What Resources Do You Use to Book Complicated Trips?

Old Nov 17th, 2015, 11:40 AM
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What Resources Do You Use to Book Complicated Trips?

We spend a lot of time trying to put complicated trips together. All the way from air to accommodations, activities, transportation logistics, restaurants etc. We haven't been able to find a good way to put in our criteria (eg. budget, etc) and get good guidance.

Is this a problem for others?

When you think about the last time you booked a complicated itinerary for a diverse group (eg. family), what challenges came up and what products/services did you find to help you? We have been reluctant to use travel agents because we think that perhaps costs for each item will be higher.

Would appreciate your advice!
bdaryani is offline  
Old Nov 17th, 2015, 09:14 PM
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I travel solo, but for months at a time. I use blank calendar sheets - on paper - while I'm planning the trip, then I transfer the result to an Excel-type spreadsheet. When I did that for my most recent trip I discovered I'd skipped a day when making hotel reservations, but I caught the error in plenty of time.

Have no idea what you mean by "putting in our criteria ... to get good guidance. My criteria are in my head, I don't need to put them anywhere.
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Old Nov 18th, 2015, 12:36 AM
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Like Thursdaysd I tend to take long extended trips which, arguably, take less "intense" planning than shorter trips as we make a lot up as we go.

For a broad outline plan I tend to use guidebooks acquired from the library. It doesn't matter that they are out of date a s nothing much changes ( apart from prices).

Booking flights, I tend to use kayak.com as my first port of call and then book directly with the airline or with a good agency like trailfinders.com or statravel.co.uk, who often have better prices.

Apple Numbers has a decent trip planning template and I am sure MS excel has something similar. I tend not to use them though and rely on memory and auto entering everything into my iPad diary (which many websites will do automatically.
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Old Nov 19th, 2015, 04:21 PM
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I use Microsoft OneNote to pull information together since I do a lot of research on the web and it's easy to copy/paste information in (and it provides the link automatically). I create a new Notebook for each trip. You can create different tabs for different activities for the various family members if you wanted. Advantage is also you can share the notebook with everyone which can be accessed via smartphones and tablets. You can also share the notebook with a co-planner. I think you can just share and not give edit privileges if you're afraid someone might accidentally delete stuff. For budget, I had mine in Excel which you could probably import into OneNote but I haven't tried.

As for resources, I think travel guides or news articles give a better overview of locations. I use sites like Fodors and TripAdvisor for finding restaurants, lodging and activities. Of course forums like this are a great source of information.

Good luck!
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Old Dec 16th, 2015, 11:42 AM
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Wing it.

Seriously. I usually plan the first week or so of my trip, then I plan as I go. A couple reasons for this:

1. If you like something or don't like something, it is easier to change your plans cause you have no plans

2. Talking to people on the road is the best way to learn about what is good and what sucks.

It isn't hard to plan as you go, but it does have its drawbacks.
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Old Dec 18th, 2015, 08:06 AM
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bdaryani, you might want to get quotes from a few travel agencies, once you've finalized your next itinerary. Thanks largely but not entirely to block reservations, agencies often get rates that are as low or lower than what you can find yourself, on hotels, airfares, car rentals etc.
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Old Dec 27th, 2015, 11:03 AM
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I use AAA furlong complicated trips--been member for 50 years..
I can do air & hotels in USA but Europe with trains, transfers, Museum tickets, I do not have the knowledge and if any glitches I have someone to call.
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Old Dec 28th, 2015, 05:57 AM
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I belong to AAA for when my car breaks down. I have occasionally consulted their US state guides for hotels. I might, but only might, use their trip maps for the US. There is no way I would use them for Europe, unless I wanted to book a cruise. Independent European travel is not their area of expertise.
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Old Dec 31st, 2015, 07:19 AM
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I agree with Thursday above....AAA for Europe is probably not the best choice...frankly they book hotels or packages based on potential commission. I just dig in a do my own research and get the kind of hotels I want and read alot on line.
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Old Jan 1st, 2016, 12:20 PM
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I use blank calendar pages to plot out our course too. Then I use the trip it app to store everything. Flights, hotels, activities, etc. I don't print anything before I go, if I need printed admission or transportation tickets I print them at hotel on my way out. Sometimes I will print something in advance if I'm staying in an apartment & don't feel like researching an Internet cafe in the area.
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Old Jan 1st, 2016, 12:23 PM
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I don't think travel agents are necessarily more expensive for the same product. I think in apples to apples terms they are the same or maybe better price than you'd get on your own. I don't use them because I want to be in control of the details & selections myself. But if I was more laid back in that regard & didn't enjoy the planning I'd certainly use them.
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Old Jan 1st, 2016, 12:52 PM
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Just so happens my local AAA sent me a trip brochure this week. Remembering this thread, I took a look. Didn't get to Europe until half way through, and the very first trip - Italian Vistas - turned me off. They count the night you fly to Europe as one day of the trip, even though the price doesn't include air, which is a bigger con even than counting the day you leave, when at least you get breakfast. So a "13 day" trip is really only Elevan, or ten if you discount the jet-lagged arrival day with just a "welcome" dinner.

Just two full days in Rome, but they don't take you to St. Peters or the Vatican museum, or really anywhere except the Colosseum and a walk through the Forum and a few other places. Then you go via Pompeii to Sorrento, but you only see the "Sorrento Coast", NOT the Amalfi Coast, and you do a day trip to Capri, which is the worst way to see it. The two possible Sorrento hotels are well out of town.

Day and a half in Florence, but they don't take you to the Ufizzi. One full day in Venice, and where do they take you? Murano, for the glass blowing shopping op! The hotel is at least in Venice proper, not on the mainland, but it's about as close as you can get to the train station without being in it - I would never stay there.

You finish in Stresa with the day trip to Locarno that's easy to do yourself, and no visit to the Borromeo islands.

This wretched trip, if you don't count the night you're on a plane, is $312/night per person double in May. I could do it for a lot less as a single, never mind half of a couple.

And I'd like to see some proof that a TA can get better prices than a savvy traveler, unless you're going very high end.
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Old Jan 1st, 2016, 10:37 PM
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Well to reiterate, my advice was to price your own custom itinerary with a few TAs, not book pre-packaged tours with them. I couldn't agree more with thursdaysd about these tours. I know they're fine for some people, but imo one is much better off staying at home and watching a travel program. At least you have pause, stop and rewind buttons.
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