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Old July 20th, 2013, 02:09 PM
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Default 13 Things You Didn't Know About Online Travel Sites

Thought this was an interesting article.

Pete

13 Things You Didn't Know About Online Travel Sites | Reader's Digest
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Old July 21st, 2013, 09:03 AM
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It is interesting and some very good points are made. Definitely sounds like it was written by a travel agency though.

Out of curiosity I'm going to contact a travel agency and see if indeed they can get better flight times/rates on an upcoming flight I need to book than what I can do for myself online as it states in the article.

The other thing is that there are so many start up travel agencies that it's got to be impossible for them to know the ins and outs of all the airlines, hotels, cruise lines without doing further research themselves. I've been sorely burned by a travel agent in the past and go by the "Burn me once, shame on you.... burn me twice, shame on me" so have handled all my own travel arrangements since then.
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Old July 21st, 2013, 10:15 AM
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Interesting article but it is definitely travel agent oriented. I don't know of too many agents who are going to find out if there is a high school band trip booked at a hotel during your stay or take the time to find out if there is nearby construction. I'm also not sure if a travel agent is going to get you a better deal on a coach seat than you can through the airline's website unless you are flexible on your days and airports.

The point about "bundled" is true. It's like the cruise line "From $299" pricing. It is for the lowest category and the bundle is for the cheapest hotel, sub compact car, and three connection-red eye flights.

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Mike
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Old July 21st, 2013, 03:09 PM
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I agree about the airfares; booking directly through the airline is usually the best way to go.

However, if you're doing a resort stay, often the 'package' deal is better than booking it independently. Just this week I booked a family of 6 going to Cancun for a week during Christmas. I looked at every possibility and found that if we booked the airfare separate from the package price, it would cost them $150 more per person. So we saved them $900 by booking it as a package deal through our wholesaler.

As for those 'start up' travel agencies that Cruising Time mentioned, you'll find that in every profession out there, not just travel agencies. And you're right, it's impossible to know everything about everything to do with travel. No one could travel on every cruise line, every ship, every port, and stay at every hotel or resort. Again, same thing could be said about every car and we know how used car salesmen are!

Then again, when you're doing your own reservations on a cruise or on an itinerary you've never done before, how do you determine if it's right or not? You do your research and rely on the opinions of others.

Same can be said about a travel agent. For example, we have over 900 agents with Cruise Planners and we all belong to the same forum where we can share information. So if a client wants something we've not personally done, most often we can solicit information from those who have been there done that so we can get personalized input.

Bottom line is that yes, there are some agents that are worse than others, but then again, there are some that are better. It's best to find one you feel comfortable with because it's better to use them than not. The number one reason is that if you have any problems and you booked it yourself, you're on your own. If you worked with an agent, they have resources and contacts not available to you, so you can let them do the work and most often get results you would not be able to get.

I can't tell you how many stories I've heard from new clients who said they were through doing it on their own because of problems they've had in the past. Time and time again they've told me about making their own reservations, had problems while on their trip, and could not get any help.

I was involved in travel for over 25 years before starting my own company 11 years ago and I say this with all sincerity; knowing what I know now - with the exception of airfare and the occasional hotel room, I would never book anything without using an agent. Of course, that would never stop me from still doing my own research to insure I'm getting what I really want and I would still monitor the prices to insure I got any specials or price reductions that may come along. But for peace of mind, I'll let them do the work, especially when I'm paying the same or less than people who are doing it themselves.

It's like purchasing or not purchasing travel insurance. I've seen many situations where people have not purchased it and it ended up costing them alot of money. As for me, I don't leave home without it. As I tell my clients, you hope it's a waste of your money because if you need it, it's usually not for a good reason. But if you need it, you're damn glad you've got it!

Same can be said about having an agent. You hope you really don't need to see how good they are in handling problems, because if you have a major problem, it's usually not a good thing. But if you need them, you're damn glad you've got one!

Pete
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Old July 23rd, 2013, 11:52 AM
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I picked up a "recommended" hotel on Travelocity once, when the feature was brand new, and it was one of the worst South Beach roach traps imaginable (most of you know how bad SoBe hotels can get). The phone line didn't work (back when I needed a modem), the beds were hard, the pillows mostly disintegrated, it smelled, the doors wouldn't open... It was so awful that I really couldn't believe it.

I tried to call Travelocity - good luck there, but there was also NO Internet access, so without telling Travelocity I just walked out and booked into a different hotel. They did refund my money for the bad hotel, though they should have done more.

Anyway - getting t the article, I like this part:

5. Last-minute travel isn't the same deal it used to be.
At the advent of the online travel site boom, last minute was the time to bookócheap flights! Cheap hotels! Getaway this weekend! But the buy-and-fly magic has ceased to exist; now your sweet spot is about six weeks (or 42 days) before departure.


This has been true with cruises for a long time now, three months out is "last-minute."
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Old July 23rd, 2013, 01:43 PM
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"Recommended" meant that was the hotel that was currently spending money advertising on Travelocity!

But you're right about the 'last minute' bookings. I get calls all the time from people thinking that if they wait till the very last minute to book a cruise that they'll get a huge discount on the price. It's just ain't so anymore. I also remember about 20 years ago when cruise lines would offer huge upgrades - you could pay for an inside cabin and get a balcony. That was their way back then of encouraging bookings instead of lowering prices. Trying to get the same results as today, but with different techniques.

People are always asking me when is the best time to book and I always give them the same answer; as soon as possible! Don't wait because the price right now could very well be the best price offered. If the price goes up, you're protected (unless of course they have to raise taxes or add a fuel supplement). But if the price goes down, most of the time we can get the reduction without any problems. Plus, if you wait, the stateroom you were most interested in may not be available. And this is extremely important if you need something special, like a cabin for a family, connecting staterooms, a suite, or a handicap accessible stateroom.

Earlier this year I had a couple call me and wanted a junior suite. I gave them the price and offered to put a suite on a complimentary hold while they considered it. They declined and when they called back two days later, the price had gone up $300 per person.

And if you wait until the last minute to book, not only could the price go up and stateroom availability no longer be there, but the price of airfare has definitely gone up. Plus, it's makes it more difficult to plan your time away from home and/or work.

You get all the advantages when booking early and none of the disadvantages.

Back in the day when I was the only breadwinner in our family of 5 and working 3 jobs, taking vacations required alot of pre-planning, especially when figuring out how to pay for it all. We would plan at least a year ahead of time, figure out where we were going, how we were going to get there, and how much it was going to cost. I would then set up a bi-weekly payroll deduction to go into a savings account so that when we went, it was all paid for and we didn't have to come home to a mountain of credit card debt. (I was in the mind that if I didn't have the money to pay for it ahead of time, we didn't buy it, except in the case of an emergency, so we could keep ourselves away from huge debt.)

So I guess my desire to plan ahead of time came out of necessity. Luckily, today I don't have to do that and we can pick up and leave on a spur of the moment. (Don't know too many people who could have planned a 25-day Asian trip that included a 17-night cruise from Hong Kong to Beijing with only 2 weeks notice, but we did it.) Sometimes there is a big benefit of being empty-nesters!

But for families, pre-planning is a fact of life. Unfortunately, cruises and places popular for families know when school is out and they adjust their prices upwards to take advantage of the situation. So booking early is really the only way to go for them.

Pete
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Old July 23rd, 2013, 02:12 PM
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No matter what you say, however, there will always be people (especially in non-cruise specializing sites) who swear you can still book a cruise 48-hours out and save huge amounts of money.

However, like you, I have also seen prices on some ships skyrocket in the final days before it sails. At a certain point the cruise line has made its "nut" on that sailing and realizes it can charge anyone who feels they must get on that specific ship an arm and a leg. And they have the right to do that.
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Old July 23rd, 2013, 03:50 PM
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For sure! They think that way because in years past you could do just that. I remember booking people 2 days before cruises and getting great rates. But that has all changed over the years. One executive I talked to told me the figures no longer supported continuing that practice. He said the overwhelming numbers of those who purchased last minute cruises were seniors. And historically, seniors don't spend alot of money while on the ship, which is where cruise lines make the majority of their profits.

I've always thought it would be better to sell a cabin at any price than to have it go unsold, but evidently they don't think that way anymore.

Pete
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