TO @SavBride: We went on a Caribbean Cruise… 7 Nights / 8 Days… and 6 Ports of Call (counting the starting & ending city of San Juan, PR). We booked our cruise directly with the cruise line (as return customers we got preferred rates / offers) and also after doing some research, we also booked our airfare thru the Cruise Line as well (because the prices were competitive… BUT the travel insurance component made it the right thing to do… they would GUARANTEE we’d make the ship flying in and make our connections flying out… OR they’d pay the extra to make it happen)
As well we bought our Travel Insurance for the Cruise, from the Cruise Line (just the trip insurance portion as we both have Annual Health Insurance coverage from another company… as we are Semi-Retired and travel out of country a lot)
Don’t know how much travelling you’ve done in the past… so perhaps I’m telling you some things you already know… but just the same, here they are.
Unless you book directly with your Travel Provider… you are going to pay some sort of “price” if you use a Travel Agent (be that a 3D one or an on-line service company… such as Expedia, Hotwire etc)
Real Life Travel Agents make their money off of either REAL Mark Ups on Price or Commissions from the companies they sell for… or a combo of both. So you won’t always get the best deal from a 3D Travel Agent… and chances are they are only going to showcase to you companies that they are getting a kickback / commission from. So might not be the truly best choice for you (you’ll hear about this often on Travel Websites… I went in to the place to book a stay at All-Inclusive XYZ and they sold me AI TUV) Do your research yourself on-line… lot of great info out there… ask Questions (like here on WBee as well as over on TripAdvisor’s Forums) and read the various Review Websites (like TripAdvisor, Frommers etc)
YOU decide what it is you want out of your vacation… not have a Travel Agent sway you to change your mind… they can have good info for sure… but more often than not they are trying to sway you so they’ll make more money.
On-Line companies like Expedia, Hotwire, Hotels.com, Travelocity, even things like Groupon etc… are all the same thing as a 3D Travel Agent… they just are on-line. They sell products in bulk, so they can offer better pricing IN SOME CASES (not all… Again do your research)
The thing with on-line Travel Companies are they are resellers… middle men if you will. And many of these companies offer cheaper deals because they are buying in bulk… BUT more importantly you as the Consumer are buying an item AS IS. In that if you have a problem with the item purchased you have very little recourse (it’s all there in the fine print if you read it)
So if your flight has issues, or your Hotel room sucks… you are usually told to go back to the Reseller to resolve the problem. Not a big deal if we are talking one night in a Hotel room (5 Stars for the price of 3… even if it is the worst room in the hotel… the one the Hotel has problems selling as it is next to the noisy elevator) BUT can be a HUGE ISSUE if you are on a week long holiday somewhere… or need to work thru specific Itinerary issues (can’t risk having your flight cancelled… or your being bumped onto another etc)
The offerings by these companies are great IF you are an easy going travel, with low expectations looking to save some money. Maybe not so great for a trip of a lifetime or a honeymoon.
Strangely enough… oftentimes the best deals can be found right from the source… be that a Hotel, Cruise, AI etc. Check their websites. Check the competition (theirs as well as the on-line resellers) and price shop. Don’t be afraid to ask the company what they can do for you as you’ve found a price of XYZ on-line from so-and-so Reseller. Often the company will meet or beat the price you found.
The advantage here is if there are any problems… you have more recourse (legal rights). Be that taking something as minor as getting your Credit Card company to withhold payment or a bigger issue like taking the company to court.
And if you are looking to book anything… BEFORE you do so, check to see if the company has a Loyalty Program… and enrol in that (its usually FREE and takes 5 minutes on-line to do). Guests that are Loyalty Members tend to get better service (it is a policy usually for the Company). So you might get better rates, an upgrade, etc. And when you check in… be sure and show your Loyalty Card (or mention it) with your Credit Card & ID. This is when oftentimes the “unseen” perks are given. In that you’ll get the best available room in a Hotel etc.
Loyalty Programs aren’t just to earn free air miles / trips… or hotel stays… they can often make for quicker rewards right from the get go. Besides the stuff that happens when you make a Reservation or Check In… you’ll often get stuff like Late Check Out, Complimentary Newspaper, or maybe some FREE Stuff like FREE Parking, FREE Wifi, FREE Welcome Drink etc.
And even with just a few uses of your Loyalty Card… there is the opportunity for MORE FREE STUFF as points don’t just equal Trips or Stays… but might be transferable to say a Gas Card, or a Gift Certificate for your favourite Restaurant / Store (and for a lot fewer points than a Trip or Stay would need)
As well… when you are making bookings for your Honeymoon… or anything else on the trip. Be sure and tell EVERYONE it is your Honeymoon. Hotels, Restaurants etc… have the power to grant upgrades and perks to people for special occasions. It might not happen everytime… but it will happen enough to make it worth your while.
Hope this helps,
PS… if you need more info just ask.