To use a travel agent or not

Old Nov 26th, 2003, 06:43 AM
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To use a travel agent or not

This may get the seasoned traveller's goat, as my mom would say, but for first time international travellers is it a good idea to use a travel agent? My sister and I have travelled a bit domestically but thats it. The only site I have used is expedia.com and it was not a good experience. The hotel that we stayed at had a power outage and said that everyone could check out a day earlier. Only problem was the computers were down. They took everyone's names manually and promised a refund. When it came around to collecting the refund neither the hotel nor expedia wanted to pay up. After many conversations, letters, etc. Expedia and the hotel split the refund between them and reimbursed us. So...for peace of mind should we use a travel agent? I understand that they can get pretty good deals too. So what is your favorite website for cheap airfare? And is it backed up by good customer service?
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Old Nov 26th, 2003, 06:52 AM
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I've never used a travel agent for any trips except business. You can probably do a search here for "cheap airfare" and get many, many recommendations of web sites.

But really, I can't imagine that a travel agent would have refunded your hotel money any more readily than expedia did. The hotel received the money you spent on the room (minus whatever fee expedia charges) and is therefore responsible for refunds if any are due. I have personally not seen any value added in working with another person to plan my travel, and I actually enjoy the planning, so I do it all myself.

If you have a travel agent that you've worked with in the past and trust, no harm in checking with them to see what deals they can get in addition to what you find online.
 
Old Nov 26th, 2003, 06:56 AM
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memejw- I have ALWAYS used a travel agent for both air and hotel-- as they seem to get the best packages for me..ALL hotels include tax,VAT and breakfast..when you book a hotel direct, theses items are not included...

Also as far as air, I ALWAYS book thru a TA and ask for a PAPER TKT...even tho everyone is going to e-tkts ( a simple slip of paper), if you have a Paper TKT and there is a problem with your flight and you need to change carriers overseas, it cuts out a long step with your airline to send over your tkt to a competing carrier..ie. Delta to USAIR etc..

ALWAYS have a paper airline tkt for Europe travel...

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Old Nov 26th, 2003, 07:06 AM
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Hello! I just thought that, as a travel agent, I would post a little reply. So, of course I recommend using a travel agent, and here are the reasons. When it comes to changing travel plans or dealing with travel emergencies, suppliers are more available to travel agents. We have phone numbers the public does not, and the suppliers feel more comfortable talking to someone that has dealt with these problems many times. With all of the cheap travel websites out there, sometimes we can't get the best price. The best thing for the internet savvy public to do is, as the previous poster mentioned, to check around and then see how our prices compare. To be honest, if I were not a travel agent, I would probably not ALWAYS use one, such as for domestic flights, hotels, etc. But I definitely would for packages, international trips, and other very involved trips. It's nice to have a live person to whom to ask your questions. And we do always try to get the best price, because that's how you build loyalty.
Hadleigh
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Old Nov 26th, 2003, 07:07 AM
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I too have almost always booked with a TA, the same one for 15 years.BUT, their situation is totally different now.Airlines generally pay no commissions.I would imagine since they exist on monies from fees, they ar not too interested in "shoppers".The times I have been in his office, I have heard other agents "qualifying" callers,making sure they will make a fee off of everything they do.But I also agree than an agent would not have been more likely to have solved your situation,unique as it may have been.
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Old Nov 26th, 2003, 07:14 AM
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We no longer use travel agents because it became so frustrating in terms of getting back to us with information, my always calling to find out how things were going, not following our instructions, and really not saving us any money. This was not one agent, but several we tried in the hope of finding someone we could deal with and trust.

There are so many sites to use for both air and hotel, as well as tons of information about destinations, where to go, what to see, and this forum has provided me with lots of assistance in planning our European vacations.

We sometimes have gotten better prices on airfares by calling the airline direct rather than reserving online with one of the discounters or the airline for that matter. We have always received paper tickets by mail from the airlines we use if that is important to you.

Truthfully, whether or not you use a travel agent is your decision and what you feel most comfortable with. But I do think you probably could arrange a great trip for you and your sister.

Have you decided where you're going? If you would give us a little info on what your plans are, I could certainly give you some web sites to search and I'm sure you would get a lot of responses from other posters.
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Old Nov 26th, 2003, 07:19 AM
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There seems to be pros and cons for both. We really only need airfare flying into Edinburgh and out of London. I understand next year that US travellers will be able to fly directly into Edinburgh. If that doesn't work out we'll need train tickets from Edinburgh to London. There is one travel agency in my city that can book those. Pros are that since my sister and I are inexperienced travellers if a problem arises we would be lost. It would give some peace of mind if we had a "paper ticket" and someone to contact with problems. Hotel would not apply in London because we are staying with friends for the 3 days we are there. That only leaves maybe 2 days accomodations in Edinburgh. Some travel agents may not want to deal with us small fries. Especially since we don't want to book any tours! Thanks for the replies. Keep 'em comin!
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Old Nov 26th, 2003, 07:26 AM
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Even before the Internet, I only used the travel agent to print my ticket. I was willing to spend more time finding the best deal then would be reasonable for the travel agent.

I booked my first (and all) international travel myself and have been very happy with the results. But I book my airline tickets through the airlines web sites, not through 3rd parties.

When the terms are better, I have booked hotels through third parties, but always confirmed everything through the actual hotel.

But if someone feels more comfortable with using a Travel Agent, it doesn't matter if it is more expensive or cheaper, peace of mind means a lot.

Keith
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Old Nov 26th, 2003, 07:31 AM
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Call or check online with British Airways. They have been having some incredible sales lately. See what you can do and then see what a travel agent offers, then take the best deal.

You can check out Edinburgh hotels here on Fodor's Rants and Raves for actual experiences of travelers who have stayed in the hotels.

Again, whatever works for you is fine, agent or on your own!
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Old Nov 26th, 2003, 07:47 AM
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One of my best friends is a TA and so I do most of my planning and she helps out if I get stuck. From what I've read, the direct flight to Edinburgh next year is only from New York, which isn't a great help to me in California! It does take longer doing it yourself, but isn't that part of the fun? I seem to end up exploring all kinds of things before actually booking.

Check out all the airlines web sites. You need to decide how many times you are willing to change planes to get where you want to go. It may be less expensive for you to fly into and out of London, getting from London to Edinburgh and back either by air or train.

For a pretty good list of hotels and B&Bs, look at www.edinburgh.org.

Good luck! However you get there, you will love Edinburgh!
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Old Nov 26th, 2003, 07:48 AM
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We used a TA for our first trip to Europe (Paris)in 1998 as it was on fairly short notice and it worked very well. It was just air and hotel. Oddly enough they didn't give us vouchers for the hotel, but the hotel wasn't concerned (we stayed for 8 nights...we were family by the time we left!). About three weeks after we got home the TA called to say she'd forgotten to bill us for the hotel, so she did and we paid and it was really no big deal at all.
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Old Nov 26th, 2003, 07:52 AM
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oops, forgot to add -- we haven't need a TA ever since. There is so much info available on the net that it's not been necessary. I tried to use one for planning our first African safari (May 2004) but have had better luck on my own. Go figure.
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Old Nov 26th, 2003, 08:05 AM
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Several years ago in Turkey, our morning boat to Samos in Greece was cancelled due to bad weather, so we knew we needed to stay in Kusadasi another night. We met a couple who were in the same predicament. When the little bus took us back to the hotel (they and us were staying at The Kismet), they mentioned how glad they were that everything they did was through a travel agent and now all they had to do was call the agent and let her "fix" everything. We didn't have a travel agent, but walked up to the desk at the hotel and booked another night, then we called Samos and cancelled our first night there telling them we'd be arriving the next day. Then we went out to have fun in Kusadasi for our extra day. Meanwhile this couple we met, sat in the lobby half the day due to the time change waiting for their travel agent back in the US to get back to them about whether they were being rebooked there or where. It ended up that by the time the agent got back to them the Kismet was all fully booked, so they had to go to another hotel. Meanwhile they were being charged for the first night at the hotel in Samos because it was past noon and the hotel required cancellation by noon on the day of arrival. This is a good example of why I like doing things myself.
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Old Nov 26th, 2003, 10:11 AM
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I think it's hard to say which would be best for you given your situation. I think if you aren't willing to go beyond sites like Expedia, then maybe an agent would be better. I do everything myself and prefer that for a lot of reasons, most of which aren't cost, but having more control and getting what I want and making sure things are correct. I enjoy finding out about places and choosing my own hotel -- a lot of folks don't care much about hotels (they say) and just want a room in the city.

You see, the issue is that because I do things myself I DON'T hardly ever prepay anything. So, you problem scenario would not have caused me any problems as I don't pay hotels except upon checkout. In that case, I would have checked out and paid only for the nights I stayed, and probably just looked around the nearby block or so for a decent hotel to move to (or contacted one I knew). I don't use booking sites that require prepayment. I think that's your real problem, and if you aren't willing to go beyond that, maybe you should use a travel agent.
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Old Nov 26th, 2003, 10:19 AM
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I have used cheap tickets.com for airline tickets, I have booked through Travel Agents and I have done it myself. I will always do the airlines online myself. Cheap tickets were cheaper but unlike going to the airlines directly, if the air fares go down, too bad. If you go to the airlines directly, many of them will issue a travel voucher for the difference. I use a travel agent for some group rated things. We are going to try to book our own hotels for Paris, directly with the hotel.
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Old Nov 26th, 2003, 01:35 PM
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Personally, I doubt I'll ever feel the need to darken a travel agent's doorway again. No offense to travel agents, they're wonderful people, but the Internet has pretty much replaced them. I can do so much more research on the Web, when I want, at home in my jammies at midnight if I care to. Plane tickets, hotels, etc etc, all can be found and compared to your heart's delight through the travel sites, airline sites, Google etc. I get better deals, more choices, and even have more fun with my trusty computer than I ever did through a brick and mortar travel agency.
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Old Nov 26th, 2003, 01:55 PM
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I don't use a travel agent myself anymore but I often recommend them to others. Travel is my hobby. Just because I'm totally absorbed in doing my own research, booking my own arrangements and taking responsibility for whatever might go awry doesn't mean it's that way for everyone. (In fact, I don't personally know anyone who puts more time into researching destinations, travel trends and everything else that goes into traveling than me. They're out there, to be sure -- I just don't know any of them personally.)

If you feel more comfortable using a travel agent, you have nobody to apologize to for it and it may well be the best option for you. It isn't all that expensive -- even with the add-on fees that the agencies have had no choice but to add. With some packages, there may not even be any extra costs. For a first-time trip to Europe, it's a perfectly reasonable approach.
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Old Nov 26th, 2003, 08:21 PM
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Have used an agent and have done it on our own. No bad experiences with agents really, but no great experiences either. I guess we haven't seen the added value.

I honestly would do my homework before approaching an agent anyway, so that I knew if fares and rates being quoted by the agent were in fact at or under the published rate. But by the time I've done that, I really could book it myself. No experiences at all where the agent has been a savings.

When we asked the last agent we worked with about travel insurance, we were given a recommendation and a brochure with a 1-800 number on it and advised to call. No biggie, but I could (and since have) gotten that much from the net.
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Old Nov 27th, 2003, 05:22 AM
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Here's what I would do in your situation, assuming you have some time. Now that you've found THIS website, do some research yourself first.

1.Check prices of airline tickets (I always start with travelocity.com to find out which carriers fly the route I'm interested in, then I go to the individual carriers' websites to see if there are better deals).
2.Check train fares betw. Edinburgh & London
3.Do some research here for b & bs/hotels. Check reviews of places on tripadvisor.com & rants & raves here. See if the airlines offer deals on hotels.

Then ask the travel agent to quote a price for airline tickets, train & whatever accomodation you need & compare. Bottom line, for your needs, I don't think you really need a TA. Even if you run into a problem, the TA is not nearby to help. If you were making more stops or going to countries where English is not spoken, I might feel differently, but in this case, I think you can do it on your own with some time on the computer and your friends on Fodors
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Old Nov 27th, 2003, 07:18 AM
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It is very hard to find a travel agent who is an expert on all areas. Maybe if you're going to Italy, you'll be lucky and get one who has actually traveled there and knows what to suggest, but more often than not, the travel agent will have less knowledge about a specific place than you can get on your own or from sources like this website. Most travel agents book people in to hotels they've never even seen for example.
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