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Virtuoso and us-- a good fit?

Virtuoso and us-- a good fit?

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Old Mar 6, 15, 7:45 pm
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Virtuoso and us-- a good fit?

I’ve tried to read all pertinent threads here and research on my own on finding a good TA, in particular a Virtuoso advisor and I have further questions. We’re trying to decide whether we fit the profile for “luxury” travel and whether a Virtuoso TA is right for us.

My husband and I are medium healthy seniors in our early 70s living in No. CA. Because of a major move, several surgeries and dealing with some chronic health issues, we’ve not traveled in the last 3-4 years except one trip in Sept, 2014. Ironically, on that trip to a No. American location, my husband came down with bacterial dysentery, had to be hospitalized for four days and almost died. That changed our perspective on travel quite a bit—making it easier (TA), spending a bit more money and doing it sooner rather than later.

1) does geographic location of TA matter—do I need an advisor close to me? It seems to me everything can be done online or by phone and TA can be anywhere
2) will I get better attention/service at a small agency or should I go with a larger one with presumably more contacts, experience with more locales, etc.?
3) We do have miles we’d like to use for airline but will pay OOP for hotel. My research indicates I may need to pay an additional fee or consultant to book airfare using miles.

Our past travel has not been budget but it’s not been 5-star luxury either. It’s not just about money but more the fact that we prefer smaller, more intimate boutique hotels instead of massive corporate hotels. We want to be taken care of, make it simple, hire local guides and have excursions booked by our advisor and are willing to pay for this. Do you think we could find a match and be a good fit for a Virtuoso agent?

We would like to take a last-minute trip to Hawaii in April or early May, 2015 and in the next year we’re considering a small ship luxury cruise (we’re not large ship cruisers) to the Pacific Northwest, a trip to Costa Rica with a Panama Canal add-on and a river boat cruise to Europe.

I’ve PM’d a Virtuoso agent here and got no response. I’d welcome PM from other agents. What can you recommend as our next course of action?
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Old Mar 7, 15, 1:54 am
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Originally Posted by annhedonia View Post
1) does geographic location of TA matter—do I need an advisor close to me? It seems to me everything can be done online or by phone and TA can be anywhere
I live in Germany, my agent is located in the US - so location is no issue

Originally Posted by annhedonia View Post
2) will I get better attention/service at a small agency or should I go with a larger one with presumably more contacts, experience with more locales, etc.?
Hard to say, depends on agency

Originally Posted by annhedonia View Post
3) We do have miles we’d like to use for airline but will pay OOP for hotel. My research indicates I may need to pay an additional fee or consultant to book airfare using miles.
Book the airfare by yourself, it´s not a big act.

Is virtuoso something for you? I think yes, some hotels should fit your needs. If you don´t find an interesting virtuoso-property you´ll find another hotel which could also be booked by the agent without any disadvantages.
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Old Mar 7, 15, 2:03 am
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1) Location does not matter.

2) Size of agency does not really matter as you would deal only with your TA. Some agencies have preferred partnership with more hotel groups in addition to Virtuoso membership, so that could be something to consider depending on your needs.

3) If you want a TA to do extensive travel planning for you, or to book flights etc.. you will need to either have considerable hotel/resort spend on which the TA will recieve commission or pay the TA fees for services. Flight bookings would definitely require fees, unless perhaps you made substantial (five figure) hotel/resort bookings as well.

If you know what you want and are just looking for value added benefits on a booking, I suspect you should easily be able to find an agent through Virtuoso.com, even if FT TAs are not interested.

There are people who will make award bookings for you using your miles for a fee, but with the help of the information available on Flyertalk this is nothing you cannot do by yourself quite easily.

Basically, the more work you require a TA to do for you the more compensation the TA will want in the form of commission and/or fees in order to work with you.
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Old Mar 7, 15, 8:54 am
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Just a reminder that there is a list of Virtuoso TA's who are also active on this forum. It's here:

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/showt...ferrerid=14479

You can contact them directly by PM and inquire about your specific situation.
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Old Mar 7, 15, 12:56 pm
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Originally Posted by offerendum View Post
Book the airfare by yourself, it´s not a big act.
Thanks for all the feedback so far from everyone including PMs.

Booking airfare with AA miles --SFO to OGG-- no big deal (or UA, etc.) Booking out of smaller regional airport using Avios with either AS, AA or other--not so much. Six different agents-- 2 each at BA, AA and AS--all different stories on availability or lack thereof.
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Old Mar 7, 15, 1:46 pm
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Originally Posted by annhedonia View Post
Booking airfare with AA miles --SFO to OGG-- no big deal (or UA, etc.) Booking out of smaller regional airport using Avios with either AS, AA or other--not so much. Six different agents-- 2 each at BA, AA and AS--all different stories on availability or lack thereof.
I am sure there are experts at redeeming awards lurking in the airline forums who would be happy to help you book awards for a fee. Otherwise, I have heard about this website that offers that service: http://www.bookmyaward.com (Disclaimer - I have no experience with this company, but it was mentioned in a reliable publication).

Make sure not to conflate assistance with award bookings with the services Virtuoso agents provide. They are in the business of planing and booking paid travel, i.e. paid hotel bookings, upmarket/high-end cruises, and possibly paid flights booked in conjunction with such reservations (booking fee will likely apply). They are not in the business of helping people redeem mileage award tickets.

It sounds like what you need is a Virtuoso agent for hotel/resort bookings (or Amex FHR) AND another person to assist you with airline award travel.
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Old Mar 7, 15, 1:57 pm
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If you have an AmEx Plat card, you might want to consider PTS. IIRC they will do award bookings for a small fee, using a specialized department, but I've never used them and don't know how good they are. For simple award tickets, this might be an easy way to coordinate all your arrangements. AmEx also offers emergency services, including help with medical issues, so this could also be a big advantage in your situation. Of course if you have the Centurion card, they can do all of the above but in a much better personalized way.
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Old Mar 7, 15, 2:46 pm
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Here's a lengthy list of award bookers:

http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/trave...e-reviews.html
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Old Mar 7, 15, 2:50 pm
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Originally Posted by MikeFromTokyo View Post

Make sure not to conflate assistance with award bookings with the services Virtuoso agents provide. [snip]

It sounds like what you need is a Virtuoso agent for hotel/resort bookings (or Amex FHR) AND another person to assist you with airline award travel.
Thanks. I totally get the difference between what a Virtuoso agent will provide and the services of an award booking agent -- my OP said "My research indicates I may need to pay an additional fee or consultant to book airfare using miles." Thanks for pointing that out for anyone/ TA who thinks I'm looking for award booking for free although it would be nice to have a TA who could coordinate since hotel and air need to happen at same time.

I started out my quest by PMing two Virtuoso agents from the FT list and got no response-- perhaps they are traveling...? I then decided that if I gave all the info from my situation I might get PMs from Virtuoso agents interested in someone our age and circumstances and also get recommendations and advice from FT members via responses to my post or via PMs.
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Old Mar 7, 15, 2:58 pm
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Can someone help me understand the difference between a Virtuoso independent contractor (as I understand it it's a person "affiliated" with a host agency) and a "regular" (if there is such a thing) Virtuoso TA? Thanks.
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Old Mar 7, 15, 3:30 pm
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Originally Posted by annhedonia View Post
Thanks. I totally get the difference between what a Virtuoso agent will provide and the services of an award booking agent -- my OP said "My research indicates I may need to pay an additional fee or consultant to book airfare using miles." Thanks for pointing that out for anyone/ TA who thinks I'm looking for award booking for free although it would be nice to have a TA who could coordinate since hotel and air need to happen at same time.
It is not a matter of possibly having to pay an additional fee for award bookings. It is VERY unlikely that any Virtuoso agent will be interested in handling your award bookings.

As hotel bookings are typically cancelable and changeable it is not in fact usually necessary for flight and hotel bookings to be made exactly at the same time.

Agents might be deterred if you approach them with a long list of requests, especially if the amount of expected hotel spend is not particularly high.
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Old Mar 7, 15, 3:33 pm
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Virtuoso and us-- a good fit?

It's an employment status distinction. Affiliates or ICs are 1099 for tax purposes. We run our own businesses, make our own decisions as to how to do our work, etc. There are also advisors who are employees of agencies. They have taxes withheld from their paychecks and may be eligible for benefits. A bit of a simplification...but that's essentially the difference. There are no advisors who work for Virtuoso directly. There are only advisors who own, or are an employee, or an IC of Virtuoso member agencies. Hope this helps. Happy to clarify.
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Old Mar 7, 15, 4:11 pm
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Originally Posted by MikeFromTokyo View Post
It is not a matter of possibly having to pay an additional fee for award bookings. It is VERY unlikely that any Virtuoso agent will be interested in handling your award bookings.

As hotel bookings are typically cancelable and changeable it is not in fact usually necessary for flight and hotel bookings to be made exactly at the same time.

Agents might be deterred if you approach them with a long list of requests, especially if the amount of expected hotel spend is not particularly high.
Thanks for helping me clarify, I am clumsily wording this. "having to" meant in lieu of doing it myself, my bad.

I'm right there with you about concern deterring agents since our first trip to Hawaii will be fairly simple but I'm trying to establish a relationship and book a couple future trips also within the next couple months which will be higher hotel spend and require more expertise. Thanks again for your comments/help.
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Old Mar 7, 15, 5:27 pm
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Originally Posted by MikeFromTokyo View Post
It is not a matter of possibly having to pay an additional fee for award bookings. It is VERY unlikely that any Virtuoso agent will be interested in handling your award bookings.

As hotel bookings are typically cancelable and changeable it is not in fact usually necessary for flight and hotel bookings to be made exactly at the same time.

Agents might be deterred if you approach them with a long list of requests, especially if the amount of expected hotel spend is not particularly high.
I've never used her and can't comment on really anything other than what I read on her blog but... Hillary Stockton from travelsort.com does also handle award bookings. See here.

FDW
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Old Mar 7, 15, 5:35 pm
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Lots of Virtuoso TAs do award bookings - at least the people I talk to do.

Typically (I mean 90% of the time) it runs $150 per person.
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