Travel agent or self-help for Australia bookings?

Jan 9th, 2003, 04:05 PM
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Travel agent or self-help for Australia bookings?

Dec. 21, 2003 into January 2004 (total nearly 4 weeks) have group of 5 (maybe 7) going from US Midwest to Australia, pick up 2 more in Australia.

Tentative itinerary is stopover 1 night in Hawaii on the way (just two sleep!), spend Christmas week or so in Adelaide area (where we pick up the 2 Ozzies), then to East Coast. Want to fly to do 3 day Whitsundays cruise and Great Barrier Reef, fly to Brisbane, rent vehicle and take a leisurely drive back to Sydney, have at least 4 or 5 days in Sydney before we head home.

We know we need to book early because it's the crowded school holiday season. Are we better off to work with travel agent, get one of those Qantas passes that lets you take several flights within Australia, or try to book everything ourselves on the net or with the help of the Ozzies? If travel agent, any recommendations for who to use? Better off with one in US or Australia?

Other advice or recommendations for good places to stay along the East Coast? We know we will spend a little time in wine county around Adelaide and would love to find a good winery with a B&B in the Granite Belt or Hunter Valley (they call them "agriturismos" in Italy)
Jan 9th, 2003, 06:32 PM
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Hi, Karen!
Normally, when people ask this question, my answer is always: don't book ahead and don't deal with an agent, just come on in and do it yourself. However, I am aware that you are coming at the time of year when the east coast is VERY tight for accommodation, due to the school holidays, so I think perhaps you might be wise to book ahead, especially seeing that you are quite a large group. I always thought that the Barrier Reef was at its peak tourist season is January also, but another reliable poster on this site (Liz -- I expect she'll be chiming in with some sound advice any time) assures us that this is actually low season there, so possibly you won't need to book ahead for that part of the trip.
I still don't think I would use an agent... instead, try doing it yourself through the net booking sites, or, if you want to save some money, browse through some of the hotel suggestions on this site and ring them directly.
Note that while accommodation is at a premium at this time, plane travel has, it seems, several alarming dips in usage, and the domestic carriers often advertise quite amazing last-minute specials, esp. between Christmas and New Year, to fill up empty seats (Virgin Blue had some beauties a couple of weeks back, including Sydney to Adelaide for $AUD66, which is less than the bus fare and a lot less than petrol costs!) So, if possible, stay flexible so that you can take advantage of these opportunities. If you plan to hire, there are companies with eight-seater vehicles, but I hear that there's not much space left over for your luggage.
I will now leave the other "regulars" on the board to get more specific. As your plans start to come together, maybe you will post again, and we will do what we can to assist. Good luck!
Jan 9th, 2003, 09:48 PM
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The GBR and Granite Belt will be fine for accommodation. There are some wonderful B&Bs in Stanthorpe ( Granite Belt ) and some really nice colonial cottages - one lot is very near the Heritage winery and I have looked at those and they are really lovely. If you do a search on for accommodation in that area it should help. Also check out the other areas that you are looking at going to. Perhaps it may be a good idea to email them now and say that you are not sure of dates or something to that effect so how heavily booked would they be at that time of year. Although it is the holiday season there is always lots of available accommodation available. Last year for instance I got some people a rate of $99Au per night for a room at the Royal Pines on the Gold Coast which is a 5 star golf estate. I would be doing the trip myself if I was you because that way you can remain flexible and its easier that way.
Jan 10th, 2003, 01:19 PM
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Karen , There is a company in Australia which specialises in doing exactly what you want. It takes one phone call from you. They will pick you all up in Adelaide and fly you low level all the way to the Geat Barrier Reef and back to Sydney. From Adelaide they will do the Barossa Valley , the Great Ocean Road (12 apostles etc)the snowy mountains,South East N.SW.out back NSW ,Victoria, Qld and S.A. Sydney, the East Coast of N.S.W. the blue mountaints, the Hunter Valley the east coast of qld several Islands including Haggerstone, Lizard, and Hayman , etc etc. They will book every thing including your sailing in the Whitsundays if thats what you want.
As I said you need to make one call and the very best of Australia will be layed out in front of you over a 2, 3 , or 4 week tour. Your choice. With 5 or 7 people travelling you will find the cost very competitive. Because they are locals and have specialised in this sort of work for two decades, nothing will be left out. You will see so much more than trying to cover those sorts of distances by your self.
You can have 5 star B&Bs Farm Stays Aussie pubs or Bush Camps in amazing places which most people have not yet even heard about in this country. Pete.
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Jan 10th, 2003, 05:40 PM
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Pete, that is a very strong recommendation for doing it with a tour group, and a great plug for Daintreeair... but, may I ask, are you an agent, and do you have an interest in this organisation (I notice that on another post you offer to plan a 9-day itinerary-- tours, accommodation, everything -- for another poster). If this is the case, it might be politic of you to let Karen know this so that she is fully-informed.
Jan 11th, 2003, 02:15 AM
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I checked out daintree's website, and there is not really a lot of info about the custom tours. Am not yet ready to ask for e-mail quote, since itinerary is up in the air. I'm allowing as how Pete doesn't sound totally unbiased!

The website Liz mentioned is great--so many great sounding places to choose from!

Thanks for all the comments.

Jan 11th, 2003, 11:49 AM
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Jan 11th, 2003, 11:53 AM
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Pete works/owns or operates out of Daintree air. Do a search of Daintree Air on this site & you will find that Pete has chipped in with lots of advertisement for that company. He also has a lot of knowledge of Qantas timetables and routes etc.
Hardly unbiased in any way.
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