Do you use travel agents or go it alone?

Mar 12th, 2007, 03:51 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 10
Do you use travel agents or go it alone?

I apologize if this question gets asked often. I am in the intial stages of planning a 2008 trip to Europe.

How far in advance do you begin planning a trip and do you use a TA or go it alone?

I planned my destination wedding with a wonderful TA but didn't know if this is how it's done for "normal" travel for just you or a small group (I had a big group for my DW, so didn't feel like I could do it alone).

If you did use a TA, may I have a rec? If not, what are your fave websites (besides this one?) for research information?
marciejmuen is offline  
Mar 12th, 2007, 04:15 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 92,066
I plan my own. I use a website such as Expedia to research airfare and airports, then purchase my ticket directly with the airlines.

I book hotels, directly with each hotel, either by fax or website.

I don't do much research really. Just go with my intuition, then after arrival pick up tourist info.

This is less planning than most on Fodor's, but a little more planning than some here do. Everyone finds their own comfort level.

For some (not me) that means using a good Travel Agent.
suze is offline  
Mar 12th, 2007, 04:17 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 312
I figure it out myself.. and I write down any questions I may have and research it myself. I have done England, Wales, Ireland, Italy, Amsterdam, and have never had a problem I couldn't figure out. And I like it that I can control the price, dates, choice of hotels, without having to wait for an answer from a TA. I am taking 7 women tomorrow to Italy for 11 days, RT Chicago to Italy, 3 nights B & B in Venice, rail to Florence, 3 nights B & B in Florence, rail to Rome, 4 nights Rome, then Rome to Chicago for $1180 apiece.. I don't think a travel agent could have done better price wise. Once you plan one trip, you gain so much confidence, and you will want to plan again. I started planning this trip last June. I saw it on www.Travelzoo with AirFrance Holidays. I have also used I have booked rooms with, always sticking to the 2 star ones and have never been disappointed. I have done Priceline for a hotel in London. You just have to bite the bullet and empower yourself.. and if you screw up, so what..traveling is a learning experience. Good luck !
frugaltraveler is offline  
Mar 12th, 2007, 04:23 PM
Join Date: Mar 2005
Posts: 2,474
Book a year in advance if you want your pick of rooms, They may also lock in this year's rates for you.

I don't use a TA. Tripadvisor is 100 more knowledgeable!
kelliebellie is offline  
Mar 12th, 2007, 04:27 PM
Join Date: Dec 2006
Posts: 4,238
I use the free travel agents on this web site. StuDudley, janisj, suze, ira and a wealth of other persons with up to date information, give me more information than a travel agent can.

For hotels pick the web sites that have real people reviews. venere or tripadvisor (play one of another as the results may vary).

For planes, check out the airport sites themselves and see if there's a plane from where you want to come from to that airport. Takes some time, but it makes the holiday hassle free.

I started last August for this May, because I'm flying on FF miles in business class.
Rastaguytoday is offline  
Mar 12th, 2007, 04:43 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 10
I appreciate your insight. I will continue to ask questions. I enjoyed planning and organizing my DW so I am excited about this trip and would love to be able to "take credit" for our travel through Europe.

I agree...biting the bullet, doing my own research and asking for help here when I need it.

I'm getting excited!!
marciejmuen is offline  
Mar 12th, 2007, 04:48 PM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 4,204
I thought everyone here went "it alone" because we're not alone--we have LOTS of help! If you're starting to plan now, you'll do just fine using this and tripadviser and goggling places and looking at travel books in your local bookstore. Really, IMO planning is half the fun!
artlover is offline  
Mar 12th, 2007, 05:00 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 57,890
Use expert (corporate) TAs for business trips - or destination companies for meetings. For family vacations we do all the planning but book through the corporate planner at times to get better rates - if they have specials available. (Even if they can;t get better rates they can often get us upgrades to suites and extras like wine, fruit baskets, free spa services etc.)
nytraveler is offline  
Mar 12th, 2007, 06:22 PM
Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 656
I am never planning alone because of all of the expert advise that I receive on this site, which is much more accurate and up to date than most of the travel books. Planning the trip is half of the fun so I would never dream of using a TA.
jdraper is offline  
Mar 13th, 2007, 05:24 AM
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 96
Do what ever you are comfortable with. There is no right or wrong in planning a trip. For 23 years I have been planning my trips without a TA. My wife and I decide on a destination a year in advance and go from there. I buy airfare first and arrange hotels after. Just a preference. I also research on-line, with guidebooks (Fodor's, Rick Steves and TI sites for each location). Planning a trip is part of the enjoyment we get from traveling. I also like the control I have at each destination, I decide how long to enjoy a city.
I use airline websites as well as the discount travelsites. I travel for work and have cashed close to 1,000,000 Marriott points in the last 6 years, hotels cost me little. Enjo your trip
sherm99 is offline  
Mar 13th, 2007, 05:32 AM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 69
Marcie, If you will contact me off list (use the title of this post), I will give you the name of my travel agent. She saved us over $150 per person (4 of us going) than I could find at any of the on-line sites. She also spent the day on the phone when the airlines changed the connections on us. This is the first trip for my brother and sil and I want it to be worry free. I feel that it will be with her helping us. Kathie [email protected]
Gunny is offline  
Mar 13th, 2007, 06:14 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 932
We also plan our trip by using the wealth of information on Fodors as well as the guidance from the very seasoned travelers on this site.

Trip Advisor is great for hotel/B&B reviews. We make our hotel reservations directly with the hotel themselves via email and have not had any problems. Most have even been helpful in advising us what to do in the area and so forth.

I start watching about 11 months on out for airfare. I search the many different sites ... it's tedious ... but helps me find the cheapest available (especially with summer travel).

Once you have figured out where you want to travel, go to the web site of that town/village/area and request a travel packet or travel documentation or brochure request. Most are happy to send you information.

I do buy a few books but honestly with all the information on the internet, it's almost not worth it. I sometimes get tired of looking at the computer screen, so that is when I sit down with and read guide to the area I'm visiting.

Have fun planning!
katzen is offline  
Mar 13th, 2007, 06:40 AM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 2,501

I normally plan stuff on my own. I'm going to Thailand in May and I have bought tickets for the flight from a travel agent. But I have booked hotels online. I normally check out various places to see where I can get the best deal

Gard - trip reports and pictures
gard is offline  
Mar 15th, 2007, 03:36 AM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 27
DIY all the way.
Cheap airlines are,,, sign up to them to get the emails about flight offers such as "dont pay tax just 50 cents a flight or something" etc. watch ryanair though, their airports are always a bit of a distance away and sometimes is the same price to pay a bit more for your flight to arrive central. have really nice self-catering apartments in several cities, for when you're done roughing it.
My favourite cities are London, Palermo (Sicily), Paris and definitely Barcelona.
bought_the_tshirt is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2007, 07:19 AM
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 69
We just got back from Ireland and I will never book my airline reservations with anyone but a travel agent. We got to Philly on the return flight and found out they had cancelled the Philly/Denver portion of my brother and sil's trip. I called the travel agent and she got it straightened out. Unfortunately, my brother didn't call her back and so had to wait until the next day to get home. I do book the rest of the trip myself though. kathie
Gunny is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2007, 07:39 AM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 1,479
It depends, I use a TA for most of my international flights as I sometimes have complicated routing from Australia. For example, in October, I'm flying Sydney-Bangkok, making my own way via Cambodia to Singapore - using Air Asia and Jetstar. From Singapore, I'm back on my ticket. I'm then flying to Dublin, own way on Ryanair to Edinburgh, back on the ticket to London - Hong Kong on to Sydney. All for the same fare as Sydney-London return. I could never had done that online.

I then gave her the option of matching the internet fare for my June trip Sydney-Singapore return, which she acccepted.

She is also taking care of a group booking for 10 people to Bali next April. There isn't a great deal on the price but we don't have to confirm or pay until a few weeks before we leave.

Most hotels, villas, apartments etc I book myself, but she has got me a great rate at the Royal on Scotts in SIngpore which I haven't been able to match elsewhere.

I figure, if I give her the opportunity to get some easy wins at the same price, she will take care of me on the more difficult ones.

She also managed to get my mother on a sold out Intrepid Tour to China and take care of all other land transfers.

One thing though, I don't think we can get access to the types deals that appear to come up in the US for trans atlantic flights.

Sarvowinner is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2007, 07:48 AM
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 895
As I travel on my own, I book the holidays myself since travel agents want nothing to do with single people or dogs. Nowadays with the internet it is easy to book every part of a holiday before leaving home.

Gone are the cheap late bargains. Book a holiday as early as possible to get the best choice and the best price on flights and rooms.
kaneda is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2007, 08:15 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 886
The last two occasions I have used a Travel Agent has ended in disaster.

One TA booked only the flights and not the accomodation (even though we had paid them) and we walked into a hotel in NYC, a few thousand miles from home, to be told that we had no reservation and would have to pay again. We were on the phone to the agent in the UK at 4am local time to be told that the person we needed to deal with no longer worked there, otherwise "tough luck". Just as well the US agent who was sub-contracted to deal with our arrangements sorted it all out.

The other disaster had us (a family of two adults and a child) in basically a self-catering single room. For this pleasure, we paid an under-occupancy of a few hundred pounds each. We were moved into another appartment where there was only two of everything - and yet they told us it was still for 4 people and the under-occupancy stood. I sued on my arrival home and settled out of court.

Since the growth of the internet, I book my own travel arrangements 100% (unless on business, of course).

Fodor's may have its faults (cranky replies, threads going seriously off topic) but there is a wealth of information out here from people that have "been there and done it".

In the UK, unless you want to go to Florida or Spain, Travel Agents are mostly clueless in my experience. In one agency I visited not that long ago, they proudly displayed the countries visited by their staff. Almost all had been to Spain, USA, Greece, Portugal and Turkey - but only one had been to Germany, one to France (probably to Calais) and a smattering of other countries. It shocked me that European neighbours such as Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Scandinavia and Switzerland remained mostly virgin territories to these "professionals".
AR is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2007, 08:29 AM
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 895
When I still lived in the UK, about a decade ago I tried to book a Carribean cruise for £799. As I was on my own, it worked out to over £2,500. That is for one seat on a plane and a double cabin to myself. They refused to tell me how the figure came to more than three times the single price (for couples). Before leaving that travel agent for the last time I told them to put a sign on their door. "No single people or dogs allowed!"
kaneda is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2007, 08:41 PM
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 254
We always do it ourselves -- that's half the fun for us. For airfare shopping I like For our upcoming September trip to Switzerland, I found the cheapest flight on kayak, then called my travel club, got the same rate plus my 5% rebate. We usually start planning 6 - 9 months ahead. We use a variety of travel guide books, plus the internet, especially, for travel advice. For hotel booking, I like but I always check the hotel's website too because sometimes their rate is better. is great for hotel ratings and opinions.
crckwc is offline  

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