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  Reply # 990585 19-Feb-2014 16:21 Send private message

Seconding those who say travel agents are really, really worth their while, especially when things go wrong. A few years ago we booked a holiday in Europe online and while away family member passed away. Boy, did it take some sorting out. Lots of phone calls and when you are already under stress, the last thing you need. Have used a travel agent ever since. Wouldn't do it anyway way and have never found them anymore expensive - at least for the travel we have booked. It is an old adage but bears repeating: you get what you pay for.

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  Reply # 990872 20-Feb-2014 07:35 One person supports this post Send private message

I don't necessarily agree with travel agents being better. I've done (and still do) a lot of travel in my life, and my experiences with a few different travel agents in the last couple of years has resulted in painful experiences and limitations with things such as airline tickets because they were issued by an agent, and not the airline directly. 99% of what I book is direct, but there are times where you have complex flight routing that can't be booked online, meaning a travel agent is the only option.

In the old days the commission paid by airlines and hotels was great, margins were good and staff were paid well. The opposite now applies, meaning that in some big brand travel agents you have the same situation as Dick Smith - unskilled staff earning peanuts.

In a situation such as flight delays or cancellations a travel agent is going to end up with probably the same outcomes as you would do as an individual. And as for when things go wrong - that's why you have travel insurance.

 

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  Reply # 990885 20-Feb-2014 08:29 Send private message

sbiddle: In the old days the commission paid by airlines and hotels was great, margins were good and staff were paid well. The opposite now applies, meaning that in some big brand travel agents you have the same situation as Dick Smith - unskilled staff earning peanuts.



I have noticed this, so that's why!  In years past agents seemed intimately aware of the destinations including the do's and don'ts, and largely spoke from personal experience.  I thought part of being a travel agent was actually going to these places and experiencing things first hand so that they could then sell back to the customers.  Honestly I swear one I went to see a couple of weeks back actually started Googling our chosen destination!






Artificial intelligence is no match, for natural stupidity



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  Reply # 990888 20-Feb-2014 08:43 Send private message

I always bought my own flight tickets when flying overseas for holiday (at least 3x a year). I was struggling to get the return flight last year due to bad planning so i went with Business class instead. The exact same day spoken to the travel agent who told me that she could have get me the economy if i want to (some tickets are reserved for travel agent??) and the business class ticket is 30% less.

This is not the first time I heard that travel agents can occasionally get cheaper ticket than advertised on the website.





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  Reply # 990906 20-Feb-2014 09:15 Send private message

I will split my opinion 50 50 :) When looking to travel I usually go online, do all the digging and work out best price etc from various sites. Then I contact my local Flight Centre with what I am wanting to do; tell them the prices I have found myself and they (to date) always match/better the prices.
This way I have the booking completed through an agent (which realises the added benefits should things turn pear shaped), whilst also getting the price I was happy with through independant research.

The last time, they had to contact the wholsalers who had to contact the hotel I was wanting to stay in to negotiate a better rate - and it all came back favourable....so i rekon this approach is a win win... :) for me at least

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  Reply # 990909 20-Feb-2014 09:21 Send private message

E3xtc: I will split my opinion 50 50 :) When looking to travel I usually go online, do all the digging and work out best price etc from various sites. Then I contact my local Flight Centre with what I am wanting to do; tell them the prices I have found myself and they (to date) always match/better the prices.
This way I have the booking completed through an agent (which realises the added benefits should things turn pear shaped), whilst also getting the price I was happy with through independant research.

The last time, they had to contact the wholsalers who had to contact the hotel I was wanting to stay in to negotiate a better rate - and it all came back favourable....so i rekon this approach is a win win... :) for me at least



I plus one on that, i do this every time and gets you the best results. In about 25% cases the agent cannot match it, for those cases i recommend you use expedia as they have a really good support service. 

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  Reply # 990911 20-Feb-2014 09:21 Send private message

The one advantage of a travel agent is they have the ability to effectively hold a ticket (normally for ~48 hours). The airlines that offer services such as this typically charge for it.

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  Reply # 990940 20-Feb-2014 09:36 Send private message

sbiddle: The one advantage of a travel agent is they have the ability to effectively hold a ticket (normally for ~48 hours). The airlines that offer services such as this typically charge for it.



I know atleast 3-4 diff travel agents who can hold tickets no cost for 10-12 days.


It's actually a "push" or a sales tactic of travel agent who say " i can hold it for only 48hrs ,. and cant guarantee you that rate cuz 1) seats are limited 2)fares are ending " so on.... 


So its always best to shop around, 

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  Reply # 990964 20-Feb-2014 10:13 Send private message

As indicated, I am very pro using a travel agent.  If we are allowed to give specific recommendations I would say you can't go wrong with David Thorn at TravelManagers.  Very experienced and good to deal with. But I accept others have different experiences with or without travel agents, so as always YMMV. 


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  Reply # 992936 23-Feb-2014 17:55 Send private message

Tinshed: Seconding those who say travel agents are really, really worth their while, especially when things go wrong. A few years ago we booked a holiday in Europe online and while away family member passed away. Boy, did it take some sorting out. Lots of phone calls and when you are already under stress, the last thing you need. Have used a travel agent ever since. Wouldn't do it anyway way and have never found them anymore expensive - at least for the travel we have booked. It is an old adage but bears repeating: you get what you pay for.

Conversely, I had booked through a travel agent for a trip to Europe in 2010 with a few days in Korea on the way back. Then North Korea started blowing things up and tensions in the area ramped up considerably. The agent was less than useless and came back with offers that would have cost us considerably more. I walked into the airlines office in Paris, told them what I wanted, and fifteen minutes later walked out with tickets changed at no charge. The agent was left to cancel the Korean hotel booking and organise a refund. I ended up doing that when I got home. 

Keep in mind that these days agents are only seeing the same information on the web that we are. I see their value in a situation where there is a lot of stress but otherwise I recommend going it alone.  

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  Reply # 992950 23-Feb-2014 18:13 Send private message

Expedia fees are too high. I book everything myself and do the research online. I have gone to agents over the past few years, after doing the research, and found they couldn't get better routes or prices than me so I don't bother with them now.
One online site I recommend staying away from is Orbitz. They can, and do, sell cheap tickets that the airlines won't honour. I spent a month in arguments with Orbitz last year (first and last time I used them) trying to resolve ticketing issues over a ticket I bought for my daughter. To get help you must phone them in the US so it turned into an expensive exercise. Stay clear!  What I do when researching international flights is I start the search by finding which airlines fly into my destination. Then I look at routes and basically trace the deals back from end point to where I am leaving from. Being prepared to change airlines can often be the way to save a lot of money. For example, when booking a ticket to get my man back to Palmy from Montreal between Christmas and New Year had prices come up varying from $2-$3 thousand each way. AirNZ's site came back with total costs of over $3,000 for the inbound fare. I got him on American Airlines from Montreal to Honolulu for a couple of hundred dollars to hook up with AirNZ from Honolulu to PMR via Auckland. On that one route I saved almost $2,000 (mainly because I noticed that AirNZ was heavily discounting seats from Hawaii so decided to see which airlines flew there from Montreal). 

So, my suggestion - be creative. If you find out which airlines land at your destination its easy to trace the hops needed back to departure point and find the best deals. Also, if you switch airlines make sure you leave plenty of time. If the first flight is running late and you are worried about missing a connection, ask the airline to contact the other one to let them know you are coming in late - most will do this and most airlines (in my experience) that know they have an inbound passenger connecting will make allowances and not treat you as a no-show if your incoming flight is too late. Allowing three hours minimum between flights is usually enough. I always cover myself by checking airlines rescheduling policies. Generally, if you contact them in advance to let them know which flight you are connecting from and ask for information about what happens if that flight is late/delayed/cancelled, the airlines note this against your booking. Many won't charge a rescheduling fee if they know in advance that you are reliant on another airline. 

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  Reply # 993012 23-Feb-2014 20:43 Send private message

alasta: I'm considering a trip to the US later this year, probably flying into San Francisco and visiting one or two other locations. Because I've never taken a long haul trip before I was thinking that a travel agent might be a safer option so that I can avoid any gotchas but now I'm thinking that a DIY job through Expedia might be cheaper and more flexible.

Apart from travel insurance are there any other things that I could get caught out on? e.g. what, if anything, do I need to do to arrange a visa?


You can travel on visa waiver, so you do not need to get a Visa UNLESS you are going for work, in which case you need to apply for a Visa for the trip.

In any case you will have to register for the "online authorisation to travel to the US" no less than 72 hours before you travel. http://www.passports.govt.nz/Travelling-to-the-USA#esta





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  Reply # 993013 23-Feb-2014 20:46 Send private message

One gotcha that you will want to avoid when booking yourself:

If you are traveling with several different airlines and have stops on the way over, and you book these separately, you could get in trouble if a canceled flight on one of these means that you won't get the connecting flight.

ALWYAS book your whole journey through, unless you have a lot of transit time (many hours) between each flight. If the journey is booked through, it is the booking agent/airline that is responsible if something should happen and you loose your connecting flight.




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  Reply # 993152 24-Feb-2014 09:56 Send private message

My partner and I are doing our first big overseas trip in a couple of months time (going right through Europe). Initially we just started looking online at flights, tours etc, but then because we are on such a tight schedule we were just struggling getting our dates lined up and couldn't figure out when/where/how and all those questions.

Being our first major trip we just decided to head into House of Travel and I must say it's been a lifesaver. It's so easy. I think we've been in there probably 3 times for about an hour to hash out a bit of a plan. Within 2 weeks (with back and forward emailing) we have flights, tour, trains, and hotels all sorted. All we need to do is show up with some spending money and we're good to go.

For those saying that it's cheaper to DIY I don't think so. The flights I was looking at were easily $150 more expensive each way (per person). So a saving of $600 right there. Add on to that, HoT had an expo back in November which TopDeck (tour operator) couldn't make it to, so they sent 15% discount vouchers that we were able to use (again a saving of ~$500).  

The only thing we're paying a bit more on is the hotels because HoT will only use the ones that they have used before. Not a big deal because as she said, we will basically know exactly what we are going to get rather than showing up and hoping for the best.

As for the trains, we have paid for a 5-day rail pass which she got online as I would've done myself so we're paying exactly the same amount.

Overall we're very satisfied and it has made a particular stressful situation stress free.

I think the next trip we do will probably be a lot more flexible so we'll probably do the majority on our own, but I would recommend a travel agent just for some of the savings themselves.




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