Should I use a travel agent??

Old Jan 22nd, 2004, 09:30 PM
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Should I use a travel agent??

Hi,

I have been getting so many wonderful recommendations from the forum for my honeymoon in June. As I plan out my perfect vacation, I realize it is becomming so expensive! I think we may save money by going through a travel agent. Any advise on a great one that you have used??

What I was planning was this:

Night 1-2: San Jose - Grano de Oro
whitewater rafting the rio Pacuare on day 2
Night 3-4: Arenal - Tabacon Resort
Night 5-6: Monteverde - Belmar
Night 7-8-9: Makanda by the Sea.


We were also wanting to drive. I am pretty sure that this is a good itinerary but was thinking that travel agents can sometimes get better deals at hotels or for airfare...

Does anyone have any advise on this? It is better to just do it on my own?

Thank you!!!
Shonda is offline  
Old Jan 23rd, 2004, 08:56 AM
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Shonda, here is another to look into to lovecostarica.com. We just got our tickets TODAY!!! I'm So Excited! Anyway Pat Hewitt with Costa Rica Travel Exchange, helped me in planning our upcoming trip. He is in Lousianna, and also owns a home in Costa Rica. Very helpful. I too spend a great amount of time in researching our trips, but always feel more comfortable having an agent finilze the details. Pat is really good to listen to your desires and plan your trip accordingly.
Good Luck
And Best Wishes on your upcoming marriage.
Donna
dfarmer is offline  
Old Jan 23rd, 2004, 10:14 AM
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Steve, it looks like you manage a very lovely hotel in Mexico, and will keep your link in case we revisit Mexico.

And what you say is quite true; we have had bad experiences even when using a reputable travel agent. However in both cases our agent was able to rectify our problem in a very timely and cost effective way.

My personal fear of taking on the whole process is that unfortunately websites are not always true to what you actually see. Whatyear were the pictures taken, which direction was the camera pointing, and how recent is the information?

And then there is the time and cost involved from research, phone calls, and email. Then getting your credit card information, or checks to all these different individuals. And knowing that there is no one to back you except yourself.

Obviously many times hotels get more business due to their relationship with agents and the word of mouth of travelers.

Shonda, you have chosen some fabulous hotel accommodations. And should be very pleased with your stay.

As to whether or not your Costa Rican Travel Company or agent can get better deals - In Costa Rica, really the price does not change, and you are charged nothing for their service.

What the agent does have is the most reliable and up to date information on transportation, best way to travel, best way to get from point A to point B, both time wise and cost conscious. A vast array of options for you to choose from for both lodging and activites. Off the beaten path ideas for you to consider.

I know that for our upcoming trip, Pat rearranged my proposed itinerary, saving us 2 days and allowing us to actually add one additional area. without ever backtracking. I would have definitely missed this.

So to be fair to other companies we have used -
Vacation Express for an inexpensive all inclusive, air included trip (package company in the states).
Centralamerica.com or Travel Net, for a semi personally detailed trip.
Both were good trips.

But with Pat - everything is to our personal request and he has personally stayed at each hotel that he recommends.

Shonda, Have a great trip, Relax and good luck.

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Old Jan 23rd, 2004, 10:50 PM
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Thank you to everyone!
I am going to check out those leads you gave me and I will try to reach the specific people with whom you had good experiences. I agree that it does not hurt to get some additional help. I know I am going to have an amazing time no matter which route I take.
Thank you
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Old Jan 24th, 2004, 07:08 AM
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Shonda, I just got back Thurs, and planned the whole trip myself for 4 women. We met another couple who were furious with their agent. They booked Fonda Vela for two nights with their agent in Oct. Told no problem. A week before leaving their paperwork showed they would be staing at El Sapo Dorado which is a great place but not what they wanted. I booked us at Fonda Vela after we arrived in C.R. and had no trouble. I'm not sure what happened, but they had other problems also. I like doing it myself with the help of this forum. I research recommendations from here then e-mail the hotels. I ask for the best room, view, size or whatever is important to us. I also negotiate the rate. Then I print out the e-mails on one sheet and take with me. I always ask the person I've been dealing with if they would like me to bring them something from my area. They love it. With that relationship built, I've never had any trouble. We did get to Tabacon and were told we only had reservations for one night instead of two. I asked to speak to the woman I had been e-mailing and showed her our correspondence. She said no problem and it was changed. I can't say enough about having the control over the plans but that is just my preference. Enjoy!
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Old Jan 24th, 2004, 09:50 AM
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I vote for having the control myself and making my arrangements personally. We used a travel agent and basically she just used a tour company in CR...one day excursion from San Jose was much too long for us (6am to 8:45 pm)...on this site, I bet I would have found it wasn't a good idea as a day trip from SJ. Another excursion we had planned based on the tour company as a day trip, we had friends...plus this site...who urged us to stay overnight (Tabacon). We are so glad we did...we would have been quite miserable doing it as a day trip. Also, our hotel accommodations in Manuel Antonio, while satisfactory, I think would have been better if we had done them ourselves. I like the poster's suggestion to keep copies of email to have with you.
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Old Jan 24th, 2004, 01:30 PM
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I agree with the last two posts. My wife and I spent 8 days in Costa Rica in Nov 2002 and I planned everything myself and booked it all via email. I can see the psychological comfort of using an agent who could help if things go awry, but I don't think they'll be saving you much money (if any).

Also, I strongly recommend AGAINST driving yourself. The roads are rough all over and around Monteverde they are unbelieveable. We arranged transfers from San Jose to La Fortuna, La Fortuna to Monteverde (taxi/boat/taxi, see www.monteverdeinfo.com/volcano.htm), and Monteverde to San Jose. I think it was actually cheaper than renting a car, and I can't put a price on the headaches it saved us. Look for other threads about shuttle transfers in Costa Rica; I believe many others would back me up.
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Old Jan 24th, 2004, 06:07 PM
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I'm going to come down firmly in the middle of this matter. I've encountered bad travel agents and wonderful travel agents. If you go to your corner TA who handles CR only occasionally, you have a chance of things going wrong. That's happened to me. However, if you find someone who knows the CR intimately, you'll beneft. For example, I've been to Brazil several times and have used a TA who is from Brazil and specializes only in Brazil. She saved us time and money and organized our independent travel so that it went smoothly. She knew more than I did even though I'd done a lot of research. So if you find a jewel who knows CR inside out, you'll probably be happy. On our first trip to CR, I used a local TA who didn't have a clue about CR; we showed up at a hotel with a pre-paid voucher for a room in Monteverde, and the hotel had never heard of the company that issued the voucher. It turned out OK but only after quite a bit of confusion.
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Old Jan 24th, 2004, 07:42 PM
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I have been traveling to CR for 12 years now. Every year I have used the help of a TA if not for all my trip, then for at least part of it. I have always used people who are in Costa Rica. Using a corner TA down the street who may or may not have ever been in the country is not the best way to go these days. That was how a lot of travel was done for many years. Fortunately there is the internet now with the world at your fingertips. Research is much easier. Communication is still not always that easy and when dealing with third world countries, even more developed ones like CR, things still happen like in country flight changes, tours being cancelled due to bad weather, etc. Costa Rica is a very mobile tourist destination. Trying to coordinate several different hotels and transportation can be frustrating. Sometimes it can take days to hear back. In the meantime you cannot contact the other hotels for reservations because you don't know for sure if you will have the other reservation when you want it. There is someone right now who contacted a hotel at the beginning of the month. He is still waiting to hear from them and has emailed them repeatedly. I just read another persons report who told of actually confirming all his reservations personally before leaving and then when he got there one of the places did not have a room for him for the whole time.
Much of our travel in CR is in areas where calling to confirm in country flights or upcoming hotel reservations for our next stop is not always an option. I feel more comfortable at those times knowing that someone is watching out for us. I spend a good deal of time researching, planning, and saving for our trips. Come vacation time I like to just relax and not worry about things-that is why I am on vacation. I have not had a single problem with using tour agencies in Costa Rica. They have been very helpful at times when our choices of hotels have not been all that great and have recommended alternatives. These boards were not available to us initially.
Regarding driving....it all depends on your personality. If you are open minded and like adventure then go for it. We drove on a few of our trips and having the flexibility of a car can be nice but in a lot of places you really don't need one. Many of the roads to the more popular places are much better than they used to be. Our first trip to Manuel Antonio had us on an unpaved road just about the whole way from Puntarenas. These days we leave most of the driving to others.
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Old Jan 25th, 2004, 10:23 AM
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I must agree with Suzie2 on this matter. Obviously you want a good travel agent and not a bad one, but a good travel agent from Costa Rica, is probably the best thing you can do for yourself, planning your trip. You have to remember, even if you do everything yourself, and come with all the copies of your emails, you may still encounter a problem, people in hotels make mistakes as well. At least when you work with a travel agent, a local one, you will always have someone to turn to in case of a problem, in case you want to make changes, or even just in case of an emergency (many of the travel agencies will give you a 24/7 number to call in case of an emergency). You can do all the research yourself and decide which hotels you want etc., and then ask a travel agent to do all the bookings for you. This way, you are not totally giving control, and you get some peace of mind, knowing that there is someone who is taking care of things for you.
Pura Vida,
Neta
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Old Jan 25th, 2004, 01:23 PM
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I've used Costa Rica Experts (www.crexpert.com) and had only good experiences with them. If you decide not to drive, they can arrange private drivers for you (more expensive, but relaxing!) Costa Rica Expeditions also does this in certain areas.
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Old Feb 1st, 2004, 02:51 PM
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We went to Costa Rica last spring and booked it all with Rico Tours on the internet. It was tailored to everything and everywhere we wanted. It was also reasonably priced and included private drivers and transfers between the places we traveled--at a much cheaper rate than if we had rented a car ourselves (good thing considering the road conditions there--too many potholes!).
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Old Feb 1st, 2004, 05:53 PM
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Hi everyone,
Takemethere mentioned Rico Tours (www.ricotours.com), and I wanted to add that Rico Tours' owner, Leigh Ann Cloutier, is an award winner travel agent (by Conde Nast Traveler magazine, which chose her as the best travel agent for Costa Rica for the last 3 years) and she and her staff will take care of all your needs in Costa Rica. Leigh Ann works from Texas, but she also works with a local agency. If you are looking for an agency that is located in San Jose, I recommend www.vacationscostarica.com (you can write Carrie, the sales manager, directly at [email protected]).
Pura Vida
Neta Talmor
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Old Feb 3rd, 2004, 06:57 AM
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I think you'll definitely not save money going through a travel agent. How have you been getting your prices so far? Did you try travelocity.com? I normally make my own arrangements, but this time since I was a little nervous about traveling to CR alone I used a tour company. If you do use an agent, be sure to use one who specializes in Costa Rica (where thats all they sell)
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Old Feb 4th, 2004, 06:54 PM
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Thanks to this forum I have been able to research the places I really want to stay (Makanda by the sea!) for our honeymoon. I heard back from Pat Hewitt from Love Costa Rica and he seems really great. I think I am safe as he lives part time in CR (Monteverde), so this way I know I am getting someone who is familiar with the country and loves it enough to make a second home there. I don't know that I saved any money, but I like having someone who can help me with the details like car rental, where to splurge for a great room and where not to bother, etc...
Love Costa Rica also will have a contact in CR for me in case of emergency oe assistance with anything. I really like that. Since it is my honeymoon, I think I need just a little assistance, next time I'll probably just use the forum since it is so informative.

And I am pretty adventerous and open minded so I'm going to drive. I have read all the horror stories about the roads, so I will be careful but i do want the freedom.

Thanks again for all the tips.

Does anyone have any first hand experience with Love Costa Rica? So far I am very happy with their service.
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