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How you find a travel agent-planner-booker

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Nov 6th, 2015, 02:42 AM
  #1
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How you find a travel agent-planner-booker

Pirouette has a wonderful trip report on touring the Balkans. S/he used a company called "Secret Dalmatia" to make the arrangements -- hotels, cars and drivers, local tours, restaurant reservations -- for the two of them, the best of a tour without all the rest.

Have others used companies with this kind of detailed knowledge of a specific area to plan your visit?

How did you find them?
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Nov 6th, 2015, 05:10 AM
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I wasn't looking for a travel planner, but when I booked an apartment with Visit Palermo, I ended up relying on the agency for some added help (with car transfers, etc). I noticed on their website that the offered all kinds of customized services. So I think many of the people running villa/apartment rental services also can be hired to provide all those extra services, even beyond their immediate area.

Also, for some years, on Slow Travel and the Frommer's message board (and maybe here?), there was a woman who would offer travel advice but who also ran a small travel service called Idyllic Italy that did exactly what you descrite "Secret Dalmatia" did for Pirouette. Her free advice on Italy was really impressive, but even more than that was her ability to match up people's real desires with what Italy has to offer. The real danger with travel consultants (other than kickbacks) is that they really only know one or two kinds of trips to Italy, and they try to shoehorn every client into that box. They won't listen to what people want. They just impose -- "You'll love it!" and imply you're stupid if you have a more sophisticated wish. But if you are looking for help with Italy, then Idyllic Italy was one of the few hanging out a shingle claiming to be a "travel consultant" or "planner" that didn't land you in the trap.
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Nov 6th, 2015, 05:36 AM
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yes I have...you may ask on forums for suggestions based on your destination...I search the internet...it requires some time but these kind of companies can add real value to coordnate your trip...Secret Dalmatia is a good one...I ended up not using them going on my own and loved Croatia but could have done better using them.
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Nov 6th, 2015, 05:57 AM
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There are quite a few companies that do this - you can get names of some of them by looking at the listing in the major travwl magazines.

But you need to note a couple of things:

You need to be sure they are truly experts in what they are doing

You need to be sure they can operate within your budget (typically they do not deal with any budget properties - mainly more upscale ones that will pay commission)

You need to understand their rates up front - do they charge by the hour, as a % of what you spend - or work on just commissions from what they sell you (rare)

They can provide very specialized knowledge and sometimes offer extras you won;t get as a walk up customer - but they are not inexpensive
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Nov 6th, 2015, 06:11 AM
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I have never found a travel agent who was better than the following combination :
Paper guides
Time
My wife doing the reading of the books
My wife and I booking the hotels via Internet
Kayak to find the flights
I am still struggling with car rentals.

I couldn't find a travel agent with the same skills. Up to now.
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Nov 6th, 2015, 07:40 AM
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I'd cheerfully pay to off-load the chores of making restaurant reservations, booking car transfers, finding flights and tran skeds and some other logistical research (when are markets, sites open, etc) that can prove unreliable in guidebooks. Also would at least like to hear about possible sites of great interest to me traveling between points A & B which can be hard to know about if you just stick to mass pub guidebooks.

But I wouldn't hire a company that provides a service for busy executives/rich people, especially not those working for kickbacks from properties. I'd hire locals or else people with a real passion for their semi-adopted country, who are honest (not braggarts, but people who have actually taken the time to see another side of the country)
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Nov 6th, 2015, 10:38 AM
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Yes, but local travel agents are unlikely to have the knowledge to do what you want. They are focused on selling tours to Disney, cruises and bus tours. Many have never even been to europe and are likely to send you who knows where.

The last time I used a travel agent - granted many years ago - they insisted that the only St Pete was in FL - they knew nothing at all about this huge city in Russia - even though I came in with a couple of potential flights and just wanted to to know if they could find the best price.
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Nov 6th, 2015, 10:57 AM
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This is an interesting discussion. I share Sandra's opinions and am happy to have her information because my own experience has been too much like nytraveler's.

I am glad to know they are out there, Lois. Finding companies is a lot less difficult than evaluating them.

Pariswat, I want to find the kind of person who can direct me to the kinds of places I could take you in Boston, Nantucket, Richmond, the Cotswolds, and parts of Paris.
Let's say I want to drive from Brussels to Paris, off the national routes and motor ways. Where would you send me?

I don't need someone to make a reservation at George V or Claridge's. Even if I wanted one.
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Nov 6th, 2015, 11:56 AM
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Many years ago, St Petersburg was called Leningrad. Maybe the travel agent was right at that time.
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Nov 6th, 2015, 02:35 PM
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When I talk about hiring "locals", I am talking people local to the country you are visiting. Natives . I am not talking about going to your local travel agent around the corner from where you live. (Sheesh...)

There are some Americans and Brits who have fallen in love with European countries, speak the language fluently, and pick up extra money acting as a "concierge" or "trip consultant" to peoplel who ask for that help. They can be especially useful to people looking for ancestral connections in Italy, making a lot of phone calls, but they also can tell you where to take a worthwhile detour between Paris and Brussels -- but like here, you need to tell them what interests you.

If you read blogs for Ameericans or Brits living in Belgium, you can often contact those people directly and ask them if do any professional work. If you are really interested in expert local help and are willing to pay someone for their time, there are loads of leads you can follow on the internet to find that., and checking references. If you just want free advice from social media, obviously that is everywhere and worth what you pay for it.
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Nov 6th, 2015, 05:33 PM
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It wasn't that many year ago. And when I insisted the agent told me they didn't do tours of Russia but she could try to find me a brochure. But I wasn;t looking for a tour - just the best deal on flights.
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Nov 8th, 2015, 12:24 PM
  #12
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Thanks all!

I am traveling in the middle of our own great country with limited access to Internet, but I wanted you to know that I didn't just pop in with a query and ignore the answers!
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Nov 8th, 2015, 12:40 PM
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Hi Ackis

I have never tzaken anything else than highways from Bruxelles to Paris.
Now if you have a lot of time, you could go 2 ways :

Bruxelles Lille (and you can also stop at Tournai, nice city).
Then Amiens (I think you can stop by the 'Mercantour' a bird reserve.
Amiens Paris.

Second option : Bruxelles Reims (either highway or via Charleroi, Couvin, Charleville Meziere.
First part to Charleroi is without interest, but Couvin-Charleville is through the Ardennes, a nice road.
From Reims after drinking not too much Champagne direct to Paris ?

Mvg
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