Thrifty holidays and travel agents

Miss Thrifty11 August 28, 2008

Here at Thrifty Towers, we’re planning our first vacation in a loooong time. Later this year we’re flying from London to San Francisco. We’re going to hire a car, drive down to Arizona and fly back to the UK from Phoenix. We used to live, work and study in Phoenix, so we’re really excited about catching up with our old chums and dining at our favourite restaurant in the world again.

You’ll be pleased – if not entirely surprised – to note that this operation is to be executed with the requisite lashings of financial chutzpah. My husband, who is self-employed, won a training grant to go to California and embark on a highly-specialised, week-long course there. Not bad, eh? The grant covers his tuition and flights, along with a week’s worth of accommodation and food costs. This has slashed the cost of our holiday.  He’s flying out before me; I’m going to meet him in San Francisco the day after the course ends. Then we’ll fly back together, a week later.  

I tried to book our flights and car hire online, but didn’t get very far. Flying into one airport and out of another, with three different flight dates, meant that I spent an age scribbling prices and codes down on scraps of paper, while tapping my fingers irritably as the various flight sites’ price options loaded. The car hire was a challenge too: a couple of the companies will let you pick up the car in one state and drop it off in another, but with various stipulations and with various additional charges whacked on. I must admit, the prices quoted weren’t particularly attractive either. Not unless we wanted to fly from London to San Francisco via Germany (hello! wrong direction!) and New England.

I hummed and hawed. My husband phoned from work to say he would have a go. Just minutes later, he called back to tell me that the flights and car had all been booked! What’s more, the prices he had found beat my online “bargains” by quite a hefty margin.

His secret? It’s a simple one: he popped into the independent travel agency across the street from his workshop. The travel agent tapped our dates and airports into her computer, and came up with prices for direct flights and cross-state car hire that knocked the socks off anything I’d been able to come up with online. Easy peasy – job done.

I can’t remember the last time I went into a travel agency to book a holiday. Tunisia in 2002, perhaps? Since then, it’s been internet bookings all the way. Now I’ve come to the conclusion that online “bargains” are no longer all that they were cracked up to be.

Travel agents rule!  

UPDATE: Thanks to Almost Frugal for including this post in the latest Festival of Frugality.

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11 Responses to “Thrifty holidays and travel agents

Sharon rose says:

Well done on finding an excellent holiday bargain!!

Sharon roses last blog post..Todays Spending

August 29, 2008 at 1:24 pm

FruGal says:

I have found a similar thing recently, in trying to find cheap packages for my friends to fly to Oz for my wedding next year. The travel agents are quoting much cheaper all-in packages than I can find online. I have never used a travel agent before, because I always thought they were a huge rip-off, and I only called up out of desperation. Now I have changed my thinking!

August 29, 2008 at 2:27 pm

Leanne says:

The same thing has happened to me a couple of times now, the first travelling to Egypt and then Vegas.

I think internet companies are hoping that we’ll all convince ourselves that because we spent the entire weekend online hunting for the cheapest prices, we must have found the best deal. And just because those companies claim to do all the legwork doesn’t make it any easier or quicker to book a holiday.

They just hope that we don’t wander into a travel agent and try to book a nice old fashioned analogue holiday.

Leannes last blog post..Has anyone seen a small child…possibly with a Crayola plaster on her left knee?

September 1, 2008 at 3:47 pm

I was reading an article about a travel agent the other day and thinking it sounded so much nicer than my experiences. It was fun to do all the research and travel when I was younger, but now I love the idea of popping in somewhere and letting someone else plan it all out!

Mydailydollarss last blog post..Inventory vs. Cash

September 2, 2008 at 9:35 pm

derek almond says:

I booked a holiday to the far east by a traditional high street agent recently, very good and no worries,also cost was good too, do you think with your experience and other peoples, that traditional agents could make a come back and even expand once again?

September 14, 2008 at 7:37 pm

Simon says:

If you are going on holiday check to see if there are any tourist discount cards available in the area.

I run a small membership in Cyprus for tourists. Cyprus is a great place to visit but boy is it expensive! So with a little discount at selected restaurants, car hire and hotels is always welcoming! Look up to see if we could save you a little money on holiday.

November 4, 2008 at 1:17 pm

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