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Do you book air reservations yourself, or use travel agent?

Do you book air reservations yourself, or use travel agent?

Old Apr 22nd, 2006, 12:30 PM
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Do you book air reservations yourself, or use travel agent?

Do you book your flights yourself, or use a travel agent? Thanks.
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Old Apr 22nd, 2006, 12:47 PM
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Why would anyone use a travel agent for booking flights? They will charge you a fee for doing something you can do yourself. Anyone with a computer does not need a travel agent to research or book a flight.
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Old Apr 22nd, 2006, 12:58 PM
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I personally wouldn't use an agent, but I'm curious what others do. Rick Steves, for one, recommends using an agent for the air portion of your planning.
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Old Apr 22nd, 2006, 01:00 PM
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Hi Maire, I gave up on TA's a long time ago..especially after I sold my Insurance Agency and went to work a few years later for a travel agency. I was horrified by the lack of service their customers received.

There are good travel agencies and if one has a complicated trip finding an experienced TA who is very familar with the area one is travelling to can be a godsend. But to just book airline tickets and reserve hotels etc., I don't see the need for a TA. Not with all the websites including Fodor's which has a wealth of information.
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Old Apr 22nd, 2006, 01:11 PM
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There are still times when one has no choice but to use travel agent to book a ticket.

Round the world tickets, circle tickets, etc. (very complicated bookings with many restrictions, rules).

Also some of the regional airlines in many parts of the world do not offer on line reservations, so travel agencies like Expedia, Travelocity, Orbitz is the only way to go, or a good local travel agent.

Please folks, do not dismiss travel agents/agencies. They are still needed in ~25% of cases when booking flights.

Don't base your belives on the fact that you only book a R/T once a year between US-Europe. Many other people book more complicated itns and still need a travel agent. It has nothing to do with inability to do it themselves.
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Old Apr 22nd, 2006, 01:20 PM
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Hi AAFrequentFlyer, exactly what I was trying to convey. For a R/T to Europe I don't see the need. For complicated itineraries a reliable and knowledgeable TA is invaluable.
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Old Apr 22nd, 2006, 02:26 PM
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I am surprised to learn that Rick Steeves recommends that. I can see how a TA would be necessary in a situation like AAFF described, but not for a once-in-a-while trip to Europe. Does Rick Steeves say why using a TA is recommended?
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Old Apr 22nd, 2006, 02:32 PM
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Maybe Rick Steves wants people to use his travel service!
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Old Apr 22nd, 2006, 02:39 PM
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Touche, mamaj!!
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Old Apr 22nd, 2006, 03:01 PM
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Just to clarify, this is from the Rick Steves website:

"Europe Through the Back Door is not a travel agency, so we don't book flights, car rentals, or hotels. We do sell European railpasses, but not point-to-point train tickets.

Rick's guidebooks have all the information you need to find your own Back Door style hotels, and you'll usually save money taking care of your own reservations rather than booking through a travel agent.

For flights and car rental arrangements, we recommend contacting a travel agent in your area."
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Old Apr 22nd, 2006, 03:02 PM
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When booking our most recent trip to Italy this summer, we priced out flights and also checked with a local TA (in DC). They literally gave us the same options we found on the computer, but charged a $100 booking fee. Needless to say we booked our own tickets. Having said that, we have also worked with a travel agent who was Greek based for our trip to Greece and an Egyptian based TA for our time in Egypt. Both gave us unbelievable service and found deals we couldn't find for ourselves. So, I think it depends on what you are looking for. The bottomline is do your research and compare prices.
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Old Apr 22nd, 2006, 03:10 PM
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I have one friend who is going to the Ukraine to adopt a child, and has never flown before -- EVER. I recommended a couple of guide books to her, and in her case, certainly a travel agent would make sense.

RS doesn't function as a travel agent, he only sells his books and does his tours & videos/merchandise. Not all agents charge big fees, and if you're not used to booking your own flights, an agent could be quite useful, particularly for something that could prove to be a very expensive problem to fix.

Personally, I enjoy the hunt -- so I like looking for flights and booking them myself, but I've been doing it for as long as I've been able to buy anything on the Internet.

Happy travels,

Jules
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Old Apr 22nd, 2006, 03:37 PM
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I just bought a R/T to Europe yesterday -- from a travel agent. There was a $10 fee plus a $20 membership fee, and the fare was not lower than what I could get online (I checked of course before going). I paid full-price for a R/T to Athens from the East Coast of US.

I usually book online, but in this case I MUST be able to change the return date. I will not actually be returning until 18 months from now, and you can't book a return leg that far in advance. By going through a travel agent (STA Travel), I can make a change to my ticket for $25 +FD and $55 + FD for the second change, if necessary.

To do that through British Airways or Travelocity would cost $200 at least. So in the end, I saved money by going through a travel agent. You just have to know your options and what will work best for you. It's not the same for everyone. I took three R/T to Athens last year and I booked all three myself. Different situations, different solutions.
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Old Apr 22nd, 2006, 06:58 PM
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In his Italy 2006 book, RS says:
“Airfare: Don’t try to sort through the mess. Find and use a good travel agent.”

In his Europe through the Back Door 2006 book, he says:
“These days it takes a full-time and aggressive travel professional to keep up with the constantly changing airline industry.” “I rely on the experience of an agent who specializes in budget European travel.”

He also says, “I use an agent for my plane ticket, train pass or car rental, advice on visa and health precautions, and nothing else.”
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Old Apr 22nd, 2006, 07:19 PM
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I don't know if a consolidator qualifies as a TA, but I've been using a consolidator (Fare Deals) for flights to Europe for many years.

What I do is call my contact there when I know I'm going to Europe and give him my dates and let him know I'm doing my own research too. I usually call about 2-3 months in advance.

Then I watch fares on the internet and if I see something that looks good I call him and see if he can match or best it. If he can, I buy from him.

He also will call me when something really good comes up in case I haven't seen it. So about 75% of the time I end up buying through the consolidator.

That said, I just got off the phone with United Airlines having plunked down $3,236.00 for two RT tickets to Italy this summer, one of them open-jaw, because despite both me and my consolidator following fares for more than 4 months we haven't found anything decent at all that would meet my particular (and fairly complicated) travel plans with my daughter this summer.

But the good news is I stumbled on a 35 euro PREM fare today for my daughter to take an overnight train from Paris to Rome, something she's been dying to do for the longest time, and cheaper by far (and easier logistically) than any of the cheapie intra-Europe flights out there.

So you save some here, pay more there...if European travel is your addiction you learn to roll with the punches...
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Old Apr 22nd, 2006, 07:23 PM
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I book my flights and hotels online and I use a travel agent only if going through them means a cheaper or better flight.

I have lucked out and gotten a cheap airline ticket through a travel agent (but a friend who is a travel agent gave me a heads up on a sale) and a cheap hotel through a travel agent.

I typical use the web for my flights and hotels.
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Old Apr 22nd, 2006, 07:33 PM
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Two sites I find very helpful for flight advice:
http://www.Flyertalk.com - this gives me leads on cheap flights and lots of tips and suggestions generally.
http://www.Eurotrip.com/forum - the Cheap Flights forum.

Then tons of searching using the tips I've learned and my own algorithms. Every time I've asked a travel agent for a price, it's been worse than what I get on my own. Maybe someday there'll be an exception.
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Old Apr 22nd, 2006, 07:33 PM
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I, too, like to scour the websites and phone airlines to track down an economical airfare. But earlier this year, I just couldn't find a decent fare to France. I called a travel agency for the first time to see if they could find a less expensive fare. Yep, they could, by almost $100. a ticket (I needed three). I didn't have to pay any fees. I even used the travel agency Rick Steves uses. Good enough referral for me! In the future, I still plan to do my homework first and then call Travel Team to see if they can do better.

I did bump up against something I don't like about using an agent. I called the airline directly to talk about the seating arrangements. That's all we could do was talk. The airline agent wouldn't let me re-arrange my seats--I was told I had to go through the travel agent.

Our flight from Paris to Canada was changed one month into the reservation by the airline (leaving Paris two hours earlier), and when I called to try to arrange an earlier connecting flight from Canada to SFO (this was a weekend inquiry), I was told the travel agent would have to do that. Ouch! I don't like losing that control.
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Old Apr 23rd, 2006, 06:17 AM
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It depends on the limitations of the online booking sites. As others have already pointed out, certain complex itineraries still need to be handled by a travel agent.

I suspect Rick Steves suggests an agent for 'sorting through the mess' because it is the simplest way to handle inquiries on a complex subject. Airfare markets are just too volatile to give any hard-and-fast rules in a guidebook. The only way to learn is to either play around on the net or get an agent.

I still recall the couple from England who just a couple years back managed to book via Expedia air passage to Sydney, Nova Scotia, when they intended to go to Sydney, Australia. I'm not sure how they managed this but it is proof that for some, a professional would have been a MUCH cheaper alternative!
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Old Apr 23rd, 2006, 10:38 AM
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Using a savvy and competent agent will almost always save you time and find you better fares than on your own, even including their service fee(note I say competent, as you have to do your due diligence to find one)

However, there is an even more important reason to use one and that is service. If something goes wrong, if you have an emergency and need to cancel or modify your plans, especially if you are in the middle of your trip, that is when you will be thankful you used an agent
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