Travel Agent or not to Travel Agent

Jul 10th, 2018, 05:15 PM
  #1  
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Travel Agent or not to Travel Agent

We really want to go to the Carribean (we are open to where) in the next year. I have been pretty dissapointed in the travel agents we have talked to. They do not follow up. They do not seem real engaged in making it happen. I get deals from Apple and Groupon and I see some amazing deals. When I asked on TA about something I saw on Apple she was very dissmisive stating they are always very limited and usually seel out right away. This certainly would be a poor tactic if true. I also wonder if the TA is looking out for themselves by not offering to the special pricing. Perhaps it cuts into their commission. So my questions are as follows-

1. Do you think booking with Travel Agents is the way to go?
2. If not, is it difficult to manage a trip on your own with things like arraingingtransportations to and from the airport.

My concern with #2 would be overlooking something signifigant that would leave us stranded.
bwill is offline  
Jul 10th, 2018, 06:21 PM
  #2  
 
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I haven't used a travel agent in decades. You can easily book your flights and hotels online. Get yourself a good guidebook for where you want to go and read about what you will want/need. Airport transportation is usually very simple - go to the taxi desk or taxi rank and get one. The guidebook will tell you whether the taxi will be fixed price or whether you need to make sure the driver turns on the meter.

Groupon offers travel "packages" and there are other sources for these to consider if you are looking for easy and cheap: Costco, for instance, or AAA. Both of these are reputable. I wouldn't guarantee that the agencies arranging packages for Groupon are reputable. Also, sometimes airlines will offer packages. Read carefully to know what is/is not included ion the price.
Kathie is offline  
Jul 10th, 2018, 07:03 PM
  #3  
 
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Most of the regular contributors on this forum don’t use travel arrangements and make their own arrangements.

While at first it may seem a little intimidating if you just take your time you’ll find it is really easy. The internet is your friend. You can use the various travel websites to research package deals our book everything separately by using airline and hotel websites. Just do some basic research to decide what island you wish to visit, then you can identify resorts on that island and visit the resorts’ websites to help you decide where to stay.
RoamsAround is online now  
Jul 11th, 2018, 06:30 AM
  #4  
 
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I haven't used a travel agent in over 30 years. A trip to the Caribbean should be pretty simple to manage on your own. I don't know much about Groupon or Apple but there are many websites available for you to research airfares, hotels, restaurants, transportation, etc.
tom42 is offline  
Jul 11th, 2018, 06:31 AM
  #5  
 
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Using a good TA or travel company is never a guarantee that everything will always go perfectly. All kinds of things happen, especially while traveling. Like weather or an accident, it is often no one's fault.

A TA may not look for only the cheapest deal, but the best value overall. They may work primarily with a few companies they know well and have found reliable.

One thing that may go along with those "good deals" you see is time of year and which flights they include in the package.

Best flights for me are not the cheap ones requiring me to leave my home in the middle of the night to catch a flight that leaves at an ungodly early hour, or flights requiring multiple stops and long layovers. When you book a discount package, you may have little choice. That is my major reason for not buying package travel.

The cheapest packages may also be in the worst seasons. Weather is important to me personally, and time of year will also affect what you see in some places, like Alaska. A good TA should at least mention that. The package seller will not. It is something you need to know for yourself.

I think the TA is right. The really best deals do sell out quickly. You need to know what you want and jump on it when you see it.

You say you are open. That sounds good on the surface and it is good to be a little flexible, but the Caribbean offers so much variety, it may be impossible for a TA to pick for you. Do you want mostly relaxing on a beach, an AI resort, touristy clubs and shopping, lots of sports activities, quiet and private? You need to read about different islands, figure out what would suit you and narrow things down.

Just throwing this out for thought. Many of the package deals are for resort stays. If that appeals to you, you might enjoy a cruise that lets you sample several islands. Even then, however, you still have decisions to make. Elegant, older-crowd ship or younger vibe with more bands and parties? Lots of fun in the planning. There are a couple of experts on the forum here who live in the Caribbean. Consider your desires. Ask questions.
Sassafrass is offline  
Jul 11th, 2018, 09:28 AM
  #6  
 
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No I have never used a travel agent. I've always planned my own trips. My thinking is no one cares more about how things turn out than I do. At least 50 trips total, between Europe, the Caribbean (Jamaica, USVI, the DR), Mexico (Cabo, La Paz, PV), Hawaii. And in this day and age with the internet, it's really quite simple once you get the hang of it.

IF you do feel the need to use a Travel Agent, I'd want to choose someone with specific expertise in the country I was visiting, not just someone selling generic packaged deals from their desk.

I personally would likely consider getting help for destinations more exotic than I felt comfortable doing on my own, like if I were going to Egypt, China, Africa.

I do agree with the TA that those "deals" you see are often teasers, that disappear as you go to actually book them.
suze is offline  
Jul 11th, 2018, 03:13 PM
  #7  
 
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Funny to see this posted, as today call the TA my daughter & s-i-l have used in all their business/personal vacations over 15 years; but I am a researcher, and over the last 20-30 years, have done my own arrangements with exception of our first cruise (Baltic on Celebrity), and a tour to Spain with friends who used their friend (who messed up their tickets to Alhambra and their flight to Portugal!). All our domestic and overseas trips I plan myself, and we have experienced no glitsches. However, we are planning a 3-generation trip next year to Atlantis on Paradise Island, and given the costs there (which I have already collected from them directly), am throwing it to this experienced agent, who asked me more details about our needs/arrangements and seems actually more thorough than am I. I want to see if she comes up with better deals than our getting four rooms at the Royal -- have six adults and six kids aged 9-15, one special needs. If I dont like her bottom lline, guess I'll just call the 1-800- Atlantis number again and book it. We hope to use mileage for alot of the flights, but that is never easy and typically tenuous to obtain even 11 months ahead. Travel planning is my favorite hobby for sure. You need guidebooks, the internet, and of course Fodors Forum!!
aliced is offline  
Jul 11th, 2018, 05:41 PM
  #8  
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Thank you for all the feedback. It appears a TA is not required. I like the idea of the guide book. Seems like a good first place to start.

A lot of travel vets on this thread I see. Any recommendations on a Carribean destination? Looking for an all inclusive. Clean, safe resort but something that will not break the bank like Bermuda/Virgin Islands.

ALso, how long am I limited to two posts in 24 hours? That is brutal!!!
bwill is offline  
Jul 11th, 2018, 05:58 PM
  #9  
 
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You’ll find lots of budget friendly All Inclusives in the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Cancun and Cozumel.
RoamsAround is online now  
Jul 12th, 2018, 04:49 AM
  #10  
 
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Your best bet for reasonably priced all inclusive resorts would be Mexico, Jamaica, and Dominican Republic.
schmerl is offline  
Jul 12th, 2018, 04:17 PM
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https://www.cheapcaribbean.com/

This is a handy website to start your planning. I think it will help show you what you can get in the various price points and you can specify "All Inclusive" in your search.

I vacation regularly in Mexico but have never stayed at an AI myself. I prefer just a regular hotel or renting an apartment and eating out around town. I wouldn't like feeling tied to a resort property (but that's just me).

The Fodor's time limit about posting goes away after 6 posts (i think it is). It's to try to control the SPAM this forum was getting hit bad in the past.
suze is offline  
Jul 12th, 2018, 04:49 PM
  #12  
 
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What's a travel agent?
Melnq8 is online now  
Jul 13th, 2018, 05:56 AM
  #13  
 
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Regarding sites like "Cheap Caribbean," they can be a useful tool but don't automatically think that it is offering the best deal. A friend of mine recently asked me what I thought about a three night vacation package to Puerto Rico. While the price wasn't bad it didn't seem like any great bargain so I went on Expedia and found the exact same trip with the same flights and room category at the same hotel for about $200 cheaper than the Cheap Caribbean price. My point being is that you really need to look at numerous different sites, including the airlines own site before booking.
tom42 is offline  
Jul 13th, 2018, 11:31 AM
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I agree. Don't necessarily book thru that website.

But it's a good tool (especially for a newbie) for researching and to get a general idea what's on offer and what it will cost.

Personally after finding a few I liked, I'd check pricing to book directly with the hotel or resort(s) I was interested in.
suze is offline  
Dec 12th, 2018, 05:05 AM
  #15  
 
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I used travel agents years ago. After the last trip to Europe using one, I did a side by side comparison with the TA's charges for everything and actual posted charges, and discovered we paid at least 15% more using a TA. Definitely get a good guide book and read online travel forums like this one. Once you've chosen which island most appeals, then look at resorts/hotels. Booking directly with the hotel often gets you the best rate. They occasionally offer promotions, like pay in advance and save XX%, or pay 3 nights, get 4th night free, for example.
cilburke is offline  
Dec 15th, 2018, 05:54 AM
  #16  
 
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Because you’re new, until you find your way, some advice:

use OTAs (Expedia, cheapcaribbean, even Costco and Apple, OTA stands for Online Travel Agent) for searching only, then try to book direct

they are glamorized advertising sites, sometimes they buy in bulk sometimes bundle, it’s why you save a little.

But here’s where it costs you—

you get the worse rooms (vendors have to give them 15-20% of booking just because you found them there. Because you’re the cheapest travel, you’ll be assigned the bottom of the line rooms or lowest airfare. Airfare that doesn’t even allow carry ins for example).

So read everything youre getting carefully.

If something goes wrong, you’ve created a middle man. An extra person who doesn’t even know your destination, you call and get someone in India or Philippines, and canned answers with long time to fix things. (If fixed at all)

so whime prices look good, you get what you pay for.

So #1 book direct. Do not base it on price. Especially if all you’re saving is under $100. Any little problem can turn huge and end up costing more plus aggravation.

2. For first timers get travel insurance. Maybe even cancel for any reason. Until you’re seasoned, you don’t know the tricks—and being cheaper has a greater risk of loosing it all for nothing

3. Pick where you want to go and not based on price. So research!

4 make sure you have proper documents! (Passport, maybe a Visa). Only you are responsible for this regardless of what a travel agent, or OTA told you!
blamona is offline  
Dec 15th, 2018, 08:09 AM
  #17  
 
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I sometimes book via the airline website for vacations to the Caribbean, they package up the airfare and the hotel making it substantially less expensive. Booking separate airfares and hotels can be a really expensive way of doing things, at least it is from where I am, apparently not so from North America, at least, according to these posts. Booking direct is no guarantee of having a problem free vacation - I booked direct for a hotel in Rio several years ago and they denied having my reservation, despite putting the printout confirmation under their nose, They had overbooked but tried to deflect the issue to me by saying there was no booking, It also happened at the Sofitel in Hua Hin and another hotel in Paris etc etc , all direct bookings.
I've had some great airfares thru travel agents to many parts of the Caribbean, esp French & Dutch islands, never had issues with those bookings. I've had issues with flight delays, baggage not arriving etc but never an issue with a booking made by a TA.However, I would say, that if you book thru a TA with intention of changing or cancelling, this is more difficult thru a TA, there are more fees to pay and it is more challenging. But it looks like in the US, you can get travel insurance to cover you for absolutely anything.

I've used Expedia, booking.com and many other OTAs and have never had the issues described in any of the above posts. In fact I've ended up with better rooms that booked more often than not. I've had book & pay for 6 nights get 7 nights or breakfast included, my latest booking had 50% off room rate in a specific hotel (Seychelles). But if I took the advice of experts, I would have been scaremongered into not booking this.

OTA websites & travel agents tell you to check entry requirements yourself, they never tell you anything else but that, same as airlines. Correct documentation is always the travellers responsibility. The issue is that some who use websites can't seem to read the info properly, esp concerning cancellation or amendment fees, what baggage is or is not included etc.

Last edited by Odin; Dec 15th, 2018 at 08:12 AM.
Odin is offline  
Jan 15th, 2019, 06:50 AM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Jan 2019
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Hi everyone!

I never ever go through an agent to organize my trips because that litmits a lot, if you are someone that needs a lot of flexibility, sponteneity and just freedom then you can do it on your own, that is for sure. However, I also understand that some people need to have everything organized in advance and that they just wish to relax during their vacation without thinking too much. In any case, this destination is amazing and you will have a great time!
madlena0104 is offline  
Jan 16th, 2019, 06:44 AM
  #19  
 
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Originally Posted by blamona View Post
use OTAs (Expedia, cheapcaribbean, even Costco and Apple, OTA stands for Online Travel Agent) for searching only, then try to book direct

they are glamorized advertising sites, sometimes they buy in bulk sometimes bundle, it’s why you save a little.

But here’s where it costs you—

you get the worse rooms (vendors have to give them 15-20% of booking just because you found them there. Because you’re the cheapest travel, you’ll be assigned the bottom of the line rooms or lowest airfare. Airfare that doesn’t even allow carry ins for example).
That has not been my experience at all.
tom42 is offline  
Jan 20th, 2019, 11:52 AM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
Posts: 10
You could use a TA that is knowledgeable about the country you plan to visit. This will help to ensure that things run as planned.
SweetRiddim is offline  
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