Do you use travel agents or go it alone?

Jul 22nd, 2007, 09:55 PM
  #21  
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 6,003
These fine folks here in Fodorville are the only travel agent you will ever need. Without them, my last trip to Europe wouldn't have been half as enjoyable as it was.

By listening to these people, I have abandoned my childish prejudice concerning France and want to travel there in the future.

Have fun planning your trip, I found it to be second in fun only to the travel itself.

MvK

MarkvonKramer is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2007, 10:15 PM
  #22  
 
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 45,322
I basically quit using TA's in the late 1980's or thereabouts.

But it is not just USA TA's that can mess up a trip. I spent an entire day rearranging reservations for two friends in Italy that were coming to the US. I couldn't believe the mess their Italian TA had made of the trip.

There are good and knowledgable TA's of course..it is important to do your homework and make sure you get one of them if you have a complicated trip and need a TA.
LoveItaly is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2007, 10:49 PM
  #23  
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Posts: 1,208
It depends. For short-haul trips that require hotel bookings only, I usually make those arrangements directly with the hotel either by phone or on the internet.

For Europe, DH & I start by researching destinations online, reading travel guides & magazines, watching travel shows on TV, and talking to friends about their experiences. That's the fun part! We determine the dates and an itinerary (multiple destinations). Then, we book our flights using FF points - as early as 12 months in advance! Finally, armed with our dates & the names of hotels we've chosen, we go to our travel agent.

We always use the service of a travel agent to arrange, book & confirm hotels, car rentals, travel/medical insurances, rail tickets, and museum passes. We are happy to turn over this work to someone else! And yes, she has been able to get us great rates on car rentals, for example! Only once did we run into a problem when our luggage went astray. It was wonderful to have someone to call who could troubleshoot on our behalf!

We are currently planning a trip to Italy (Venice, Bellagio on Lake Como, San Gimignano, San Quirico & Florence) in September/October 2008. We still need to decide on dates & book our flights. Once that's done, we will be seeing our travel agent!
2010 is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2007, 02:14 AM
  #24  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 3,115
Marcie:
As for planning it yourself, it depends on how much time you want to devote to it. Warning: it IS addictive! Just when you think you've decided on one hotel, someone posts a great review of another and off you go researching that one! In planning it yourself and reading others' reviews, you'll be amazed how much knowledge you pick up about each destination. The downside: it's rather like someone telling you how a movie ends. It won't feel as spontaneous/surprising as it would if someone else planned your trip. I prefer doing self-planning because it gives me a good feel for getting around and how to plan my days upon arrival.

Sites I use are:
Hotels
Fodors
www.venere.com
www.tripadvisor.com
www.slowtrav.com
For Italy there are sites called RomeBy.com, Florenceby.com, etc. Simply Google "hotel lodging + the destination" and you'll find similar resources.

Flights
www.kayak.com
Intra-Europe flights:www.whichbudget.com
Kayak often has good offers for intra-Europe as well.

As for a travel agent, I used one for flights on our next trip only because we were flying out of different cities. None of the offered itineraries allowed us to meet up in the states and fly over together. The TA got it done. We could have called the airline directly, but it was easier just turning it over to a TA once we knew what we wanted.
JeanneB is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2007, 02:19 AM
  #25  
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 144
In late 2004, a friend and I went to Turkey, which straddles Europe/Asia and did use a travel agent, as Turkish is much more difficult for us to handle and we (two women) spent 2 weeks in Eastern Europe after a visit to amazing Cappadocia. There they gave us a driver-guide along with the car rental.

Having a translator there was invaluable. The final 2 weeks were spent in western Turkey, where we were on our own, in a rental car, and my two Turkish conversation books were starting to help. For deciding what to do, where to go we used Lonely Planet, for the most part, plus Insight books.

In mid-2006, we spent 3 weeks in Italy and did that solely through books, including Lonely Planet, supplemented with Rick Steves. Mainly, we decided on places by using online services such as tripadvisor.com and its user-feedback, which found us really wonderful places at great prices. I also used venere.com for user-feedback and that includes feedback by many who live in Europe.

All our bookings were done directly, via the Internet and it was a breeze.

I have trip reports and photos (including some places we enjoyed staying) at www.pbase.com/andrys
or www.pbase.com/andrys/abtravels

I still keep in touch with some wonderful people I met in Turkey, a welcoming, fascinating country with rich history and varied landscape.

- Andrys


andrys is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2007, 02:22 AM
  #26  
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 144
Postscript to my note just written:
Ironically, we didn't use the Fodor's books because they've had a rep for being very mainstream. But I bought some after we got back and found them extremely informative about what we'd seen. Next time!
andrys is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2007, 02:24 AM
  #27  
 
Join Date: Jul 2007
Posts: 144
Pardon my 3rd note, can't edit here!

slowtalk.com/groupee was instrumental for the trip to Italy because its members gave great tips about how to get around the crowds and lines ... the emphasis on the things to enjoy in a slower, more sane way, is also very important. The group does not seem as price-conscious as some of us though, but a more knowledgeable group about all-things Italy for slow-travel (no one-city-a-day travelers), I've not found.
andrys is offline  
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