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Travel agent recommendations

Chicago
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93 posts
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Travel agent recommendations

Hi all - I know trip advisor is much about planning on your own, but my husband and I are both very busy lawyers with very little free time. We want to go to Paris next summer (and also London and Madrid) and although I think it would be so fun for me to plan this trip entirely on my own, I need help. Does anyone have travel agent recommendations? I would be grateful for any recommendations, thank you.

the big blue marble
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1. Re: Travel agent recommendations

I live in Paris, so I am not sure how well connected these two agencies are, but Tselana Travel and Black Tomato are both excellent luxury agencies used to dealing with people who have little time on their hands and can ill afford to have a preciously rare holiday go awry.

New Hampshire
Destination Expert
for Paris
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21,261 posts
25 reviews
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2. Re: Travel agent recommendations

I'm sure others who participate in this forum will agree...you're really better off booking everything yourself rather than relying on a travel agent. Travel agents today are much different than yesteryear. I gave up when I learned there were more convenient flights and better hotels than those recommended by travel agents, most with no travel experience.

On this forum, you can get help with booking flights and hotels in your price range in recommended neighborhoods.

A travel agent won't really save you any time, and it's better to search flights yourself for convenient times/connections. In your case, you'd want to fly into your first destination and home from your last.

If you are serious about visiting three major cities, it's best to allow at least five days per city, not including departure days from/to home and allowing half a day or day for getting from one to the next. You would want to allow extra time if you have any side trips in mind.

And, people here will remind you of critical details travel agents tend to forget to tell you, such as baggage allowances between cities will not be as generous as the transatlantic flights.

Metro Vancouver
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4,737 posts
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3. Re: Travel agent recommendations

I second the 2 previous posters. Travel agents are no longer the experts they used to be in the 60s and 70s, when most of them actually traveled to foreign countries, on the cheap and, like the rest of us, had to wait until they were in a town to book a hotel (by walking up and down a couple of streets..)

You have plenty of time left to plan your trip. One suggestion would be to read Rick Steves guide books. His practical advice about the nitty-gritty of traveling in Europe is great.

You didn't say how long you plan to travel, nor when so I will shoot in the dark...

2 weeks would be barely enough for London and Paris with 1 or 2 day trips outside each of these cities. Travel between London and Paris would be by train, and of course your flights will be open-jaw: Landing in London, leaving from Paris.

I have a prejudice against Madrid for many reasons, including pickpockets that passed as policemen. I much prefer Barcelona, even though there too, as all over Europe, there are pickpockets (at least they are discrete, you will not be threatened with a gun as in the US).

Travel agents nowadays are great with package tours but not so much with truly custom-made ones.

In the past couple of years some travellers have asked us for advice about itinerary and hotels that their travel agent recommended and the inflated prices (versus DIY) didn't even provide good hotels in convenient areas. They aren't always aware that a 3 star hotel is not necessarily much better than a 2 star one, and a 4 star one not always better than a 3 star one..

I might use a North-American travel agent if I already had all my itinerary sorted, hotels and trains selected etc. and only needed him/her to do the actual booking....but I wouldn't even do that...

A few years ago I asked a travel agent from a good agency in my town to book a return trip by TGV in France on the SNCF site...I gave a window for the preferred departure and return times.

Neither she nor her colleagues knew that if one want to go by train from Paris to X one shouldn't only look for trains terminating in town X, but look for ALL trains going through town X.. they argued that these through trains didn't exist even when I showed them a printed schedule ..

Gainesville, Florida
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930 posts
18 reviews
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4. Re: Travel agent recommendations

Try the Conde Nast Traveler list, which lists agents who specialize in different areas of the globe.

cntraveler.com/travel-tips/travel-specialists

Metro Vancouver
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4,737 posts
1 review
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5. Re: Travel agent recommendations

Have a look in TA at "1st European trip planning: Paris-London Trip"

A short trip but lots of info you need to know!

Paris, France
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6,833 posts
118 reviews
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6. Re: Travel agent recommendations

I agree with everyone.

What you might consider instead, is hiring your best secretary or a trusted friend to do the legwork for you. Provide him/her with your preferences, dates and a credit card - and a nice, fat check after all is said and done. This way, you have a better chance of getting what you want - and the money will go to someone who actually earned it.

Florida
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17,144 posts
11 reviews
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7. Re: Travel agent recommendations

In a nutshell, you need:

1. Airfare / flight, preferably into one city and out of last city (open-jaw)

2. Trip insurance

3. Hotels for each city (book something cancellable w/no penalty and then you can always try to finesse that choice)

4. Train or flight between cities

5. Condensed guidebook for each city (as in 'Top 10 Paris' etc)

- plan to hit the highlights & then some 'soaking up atmosphere' time

Get that done and then the rest can be filled in as time permits, and you can get plenty of advice here, once you put the skeleton plan into place.

New Hampshire
Destination Expert
for Paris
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21,261 posts
25 reviews
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8. Re: Travel agent recommendations

Note also that, despite working many hours (been there, done that) travel planning is a wonderful diversion.

More time consuming than booking everything is planning a rough itinerary. All you really need is a list, prioritized (must do, hope to do, if there's time). You might want to do that first, though, so you know how many days you'll need to do all that.

If you have two weeks or less, it's probably best to choose two cities.

Keep in mind that, in addition to planning seeing/doing, there's also restaurants, and getting around/transit ticket to learn for each destination.

Level Contributor
8,844 posts
244 reviews
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9. Re: Travel agent recommendations

I would second the idea of checking the conde nast list of agents specializing in certain areas. The are usually very experienced people and will have a service fee to work up an itinerary for you. Most run of the mill agents these days sell package tours and rest assured they will not point you in the direction of the smaller more charming hotels (who don't pay agent commission} But if you like 4 and 5 star hotels an agency with a Virtuoso designation can get you some extra perks including upgrades etc. I can certainly understand wanting to find someone to put it together because it is time consuming. Good luck.

San Diego...
Destination Expert
for San Diego
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10. Re: Travel agent recommendations

One of my best friends was a travel agent. Back when I met her Travel was big and good business. She got free or at highly discount trips & cruises. Lots of free and/or discounted hotels all over. He commission was paid by these hotels. With the onset of the Internet her business suffered greatly. The freebees and discounts dried up and her commission really shrunk. So in order to make it up she had to start charging her customers fees for booking a hotel, a car, this and that. Her traveling became limited and she really new no more about places, hotels, etc. then her customers. And as it's been said she really started selling packaged tours much more.

I understand your delimma - but I, too, would encourage you to start looking into trying to do some of the planning yourself. If you have an assistant (you may not or they may only be legal assistants) it would be nice to have their help.