched different time frames to find the best deal. We ended up going in October, non peak season, but most attractions in London operate in most weather conditions (rain). I searched for flights for over a month until I found tickets in the range we were looking for and then we purchased immediately. You don't want to wait too long, as prices change quite often.
2) We used Hotels.com to search for our hotel. There are many great hotels in London, but many are a bit pricey. We did not care where our exact location was since we were planning on using the tube, but we ended up staying in Westminster at a DoubleTree hotel. Nothing fancy, but much nicer than our previous trips to Europe where we have stayed in hostels. It all depends on what you are looking for in a hotel. I think we paid $180 per night for 5 nights and we were pleased with that rate.
3) Do a Google search and read up on the 2 for 1 deals with a TravelCard. This was a bit confusing at first for me to figure out, but have research we had it down. Basically, you can buy a one day TravelCard that can be used on both the Tube and overground train system. The key is to purchase the card at a National Rail station, not just a Tube station (Research the distance). Once you purchase the ticket, you can use it with a voucher to get 2 people into an attraction for the price of one. We didn't do this everyday, but the days we went to the Tower of London and Tower Bridge Exhibition we used it and saved some money. It took some planning, but I think it was worth it. Do some research on the 2 for 1 deal and see if it interests you.
4) My wife and I typically like to go without an itinerary while traveling, but for London we made a list of places we wanted to see and then I used Google maps to get an idea where everything was geographically, from there we grouped things together and determined what days we needed a Tube pass and what days we would walk. We enjoyed walking through the city, and it was easy to navigate. Plus, there is always a cool pub to stop in and have a pint once in awhile.
5) We are not fancy eaters for the most part, so we ate a lot of pub food (nothing special) and different coffee shops for lunch. TripAdvisor is handy to give you an overview of some of the best rated restaurants in the categories you are looking for.
6) Check to see if your mobile carrier has a monthly international option. We have Verizon and were able to add international for the week. We used the phone to look for directions, search for restaurants, send text messages and call back to the states to check in on our son. It was very handy and after all the calls and texts only cost $50 for the week total.

I hope some of this information helps. London is a great city to explore. I feel the best part about planning your own vacation is you can tailor it exactly to your own needs. It does take some research, but for me it makes the vacation that much more enjoyable! Cheers!

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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a [travel agent]?

Post by Lynette » Wed Sep 17, 2014 4:56 pm

I don't know a good travel agent so I plan my own trips unless I'm going on a conducted tour. Out of season hotels are much cheaper. I buy several guide books. The first ting I do is to get a map of the metro or underground. I always stay close to a metro stop. It's much cheaper if one stays a little out of town. In addition one gets to see the locals.

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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a [travel agent]?

Post by gator15 » Wed Sep 17, 2014 6:06 pm

When traveling domestically for vacation I plan my own trips. I use the same travel agent whenever I vacation internationally. She is great! I'm sure I can plan the trips myself, but she has done good work for me in the past and continues to do good work so I rely on her for vacation planning. She won my business long term a few years ago when a friend and I wanted to visit Australia and New Zealand and she booked the trip. A few days before the trip she informed us she could add Fiji to the trip for three days for a couple hundred dollars. We were blown away as we hadn't thought of visiting Fiji and we didn't think it would be so cheap. Overall, the trip was a success and was one of the best experiences of my life. She has planned several other trips internationally which have been a success and now my brother uses her due to the work she does.

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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a [travel agent]?

Post by MathWizard » Wed Sep 17, 2014 6:22 pm

My wife normally plans our trips and does a good job.
On an earlier trip to Italy, she booked the hotels, and I handled the train travel just by
walking up to a kiosk and purchasing tickets. I booked in Italian, though only knowing a few phrases.
She was quite uncomfortable with that though I liked the adventure.
(I once got us on the slow crowded local, but we always got to the correct destination.)

For the France trip, she wanted the hotels, train tickets and car rentals booked in advance,
so she went through a travel agent, and was thoroughly frustrated. But it all worked out fine in the end.

I use a travel agent with business.
With the travel agent, it seems they want you to just say:
I want to be in the cities on these days,
I want an aisle seat, I prefer United or American Airlines or other airline,
I want 3 or 4 star hotels, and
send me the bill.

It will be more expensive than the cheapest you can find, but much less hassle.

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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a [travel agent]?

Post by livesoft » Wed Sep 17, 2014 6:39 pm

Just booked a 16 day trip to NYC without a travel agent. I've used travel agents and also done things myself over the years.

My former employer owned a travel agency because of all the travel employees did, but in recent years many employees just booked their own travel online because one can really get it done better. For instance, instead of going back-and-forth with the agent about which flight on the travel day (morning, afternoon, evening, etc) one could do it themselves and take into account things like type of plane, how full the flight was, and some tricks. For instance, here's a trick: Book a flight on the next to last plane out of an airport that is almost sold out. Then volunteer to get bumped to the next flight that day which will be the last flight out. Free tickets almost every time! Do NOT book the last flight out though. :)

Of course, doing your own bookings is much easier if you have already been to the place you are going, so you already know the hotel (example: in London, I recommend the Holiday Inn Kensington next to the Gloucester tube station and on the line from LHR). OTOH, I have been pleasantly surprised at all the deals I've gotten going to new places. The internet is wonderful at sussing those out.
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jdb
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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a [travel agent]?

Post by jdb » Wed Sep 17, 2014 7:20 pm

prudent wrote:Used a travel agent on one vacation. We were going to Alaska (inland, not cruise) and had a bunch of specific activities we wanted to do, after researching. I spent too many hours trying to make everything fit in to a reasonable sequence and kept running into "date not available" for some activities I tried to book.

Ended up contacting a travel agent in Alaska and sent them a list of what we wanted to do in our 9 days, and when we wanted to arrive. They made it all work and we got all the activities we wanted - many on dates that were showing unavailable when I tried to book, and even got an upgrade on the Alaska RR to Gold Star level. Didn't cost any extra to use them.
This segues into my suggestion, if want to use an agent try to get recommendation of a travel agent in destination venue. Had very nice week in Iceland last month, touring country on our own, but engaged Iceland agency to make room reservations each night. Worked great and we think had better service since the owners of accommodations each wanted to please the local travel agent.

leonard
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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a [travel agent]?

Post by leonard » Wed Sep 17, 2014 7:33 pm

Set a budget.
Set an itinerary.
Book according to itinerary - negotiating prices directly to save money.

Not seeing how a travel agent adds value when the internet will turn up more options than they will.
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Copper John
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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a [travel agent]?

Post by Copper John » Wed Sep 17, 2014 8:11 pm

It depends on your destination and the complexity of your trip. Most of my travel in the last 10 years has been to Africa on various wild life viewing focused trips. I have created my own itinerary for almost all of these trips.

I have used travel agents about 1/2 of the time. Most of the time I knew much more about the camps that I have chosen and other details about my trip than the agent. The times I have used agents it is usually because, the camps that I have targeted prefer not to take direct bookings , the camps would only take wire transfers instead of credit cards or I have a fairly complex itinerary involving camps owned by different companies and I need an agent to book the in-country transfers.

On these trips I have not found that I have saved money by direct booking. In almost all cases the camps do not want to undercut the agents promoting their properties. I have just booked a trip to the Masai Mara in Kenya and booked directly with the camps. The camps are all owned by one company and they will book the in-country air transfers for me. They take credit cards and I chose to book directly because it would be more direct, quicker and for an experienced traveler as myself I will not need the hand holding a travel agent would offer. The price would be almost either way. The one benefit an agent would provide in this case is an agent may be easier to get hold of if problems occur with your international travel that causes major delays in your trip.

denovo
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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a [travel agent]?

Post by denovo » Wed Sep 17, 2014 8:22 pm

Since no one has mentioned, I like to supplement tripadvisor with wikitravel.
"Don't trust everything you read on the Internet"- Abraham Lincoln

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nedsaid
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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a [travel agent]?

Post by nedsaid » Wed Sep 17, 2014 9:34 pm

I have both used travel agents and planned my own trips. When I took my first trip to Europe, I used a travel agent to book a bus tour. I wanted some practical advice as this was my first trip there. The next year, I booked a trip through a discount website but used the travel agent to book the day tours. The last two years, I have booked the tours all by myself through the same website.

For a travel agent, it is a much harder business than pre-internet days. If an agent has personally traveled to the places you are going, you can get good value added advice and guidance. In many cases you can do yourself what a travel agent does.

A travel agent planned a Canada train trip for me and I got a nice notebook from the travel company with the itinerary, train tickets, useful information, etc. I thought this was a great idea and I planned a nice train trip down the east coast of the United States. I put the itinerary, commuter train and subway information, maps, emergency contact information, etc. I would put my travel vouchers in there as well. I put together my own little guide book similar to what the travel company had done the year before. I got a lot of information from Wikipedia.

In 2011, I took a Trafalgar Bus Tour in Europe. The tour guide went around to each of us conducting tour business and I pulled out my home-made guidebook. The tour guide who had been doing this for thirty years was impressed. He asked, "Where did you learn to do that?" I told him that I got the idea from a travel company and had been making my own guidebook for each trip since.
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john94549
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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a [travel agent]?

Post by john94549 » Wed Sep 17, 2014 9:37 pm

A bit of history. My wife and I own a Condo in a professionally-managed resort in Maui. Most condos in the resort are rented through a management company. The management company has long-standing affiliations with travel agents.

Connect the dots. Clients of the travel agents generally get better service. Travel agents shoehorn during slow periods. Those clients get the better discounts.

I understand folks swear by AirBnB or whatever it's called. Or VRBO. Or whatever.

Suffice it to say the old adage "you get what you pay for" is still alive and kicking in vacation rentals. AirBnB or VRBO, or whatever, if you've spent multi-thousands to get there, and it's a pit, what's the point?

Travel agent clients, just this last month (regarded as high season), got a huge discount on rack rate at the Kaanapali Alii.

Ready3Retire
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Location: Midwest

Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a [travel agent]?

Post by Ready3Retire » Wed Sep 17, 2014 9:50 pm

Some useful links I used in planning a London family trip last summer:
http://www.londontoolkit.com/
http://www.tfl.gov.uk/
http://www.visitlondon.com/
http://www.ricksteves.com/europe/england/london
http://www.walks.com/


P.S. We did not use a travel agent.

killjoy2012
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Re: Do you plan trips on your own or use a [travel agent]?

Post by killjoy2012 » Wed Sep 17, 2014 10:32 pm

A travel agent is a dieing profession. There's very few cases where they're that beneficial/needed. A trip to London is certainly not one of those cases, unless maybe you're a busy executive/doctor that doesn't have time to plan the trip and just would rather pay someone to do it for them. In all other cases, TripAdvisor.com is all you need. I've planned dozens of trips to the UK, greater Europe and the Middle East using nothing but the TripAdvisor Forums.

London is a very expensive city, easily equivalent to NYC. Ibis is known for budget, clean but smaller rooms, no frills hotels that are placed in very good locations at very competitive prices. Ibis would be equivalent to a low end Holiday Inn. A couple of the Ibis's I've stayed at, as an example, the bathroom resembled what you would find in cruise ship cabin bathroom (all plastic, very tight, space efficient). If you're very young and don't care, or if you're only there for one night - Ibis is fine. But they provide very little else other than a locked room with a bed, TV and small bathroom (period). Doubletree would be on par quality-wise with what they have in the USA. If you're looking for a good value hotel that are often in very good locations, but nicer than Ibis, I would check out Premier Inns. I stayed at the Premier Inn - Blackfriars location last Fall and it was an awesome room vs. price balance - I'll certainly be staying there again. But it isn't a 5 star, Four Seasons level of hotel if that's what you're looking for.

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