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DIY –v- Tour operator/ Hotel booking direct –v- agencies

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I thought I would share my recent experiences in planning our next Asia trip.

I have recently booked the following trip flying with Eva Air from London to Bangkok. 90% of the time I make my own arrangements online rather than use a tour operator, it is cheaper and a lot more fun. Until I asked a number of tour operators to price the same trip I really didn’t appreciate how much I was saving.

The trip:

1. Arrive BKK and fly to Chiang Rai – transfer to Anantara for three nights
2. Transfer to Chiang Khong, ferry to Houeixay and boat to Pakbeng, overnight at Pakbeng Lodge
3. Boat to Luang Prabang for trekking around LP with Tiger Trails – 2nights at Lao Spirit resort and 2 nights village homestay
4. 4 nights in LP at 3 Nagas (3 Nagas Suite)
5. Fly to BKK for 3 nights in Club room at Conrad (deal includes 2 way airport limo)
6. Back home

The saving by DIY averaged 50% of the packaged tour cost i.e. a 100% mark up!

As far as hotel bookings were concerned, I tried the mainstream online agencies Ebookers, Expedia, Travelocity etc. and invariably found them more expensive, sometime by a little, sometimes by a massive amount. I then tried the Asian based online agents such as asiarooms, sawatdee, huahin many of which I found on this board etc. and found that they too were more expensive, although not by as much. The only exception to this was the Anantara where I booked through www.slh.com where for slh members the rate was slightly cheaper and guaranteed and upgrade to the next highest room if available

On booking with the hotels it was sometimes harder work, particularly in Laos where the IT & telecoms infrastructure can, occasionally, prove a little problematic. But overall, it was more rewarding as I found it easier to arrange the extra touches e.g. particular rooms, special anniversary dinners etc. The ultimate test was that I found it less expensive, sometime much less, to book direct with the hotel.

On no occasion was I asked to pay a deposit, just credit card details and in all cases there was no penalty if cancelled more than 14 days before arrival.

As far as the flights were concerned, I found the international flights were cheapest through ebookers but the Thai & bangkok airways were cheaper on their respective websites.

I will check the online agencies again closer to our departure next March, but am I missing a trick somewhere with these agencies.

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