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Travel agent or not?

HI,
We are planning our honeymoon in November in Italy and Spain. We want to fly into Italy from the Baltimore area, and fly home from Spain. Should we use a travel agent to make the flight arrangements, or do it ourselves?

Thanks

Posted by
805 posts

Have you ever flown to Europe before? If not, use a travel agent. The level of complexity goes WAY up when booking international flights. Even I, who am pretty expert in booking domestic flights, use an agent for transcontinental flights.

Posted by
31524 posts

Stacey, I always use a Travel Agent when booking international flights. However I always choose the flights that I'll be taking (usually open jaw), so that I can pick the arrival times and airports that work best for me.

Given the current situation with airlines, I'll probably be using T.A.'s more than ever. For travellers in this area, there's an important reason for that. Any flights booked through a T.A. here in B.C. are covered by a Travel Insurance fund. Should the airline cease operations suddenly (as happened with Canada 3000 and others in the recent past), we can get a full refund.

Some travel experts interviewed on the news lately have recommended that travellers buy TWO tickets for the return trip, with the second being fully refundable if not used. That way if the first airline quits operating when you're abroad, you've still got a way to get home. I've never considered that and doubt that I'd ever use that method, but it's interesting that it's being suggested.

I normally book regional flights myself, but for the more expensive international flights, I prefer to use a Travel Agent (even though there's a small service fee).

Congratulations and happy travels!

Posted by
805 posts

Buying two tickets is patently unnecessary. Under IATA rules, nearly all major carriers are required to honor each other's tickets on a space available basis in case of a carrier folding. Also, unless one ticket is completely refundable you are essentially throwing $ away. The chance that your carrier will go under when you are abroad is near zero.

Posted by
9363 posts

I have traveled many times and I have never used a travel agent for anything. I don't find making international air bookings any more difficult that domestic ones. But if, as a previous poster said, you aren't used to making international airline bookings, you might be better off to go to one.

Posted by
1167 posts

As far as I am concerned, international travel reservations are no more complex than domestic. If you are comfortable making reservations for a flight from BWI to Seattle with return from Los Angeles you should have no trouble with what you are planning. If not, have an agent do it for you.

Posted by
11450 posts

Wow, I haven't used a TA in years, and I book all my international flights, its not hard or complicated at all, just read things carefully and click away. I always deal directly with the airline and not consilidators or ticket agents.

Years ago I started noticing how I got better deals for myself rather then using TAs, just stopped using them completely.

How about you go online, look up the prices on serveral main airlines that serve your area and compare prices with what a TA suggests..
Reasearch on boards like these ( there are many travel forums , tripadvisor.com, fodors, frommers etc) and find out the best airports for the cities you want to visit.

Posted by
11978 posts

Since you are on your honeymoon and using this site, I'm assuming you can use a computer.

A site like www.sidestep.com is a good place to research your air travel. As you research, you can try different airports and different departure days to see which gives you the best deal.

Saving $300 or more may be worth adjusting your departure or return by a day or two. Same for flying in or out of Dulles or Reagan or using different airports for the legs.

A travel agent won't make those judgements, they will simply schedule flights for whatever you tell them.

Posted by
6033 posts

If you are comfortable finding and evaluating information from websites, there is no reason you cannot do it yourself. It really is not complicated and it will probably be cheaper. Do some research on ticket prices, check out a number of sights like expedia, Kayak, and priceline; also some consolidators like www.airlineconsolidator.com and airgorilla.com. Really the only things you need to watch when booking are your arrival and departure time (you need time to get to a hotel on arrival, and on your departure, you need to be able to get to the airport on time...most public tranportation does not get going until 5:00 AM) and the other is to properly list your names on the tickets...not sure if that means booking in your maiden name, since your passport will still show that name? Others on here may know.

Posted by
11450 posts

Book airline tickets in your maiden name, assuming that is the name on your passport. Always book airline tickets by exactly the name on your passport, no nicknames or shortenings.( Patricia not Pat for example)

Posted by
1589 posts

You found this site and managed to post successfully. You can make ALL of your travel arrangements. Many happy years ahead to you and your DH (to be).

Posted by
111 posts

Travel agent for international flights. Shop around before dropping money down. I checked online too and went to 2 other agents before I found 1 who got me a good fare as well as flight times that suited my needs.

Posted by
6033 posts

I know Rick touts using a TA for your flights, but really, the problem is that there is no good motivation for an agent to help you. Unless they charge a fee or buy blocks of tickets at discount and mark up, there is no money in it for them. Their hope is that they can book hotels, packages, etc. where they do get a cut. Most likely, an agent will put you in the easiest ticket, not necessarily the cheapest ticket, or worse, a ticket they have a financial interest in. If you travel alot (like Rick) you may be enough of an account that an agent will search for days to find you a good ticket, figuring on future business, or if you are very lucky find an agent who is an expert in European Air Fares, but let's face it, those are remote.

Posted by
805 posts

I think for Europe it's probably okay (although from the West Coast less so because unless you're going to London, Paris, Amsterdam or Frankfurt you likely have to connect somewhere and any connection adds a lot of complexity).

Posted by
11450 posts

David it is easy to book west coast Canada to Paris, London or Amsterdam. At least it is in Canada since there are only a few places to connect and its not difficult at all, in fact this flight for me this July is Vancouver to Paris, with a 45 minute stop in Calgary to just pick up pax. .. no connecting at all, Last year we connected through Toronto.It was still easy.. how is it more complicated UNLESS you use different airlines for different legs of trip which I think can be dangerous/

Posted by
190 posts

I have never used a travel agent. But I would suggest that you remember a couple of important things before booking your own flights:

  1. Read everything carefully; then read again.
  2. Don't hit "Submit" until all of your questions are answered to your satisfaction.
  3. Don't take anything for granted; get it in writing.
  4. Allow enough time for transfers. Some sites will offer transfers of less than 1 hour. Even with carry-on only, that is scary.
  5. Remember that other people book their own flights all the time. You are at least as intelligent as they are, so you can too.
  6. If you follow these tips and book your own flights, you are on your way to becoming an independent traveler! Way to go!
Posted by
6033 posts

I agree that the number of connections should not be an issue. The scheduling programs on the internet today are intelligent enough to allow for connections and airlines do all they can to assure that you make your connection or reschedule. I will add to Pat's comment by saying that an itinerary with different carriers is not an issue if they are partner airlines and a booking system sets them all up. If the impression is that you need to go on line and buy one ticket from LA to NY, then a separate ticket from NY to London, and another separate ticket from London to say Athens, it is mistaken. You just plug in initial and final destination and the scheduling software figures it out. You do have different options to choose from, so just keep an eye on arrival and departure times. You can get into trouble if you take the option to grab a cheap flight to London, then move to a non-affiliated discount carrier, probably at another airport. The risk then is that if something happens, you are out your discount ticket.