I have mixed feelings on whether to use a travel professional when booking our trips.
On the one hand, it is really convenient to just tell the travel agent what you need and have them book all the details. And that can work well with a competent agent.
The key word being “competent”.
If they are not very knowledgable about European travel, their mistakes will cost you big time during your trip.
When we were planning our first trip to England, we relied on a local travel agent that we had used before for trips within the USA, assuming she also was knowledgable about European travel.
She booked our airfare ok, then asked if we needed transfers from Heathrow to our hotel. Of course we said yes. She booked a transfer for us and told us that he would be waiting at the gate with a sign stating our last name, and he would drive us to our hotel. That part worked fine. We landed at 9 am London time. He was waiting at the gate. We followed him and expected to be taken to a vehicle for transport. Instead he told us to wait in the baggage area while he rounded up the other passengers who he was picking up. The problem was, their flights didn’t land until 2 hours later. The were 6 couples in all.
When we had finally all boarded the van with our luggage, he asked us where we were going. Turns out we were all at different hotels. And of course, geographically, our hotel was last on the trip. After waiting in London traffic and driving all over the city, we had dropped off four couples. By this time it was 3 in the afternoon. He then called his dispatcher and told him his shift was ending, he had family plans, and he could not finish his route. There were still 2 couples left to drop off.
His dispatcher told him he had no driver to take his place, and he proceeded to argue loudly with his boss. He had no choice but to finish the route, and we would take the brunt of his anger.
He dropped off couple number 5, slammed the door not saying a word, and drove us to our hotel where he dumped our bags in the street in front of our hotel and sped off.
By this time it was almost 5 pm London time. A full day of vacation wasted.
The best part is, our hotel was across the street from a tube stop that was served direct from Heathrow. A 30 minute tube ride to the hotel, for a fraction of the cost of the transfer.
But as you know, it’s not the money, it’s the time.
Time is precious on vacation, and this mistake by the travel agent cost us a full day of our hard-earned vacation.
Thankfully, the rest of the trip went well and we had a great time. You have to be resilient and flexible when traveling. Stuff happens as they say. You have to regroup, bounce back, and make the rest of the trip memorable.
Since then, I plan all of our trips, soup to nuts. I actually enjoy the research process, and by the time we depart, I am mentally prepared for our entire itinerary.
This is not an isolated incident, as I did have another incident on a trip to NYC booked by a travel agent.
But that is a story for another day.
Hope all your trips go smoothly, but if they don’t, learn from the experience and move on. Life is too short to dwell on the negatives.
That experience actually made us better travelers, and made us appreciate all of the things that go well and according to plan. How about you guys!
Any travel agent stories to tell? 🙂