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airline travel specials vs travel agent vs self planning for London?

My mom & I will be going to London in Feb '10 for a week (my 4th, her 2nd visit). Previously, I'd buy my own plane tickets and find a room separately (per RS rec's). This time, I'm looking into the airline air + hotel specials, which seem to offer nicer hotels than what I could get on my own (though am looking at trip advisor posts to make sure they're good). But I've also spoken to a travel agent, who's working on a pkge for me, too. I will see what the travel agent comes back with, but are there any benefits to using a travel agent other than maybe special prices they have? And is it usually cheaper to rent a car with the air + hotel package in the U.K.?

Posted by
14944 posts

As someone who has taken advantage of off-season airline/hotel packages...they can be a steal.

Not only will you get good hotels at a discount, you can get your flights for the lowest price possible--and be able to make changes.

The key is to compare final costs to everything.....make sure that what the travel agent is showing you includes all fees, taxes, etc. Don't just look at airline packages at the airline sites. Call their travel dept. You'd be amazed what they will do to get those hotel rooms filled and have you fly their airline. Airlines also have fly/stay/drive packages.

Because is it so easy to do this, you should not have to pay any extra fees to a travel agent.

Posted by
3428 posts

I'd say don't worry about a car! Especially if you are staying in London. The congestion fees, gas prices and parking are horrendous! Trains, the tube and buses are all you really need. Are you a member of AAA or similar organization? Their members often get great discounts on package deals and you don't pay their travel agents (your memberships covers the service). AAA often has special deals with airlines for the fly/stay packages.

Posted by
8293 posts

Are you telling us, Steve, world traveller that you are, expert on all things to do with European travel, that you did not know about the Congestion Charge in London? I'm gob smacked!

Posted by
26 posts

Thanks, everyone. I wanted to let you know I wasn't planning on getting a car for this (London only) trip but was thinking about a future trip to rural areas.
The car was soooo expensive (2 yrs ago); I was just wondering if I could have gotten it cheaper with some sort of package back then.

Posted by
14944 posts

Look for Fly/Drive packages...They are offered everywhere. Because you're moving around, hotels are booked separately.

If you should decide to drive in London, be aware of the Congestion Charge. Should you get hit with a penalty, if you pay it within 14 days, it's half price.

Posted by
9363 posts

As others have said, you can get some great deals with packages, especially in the off-season. I never use a travel agent. The best prices I have seen have come from newsletters from travel websites such as Travelzoo and Booking Buddy.

And if you plan to stay in London the whole week you really don't need a car. If you are thinking of renting one for day trips or such outside of town, you can probably easily get to wherever you want to go by public transportation. You'll save the hassles of parking (and driving on the other side of the road), and be able to just watch the scenery go by from a bus or train.

And really, Steve, you didn't know about the Congestion Charge?

Posted by
14944 posts

And that's also why most "experienced" travelers would never think of renting a car to drive in London. With it's excellent underground, bus, light rail and taxi's, and lack of decent parking, why would anyone visiting want to drive around London. Not to mention the traffic and having to drive on the other side of the road.

It would be like planning a trip to Manhattan and renting a car to get around.

I can't think of any major European city--London, Paris, Rome, etc...where renting a car is beneficial.

Posted by
7 posts

Jennifer,

My husband and I have never used a travel agent for our trips to London. We have used Expedia, Best Fares, and Dooley Vacations. www.dooleyvacations.com I really like Dooley. They are an Ireland based site, and I have used their on line site several times. They have great deals, and some nice options. We have been to London in February a couple of times, and have really been happy. The cost is great, no crowds, and the weather is warmer than here in NH! We have booked tours out to Windsor Castle, and several others too. We use the tube, and do lots of walking too. We have never considered a car for our trips to London. We have used the train to leave London.

Enjoy planning and visiting.