On this episode of Chat with the Experts, we talk with Kathy Duvall of Beach Bum Vacations about best practices for booking the trip of your dreams.
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Ooh - BAD timing for travel to Hawaii - and if not booked by now you probably just about have to have a travel agent. Good thing this is just the honeymoon and not the wedding, if you are booking now - so an agent will be even more important to you in this case, though I guess you might get a decent deal with an airline-sponsored package deal for two as well, if any are still available.
My experience - a good travel agent is worth their weight in gold - we give ours a thank-you gift each year. We have one that charges $35 a person fee for all but extensive foreign travel packages (they make most of their money off booking commissions). We use her for all travel except simple mileage-plan-paid there-and-back trips when there is no rental car or motel involved, because when she does the booking she generally saves us about $25-50/day just on rental car and hotel/motel. For instance, on one Disney World trip we were able to take the 4 in the family PLUS our kid's two best friends for about 5 days there, staying on-property with preferred passes, for the same amount as just the normal two adult cost - a thousand plus in savings. We can go online and see zero mileage or discount seats available for an entire week - yet she is able to get us seats on the day we want in most cases, or at worst one day away, and almost always on mileage even though the airlines themselves say no mileage seats are available - including at high travel periods.
Of course, you need a conscientious one with lots of experience who knows the system ins and outs, and preferably running on the Sabre reservation system because it shows a lot more than competing systems and makes finding alternative booking easier, as I understand it.
Using a travel agency (preferably one with several people working there and 24-hour emergency service) also gives you a firm point of contact to solve any problems or rescheduling - we have had 10 minute rebooking several times when a flight was cancelled - generally before the airline even got around to starting to help passengers get on other flights, and an agent carries a LOT more weight with rental car agencies or hotels or airlines than you do if the reservation is screwed up by them. Oh, and our agent always gets us a free car upgrade too - typically jumped up 2 grades at no extra charge.
Don't leave it ALL to the agent - give a synopsis of what type of lodging and seating and such you want and things you want to visit, then let him/her come back with a concept plan for approval modification, then to a hold reservation for your approval - typically an agent can put a "hold" on reservations for 24-48 hours for your approval, though that does require you stay on top of your eMail to respond back with OK or not in time to allow cancelling or confirming the reservation within that timeframe.
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I would highly recommend her to anyone wanting to travel to Europe.
As if the email situation wasn't bad enough, the identity verification was the most disturbing thing about this experience. You have to answer security questions, such as where you lived 35 years ago, and enter the last 4 digits of your social security number. You then have to be verified using Facebook, Gmail, or LinkedIn. There is an option to upload a 5 or 10 minute ridiculous video of you talking on camera, but this was not an option as I had no webcam on my computer. You have to enter the passwords for each of these, and I had to enter all 3 with all the problems. I entered my Facebook email and password, but the system froze, and I was not verified. But this was not apparent, I received some email telling my the process was not complete. I tried again to enter my Facebook information, but the system was not working. I then entered my Gmail address with my password, but the system said there was not enough information to verify me. I still have no idea what that means. I then entered my LinkedIn account and password, and this verified me. But in looking on the website, there were no 'transactions' listed, so I call customer service. After quite a few minutes, we discovered that I had 2 accounts, and I was not verified on the icloud.com account. SO I HAD TO GO THROUGH THE WHOLE VERIFICATION PROCESS AGAIN. And even after all this, once my transaction was complete, I was told that this would not show up on the transaction page, even though it seemed that it would. I was informed all the information was in an email that was sent. Which, to me, just added to the confusion.
In total, I talked on the phone for between 35 and 40 minutes to sort all of this out. The woman was very nice, but never took any responsibility for the mess. She stated that , 'someone must have entered the icloud.com email address.' She was nicely implying that I had contributed to the confusion. The situation is ongoing, but I have yet to be contacted by a manager to address the situation after 3 conversations. I could not find the phone number for this organization on the website after I created an account, I found the number on the Better Business Bureau website when I searched for other complaints. Without this number, the situation would have been even worse, and I have no idea how long it would have taken to complete the process with the 3 different email addresses making things incredibly confusing. I continue to be absolutely dumbfounded that this organization asks for secure passwords for private information, just to book a house.
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