Post # 1
I am curious about whether travel agents make sense for brides on a pretty strict honeymoon budget.
My fiance and I are adventuresome types, and having an awesome honeymoon is a priority for us. We aren’t looking for five-star hotels (I mean, we’re not opposed to them, but we don’t require them either) and we’re on a strict budget. Neither of us makes much money but we have saved, so even though our honeymoon won’t be extravagant, we want it to be special. We’re planning on going to Tokyo and Kyoto for our two-week honeymoon. Here’s the clincher–we’re getting married August 27! We’ve had an extremely busy year so our wedding and honeymoon planning has taken a backseat to everything else. Now that we’re pushing forward with honeymoon planning, I find myself a little overwhelmed with planning the vacation on top of everything we have left to do with the wedding. Having a wedding later isn’t an option for us, based on our work schedules.
I was wondering if any of you have gone the travel agent route (or checked it out and decided not to do it)? I’m mainly interested in whether booking through a travel agent can actually save you money. I hope I don’t sound like a horrible person for saying this, but I figure that Japan might be interested in attracting some extra tourism since the devastating earthquakes in Northern Japan, and am wondering whether a travel agent might be more plugged into any hotel or airfare deals out there than we could be by just googling “hotels in Japan” and looking on Expedia.
So. Have any of you bees on limited budgets used a travel agent, or are travel agents only for the rich and/or famous? Did it make financial sense for you to use an agent, or could you have done everything that they did with a little time and internet research? Was your travel agent expensive, and if so, was the cost of paying the agent offset by any money that you were able to save by booking through him/her? Any advice/experiences/insight you can share would be much appreciated.
Post # 5
While I don’t think TA’s are absolutely necessary, it doesn’t hurt to book with one. In most cases they can get reduced rates but even if they can’t, most will match the lowest rate available. They’re free to the customer so I always wonder why more people don’t utilize them.
We booked our Honeymoon cruise through a travel agent and it’s been amazingly simple. All we had to do was pick the cruise, our category and then approve her choice of cabin and we were done. She handled everything else. She wasn’t able to get us a reduced rate but what we booked was the cheapest I’ve been able to find online and it came with $100 onboard credit.
Let me tell ya a little story about how a TA pretty much saved my friends lives…
One of my best friends honeymooned in Jamaica a few years ago. She and her hubs booked their trip through the same TA that we’re using and she handled everything. My friend and her husband get to Jamiaca and everything is fantastic. They have perfect weather up until the day they’re supposed to leave and thats when things got dicey. They had no choice but to check out of the resort and make their way to the airport in hopes that the storm would pass. Well, the storm ended up being a hurricane and the airport closed. My friends headed back to the resort to see what their options were. The resort (one of the sandals ones) refused to let them check back in without paying upfront. Problem was my friends had NO money. Their families weren’t able to help (still amazes me! My parents would have sold their car if they had to!) so they were stuck. My friend called the TA and she ended up paying for the extra 3 days that they had to stay with her own personal credit card. Without the TA, who knows what would have happened to my friends.
Post # 6
Honestly, I think travel agents are for lazy people. If you don’t want to do the research yourself then a travel agent can be great since they are paid to do it for you. But with how powerful the internet is now I think they are unnecessary.
If I can talk personally on a forum or other type of site to locals and/or a whole slew of people who have been to the place I want to go, I think they are able to give me just as good and often far better information than an agent–and for free!
There are countless sites about things you need to have or remember, requirements for certain places, tips and tricks, and advice for every country and region on the globe. I’ve been to over a dozen different countries and have never used an agent.
Post # 7
I have to disagree. We booked with a TA and I’m hardly lazy when it comes to stuff like this. The fact of the matter is, a TA literally saved my friends lives. Without her, I don’t know what would have happened to them. I know their situation was unique and hopefully that kind of thing doesn’t happen very often but when we’re talking Mother Nature, who knows. I certainly don’t think TA’s are for everyone and it’s true that sometimes they don’t offer the best deal but when they do, I think it’s silly not to book with one. If anything you have an advocate back home if something happens.
Post # 8
wow, just read your full post, that is a pretty extreme situation and quite a giving TA.
I’m sure it depends somewhat on the type of vacation you’re doing. Maybe cruises or tropical stuff is different. I’ve only ever done city hoping throughout Europe where I wanted a lot of control over what hotel I stayed in, what activities I did day to day, what trains I took when and where, etc. Maybe I’m just a control freak 🙂
Post # 9
Makes sense. If I was traveling how you described I probably wouldn’t use a TA either.
Post # 10
Our travel agent was free. She did get us deals we wouldn’t have known about otherwise, and we had a contact if someone would have gone wrong while in Jamaica – if something like what @UpstateCait:
said would have happened. In a lot of cases, the TA may have been there themself or has had several customers stay there. Ours did – and she told us things like which day to do off-resort inclusions to avoid the Cruise crowds. Things you wouldn’t know to even ask about. She knew our budget, and we ended up being almost $1000 under it. That’s pretty awesome when you’re planning (and paying for) a wedding.
I would suggest putting together your plan (without booking, just plan it all out) and go to a travel agent. See if they have any tips – (this hotel is in a bad area, this time of year is less tourist-filled). You can have control over your vacation – if you don’t like something, you can ask to have it changed.
As far as the lazy part, while we were meeting with our travel agent (in Jan.) the phones were ringing off the hook because ice in Atlanta had cancelled/delayed several flys to and from Madison. All the agents were working a Saturday to help rebook all their customers and make sure they were taken care of. I know if I had been one of those stranded passengers, I would have been reaaaaaaaaaaalllly glad I had someone to do all that for me.
Post # 11
If I was booking a vacation to somewhere that I had zero experience with and didn’t know anyone who had been there and could offer some pointers, I would consider a TA. Other than that, I think I could handle it all on my own.
Post # 12
We already knew exactly where we wanted to go and how much it would cost booking it ourselves, and then we called around to several travel agents to see who had the best deal. We ended up saving a couple hundred dollars more than if we would have booked it ourself.
Post # 13
After a little research I think we are going to go ahead without a TA. We had looked into pricing and were quite shocked at the significantly higher cost the TA quoted us versus what we could get through the touring companies on our own (almost double!!).
I am sure in some circumstances having a TA is beneficial however for our pariticular cruise we just didn’t see enough benefits to excuse such an overcharging.
Post # 14
Especially when working with cruises, make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Same Ship/date/cabin category and even location on the ship. The prices will vary based on all these options. The cruiselines regulate the pricing for the cruises, with the only difference being less should a particular agency have group space booked, which whether they do or not you would not know about, as you the traveler are not privy to that information. I can say this… for instance a Carnival Cruise balcony 7A pricing verses the same ship/date pricing in a balcony 8A will be different pricing. WHY? Because that 7A is an obstructed view, meaning there is a lifeboat outside your room. Ocean view pricing varies as well depending on if it is a porthole, picture window and again if it is obstructed view or not.
The location on the ship will be different as well, as sometimes you may be in a room higher up on the ship, however you may be under the pool deck, or near the children’s area; neither of which are ideal at all.
Another price difference will be if you are on a restricted fare… again I will go with Carnival, however this also applies to Princess and Holland America, but they have certain pricing where the deposit is non-refundable from the minute the cruise is booked. This is not ideal, although the rate is usually lower than the other promotion rates, if something happens and you have to cancel, you lose.
Another reason to go with a travel agent, is that they can keep track of pricing for you, should your cruise pricing drop between time of booking and when the final payment is made, your agent is responsible for receiving that price drop for you. I actually have a program on my computer that each time I book a client, I plug in their ship/sale date/cabin category and price, anytime the price goes down, it alerts me. Believe it or not the pricing does change quite often. I have a client now that just received their 3rd price drop in the last 6 months for their Christmas cruise this year. So far a $200 pp savings, which is great for them as they have 19 people sailing.
Post # 15
sorry i didn’t fully read the thread so I apologize if someone said this before:
if you have american express: BOOK THROUGH AMERICAN EXPRESS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You can do it through a relative’s card too if you don’t have one. They will plan your whole trip within you budget (with your feed back) and give you the BEST itinerary. Booking through Amex gave us amazing upgrades (to business class on our international flights….to a bigger room w/ a few….to free breakfasts that weren’t otherwise included, etc). And it’s free (with your AMEX card), and they provide amazing service if anything goes wrong.
Post # 16
i love my TA. It is not about being lazy…I mean if I am sick, I go to a Dr. not search the internet! I want an expert and I had $5000 to spend. I am not going to rely on just the web, I want to know what to expect and know that I have the best price, and someone to help me. PLUS, I work for a high tech firm and I am paid rather well for my time, so I figure, the amount of time I would have spent researching and what I would pay myself–well let’s just say, it was WAY worth using a TA. AND my TA is the agent Martha Stewart says is the best! -bTW my honeymoon rocked. Oh, and in case anyone else wants to know–I used travelbyvip.com.
Post # 17
I was comparing the same cruise, same departure date, same cruiselines both balcony rooms…in other words there was no excuse for the price being over a thousand dollars different and the TA had no rational explanation either. We are talking a TA that has been in business for over 20 years!
Here is the issue I have with the whole price tracking thing. Lets say we book the cruise with the TA as this potential higher price with the hopes that she will track it and get a lower price, but she doesn’t. We are then stuck with paying for a trip that is way over budget. We weren’t willing to take the gamble of ending up with a honeymoon we couldn’t afford.
In the end I’m sure there are many benefits to using a TA, but in our personal experience we opted to go it on our own.
Post # 18
Go through the travel agent. Travel agents can sometimes get deals that other people can’t. They can also do great package deals. When you go in, be honest, tell them how much money you can afford to spend and what you want out of your vacation. You’ll probably be surprised with what they come up with. It does not cost you anything to book through a travel agent-their commission comes from the airlines/hotels and tour companies. Their goal is to get you the best vacation possible at the best price, and hopefully, keep you as a loyal customer.