Luxe travel advisor questions

Old Mar 27, 19, 11:57 pm
  #1  
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Luxe travel advisor questions

Hello. First time posting but have stalked some of the threads here before and quite impressed by the wealth of knowledge shared. Was wondering if the TAs here will be able to help provide some insight ... (if this post belongs to another thread, please feel free to move it).

For some context, I'm currently working with a luxe TA from a well known travel agency to plan a trip to Italy this summer for me and my husband to attend a wedding. Since we've never been to Italy and looking to visit a few cities besides where the wedding will be held plus we don't speak the language, we considered using a TA. This TA is accessible only during the work week and only agreed to start researching potential itineraries after we paid their fee. Now that we've paid the fee, we've only gotten one flight option for a non-refundable flight (that we could potentially have found ourselves) and was quoted the price on the airline website. No other travel options were provided in terms of hotels, land transportation between cities, tours, perks, value-adds, etc. for the rest of our trip.

Is it normal to not get a full itinerary when planning a trip with a TA? We just couldn't bring ourselves to agree to a particular airfare unless we can get an idea of the full trip cost and whether we really are getting more value in return. Since we haven't worked with a TA before, we're not sure what to expect. We realize we paid a fee (which was not a small amount) but for what was paid we feel like they would have done/could be doing more for us ... or are we expecting too much? Or perhaps it is a little too early to be alarmed and we should give them a chance to provide a full itinerary with all-in cost?

To be fair, our booking might not potentially be as high as their other clients' bookings but then makes us wonder what would be considered a minimum booking for a luxe TA. We are looking to have a TA (luxe or otherwise) we can work with for this trip and future bookings as we believe it would be worth it, but getting a little disheartened by our experience right now and curious how best to proceed. We are not opposed to booking the trip ourselves but was hoping to tap the efficiencies and benefits of going through a TA.

Thanks in advance for any insights!
islandarling is offline  
Old Mar 28, 19, 6:57 am
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If you have paid a fee already, they should have given you a proposal for a trip. Then, you should be able to make changes until you get your dream trip arranged. You should be given options on hotels, that they would book for you.

We have been on several trips designed by travel advisors from a list curated by a well known former editor of a travel magazine. We submit a few details to XX on where we want to go and when, she introduces us via email to the travel advisor. We get a phone call to flesh out more details on the trip. Sometimes a fee to further plan is requested, sometimes no fee but a trip is prepared for us. We usually arrange the external flights ourselves, although the travel advisor can arrange this. We have either gotten total trip costs with no break down, or trip costs with break downs. With the addition of the Cit Prestige card to our wallet, it is sometimes more advantageous to book the hotel on our own. However we have gotten great prices, for example in the Maldives, that even the fourth night free couldn’t beat. Drivers, tour guides, unique experiences all have been a delight. We have gotten ideas on trips and not gone on them. We have only had one advisor that we paid a fee to who we felt didn’t do more than give us a few web links. We didn’t book the trip through the advisor, and just ate her fee.
We have also used a travel advisor from this forum who was a pleasure to work with for a much simpler trip to Belize, last month.
You should always be able to reach your travel advisor, we have only had to email our advisors for all our trips if there was a problem.
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Old Mar 28, 19, 8:22 am
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Flight options are the least of what a good travel advisor should be providing for you. The most important product is a curated itinerary that takes into account your specific interests and preferences. The first thing he/she should have done is have what we call a Discover Call to talk about you, your travel experience, and your hopes and dreams for the trip. What you should have done is get a sense of whether you have confidence that this travel advisor (1) has expertise in Italy (2) and has rapport with you.

OP writes of contacting a "well known travel agency," but you're not working with the travel agency. You're working with a specific travel advisor, each of whom has different levels of experience and ability — and you need to find one with whom you have rapport.

It sounds like you're not feeling confident about your particular TA. I would call the agency, ask to speak with the manager, and have a conversation with the manager. Ask if there is a particular advisor whom he/she would recommend to you ... and just switch agents within this agency (assuming you reached a TA who is an employee). If you reached an IC ... have a conversation by phone in which you set forth your expectations — namely, focus first on the itinerary. You're right ... you can pull published fares off the internet just as easily as he/she can.
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Old Mar 28, 19, 8:24 am
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Who is this ‘luxe TA’?
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Old Mar 28, 19, 8:25 am
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This is unfortunate and the reason why so many people hold misconceptions against TAs. Most of TAs do not charge a fee, so that is one thing to consider. However, everyone chooses how they work and it's their right to charge a fee. But as @LinLant mentioned, you should always be able to reach your travel advisor, a TA is an advisor, not just booker. I would suggest you communicate all of this as well as any other concerns very CLEARLY to your TA. Perhaps he or she is already working on the itinerary, but unfortunately has failed to communicate efectively. Communication is key when working with a TA, as the entire point of doing so is to have someone at and on your side along the process. Having paid a fee, I would immediately reach out with questions and concerns and lay it all out.
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Old Mar 28, 19, 10:48 am
  #6  
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Why don't you just write back saying something like "the flights look interesting, how long can you hold these seats for while we wait for the rest of the trip?"
Italy and summer often require a lot of back and forth to come up with options
it's possible the top 5 ideas don't pan out because of availability & budget. Simply more time is needed to flush out more options
pressing the panic button is premature.
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Old Mar 28, 19, 11:00 am
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I agree! It takes time to put an intinerary together, and specially so for Italy in the summer. There is an evident lack of clear communication but probably nothing else.

Last edited by kmora; Mar 28, 19 at 11:40 am
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Old Mar 28, 19, 5:22 pm
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Thank you all for the responses! All super helpful ... and we feel a little more confident in how to proceed.

@LinLant - sounds like you have a fantastic TA and our dream would be to find one like that!

@DavidO - all valid points and while we did have what could be considered a Discovery call, it seems we should have done a better job using that to determine the fit between us and the TA. Certainly something we'll keep in mind for future dealings with potential TAs we reach out to!

Since we have already paid the fee, I am inclined to try what @ABG and @kmora suggested and offer the TA an opportunity to provide an itinerary while holding the flights in the meantime. Depending on how that goes, we might need to escalate to a manager or just eat up the fee and try another TA elsewhere. @LondonElite - not sure what the rules are but since we might potentially keep using this TA will keep him/her anonymous.

Based on the feedback here it seems there are still great TAs out there and gives us hope we can find one. Most of the ones we've tried to reach out to are unable to accept any new clients. Admittedly, we were shy about reaching out to some of the TAs on this forum as we didn't think we might have a significant enough booking but I guess it never hurts to ask!

Will update this thread on how things shake out for us in case it might be helpful for someone in the future. Until then, more power to you all for sharing your time and experience to help newbies like us!
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Old Apr 1, 19, 6:34 pm
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How did you find this "luxe" TA? As others have asked, is he/she an independent contractor or an employee? If the TA is part of a big agency, telling us which one (and where your trip is originating) might enable folks here to give more helpful responses.

What are the general parameters of your trip, such as business class plane tickets (or coach or FC)? Category of hotel, where available (five star, four star, etc.)? Within Italy, rental car, first or second class train travel, or car and driver/private tour guide? [Internal flights are likely to be coach only, as AZ only offers coach on domestic segments.]

Did the TA tell you why this particular flight itinerary is being suggested? It's possible that there's only a single nonstop flight for your itinerary, or a single routing with FC if that's what you want. It's also possible that the TA makes the most money from selling you those flights.

ADDED: How much of a fee did you pay in advance? I hope you didn't stumble upon a certain "luxury" independent contractor agent who used to post here, took fees from customers, failed to communicate, and then left at least several people with incomplete travel arrangements, among other questionable practices.

Last edited by MSPeconomist; Apr 2, 19 at 9:30 am
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