Don't use them not only are they making a good profit from your holiday booking they have the cheek in common with many other big companies to charge (via a premium telephone line ) for keepng you waiting(? deliberately ?) to order a brochure and to book a holiday, and they dont know how much per minute.If you can't ring them on an honest line then how can you trust them? How many other hidden charges are there ?Another point on most web sites you can tick a box to stop junk mail and email on Archers Direct there is no box you have to write to another web site to stop it ! Almost as devious as hidden charges.
As I do have a few complaints to air I want to say right up front that despite this we did have a very good holiday so don't let this worry you too much, it might be worth getting a few things in writing from Archer's before you book though.
The booking experience was very good and any e-mail queries I made before our holiday were promptly answered. Staff were also very helpful on the telephone.
Our journey to Mexico went without a hitch and we were met by our guide at Mexico city. There were only 12 of us in the group for the tour. A mini-bus was provided for the trip to the hotel.
Our guide Rafi, turned out to be extremely helpful and knowledgeable. However I was suprised that there was not a Tour Director since Archers had assured me that there would be. They now tell me that they do not appoint a tour director if there are 10 or less in the group (but we were 12 so why didn't we get one?!). On this occassion it did not matter since our local guide was so good - but another time it might.
The first few days were spent in and around Mexico city for which a mini bus was used. This had about 15 seats but some were extremely cramped - over the wheel arch for example. I think that for use within the city this was perfectly acceptable, in fact much easier than trying to get around in a coach. However it soon became clear that we would be expected to do the whole tour, in this cramped minibus. There was no luggage rack nor boot so all cases had to be squeezed in too, precariously at the back of the mini-bus where they would fall forward on passengers in an accident. This was clearly not acceptable when we felt we had all paid for a comfortable holiday - after all it is not our fault that only 12 booked and we had not been informed of this change. If a small coach or much larger mini-bus with proper luggage storage had been provided I am sure we would have been happy. Frantic and furious calls from some of the passengers to Archers led to a 40 seater luxury coach being sent to meet us! This of course was going to the other extreme and was very luxurious for the remainder of the trip.
We feel that we should not have had to complain in order to get comfortable transport. I have since written to Archers who say "...if numbers are low, a vehicle suitable to operate successfully in a more relaxed, comfortable and intimate manner may be used". Intimate is right! We were all sat on top of one another. As for comfortable that was a joke!!
So, the moral of this part of my story is either be prepared to end up on a cramped minibus or only book popular tours. Better still get written confirmation of the vehicles to be used and/or whether there will be a tour director if it matters to you.
Once we had a coach the tour proceeded perfectly. The guide was very knowledgeable indeed and could answer just about any question you cared to ask. He was also very efficient at getting us checked into and out of hotels. We travelled From Mexico City to Puebla, Oaxaca, San Cristobal , Merida to name but a few and saw spectacular archaelogical sites, churches, waterfalls. All travel was well planned with good stops for toilets and refreshments. Some hotels were better than others but all were perfectly acceptable and comfortable.
The journey home was without a hitch again. We flew from Merida to Mexico City where we changed for a flight to Heathrow. I was especially impressed that we were met from our flight in Mexico city and taken by mini-bus to the other terminal for our onward flight.
So, despite a few problems at the start we did have an excellent holiday. I do think the transport problem was bad enough though to reduce the number of stars I give quite substantially.
Shoot Down The Cost : Golden West Tour
We decided to push the boat out and book a big American holiday. After much research we decided on booking with Archers Direct. This is the direct arm of Cosmos. I'm sure most of you will have heard of Cosmos.
The biggest decision was which tour we wanted as there were many west coast tours they provide. We decided on the Golden West tour. About a month before flying out we received our printed itinerary which included details of any optional extras.
The website is very easy to navigate, you can get details of accommodation, a map showing where you go and by what means i.e land, plane or sea and the number of nights spent there. Any additions can also be added, for example our trip had an optional week in Hawaii. It's very flexible. I contacted customer services via email a couple of times with queries I had a reply within an hour or two. I have never had a need to call them about anything.
When we checked in at Heathrow there was an Archeres representative making sure we
were ok and had checked in ok. All our flights were with United Airlines, although some flew with American Airlines. Of course this all depends where in the world you're going.
The Cosmos coach did exactly the same route and except for stays in Vegas and San Francisco stayed in the same accommodation, I'm assuming slightly better but to be honest I found the accommodation in these locations more than adequate. Almost all the Cosmos guests wished they'd booked with Archers when they found out! Not only that, we set off half an hour after then each day so got more rest. The Cosmos coach was also completely full, ours was about a third full so we had a lot of room to spread out and didn't feel like sardines.
Our tour guide was very knowledgeable and easy going. He made it a point to remember
all of our names very quickly, the small number of people on our coach helped there.
Any questions he answered or if he didn't know he found out. He was very professional
and friendly at all times. He went out of his way to please some of the more unreasonable
guests. Nothing was too much trouble.
The accommodation provided was detailed on the website before we booked and on our itinerary, it's generally standard places such as Best Western and Holiday Inn. We also stayed in the Carlton in San Francisco which was very nice. I have no complaints about the accommodation, it was always clean and this is the main thing for me, we only slept there after all.
Everything was well organised, right down to where we stopped to use the toilets and for
lunch. Incidentally, some Archers holidays include some food and it will tell you on the
website, we weren't supposed to have any included but most hotels did provide us breakfast free, which was a nice bonus.
Despite all this there were a group of moaners on our coach that refused to mix with anyone and picked nits with everything. Even moaning that we stopped at a viewing point for the Golden Gate Bridge, why bother coming? Everybody else had a great time though.
Summing up, I would definitely recommend Archers Direct for anyone looking to book a tour holiday, I was very satisfied with the level of service. They have a wide and varied selection at very competitive prices. We checked many tour and holiday companies before we booked and found them to be significantly cheaper than any others, of course it's still always best to check.
We have already booked out next tour with Archers to China, so that's something to look
forward to. You don't get much of a better recommendation than that.
This was one of the best holidays we have ever had. We spent time in so many places and saw so many things. Boston was great, Quebec and Ottawa absolutely beautiful, Niagara was absolutely amazing (we even changed the colours on the lights) and we just loved New York. There was something interesting about everywhere we went. Shame about the storm in Washington but that's life. The tour guide (Gary Culp) was fantastic, he knew everything about everything, the hotels were all good and we had an absolutely fantastic time throughout. Lots of good food and great nights out with friends we made on the tour. It was tiring but worth it. The platinum tourer made all the difference, much more comfortable and spacious. Met lots of really nice people. A really good way to travel. I would definitely recommend this holiday it was absolutely fantastic.
Pat & Jimmy, Middlesbrough
July 2008we came on this tour as the people we were travelling with had enjoyed previous archers holidaysThe Eastern Europe tour on platinum bus turned out to be very poor, guide was Hungarian with poor English so it was like allo allo, facts were vague and very random. We were discouraged from eating or drinking on the bus which did not have the promised lounge area or tea and coffee facilities. We passed through pretty villages just to stop at motorway stops every two hours or so where we had to get off the bus to be served warm tea or undrinkable coffee from plastic cups by the guide, at which point the bus was locked so everyone had to pay to go to the toilet this came to over £50 for the two weeks for one family of four.Three hotels were dirty 2 star at best ( encontel hotels being the worst) and all were miles out of the city one being 17km from centreOn a number of days we travelled for over 10 hours and upon arrival were ushered straight in for the included meals without the chance to wash and changeit was only on arrival the last hotel in Munich (17km outside of the city) that we were informed that the hotel did not have a restaurant to eat in and nothing but a couple of takeaways in the areaThe only thing they could not spoil was the cities which were well worth seeing but only had 1 ½ hours in Municha number of people on the tour who could not keep up with any walking tour were just left behind as nobody checked on the group and often missed information by the time they caught upentertainment on the bus over the two weeks was two DVD's and three CD's this is not just a bitter rant as almost everyone on the trip felt the same this was put down on the questionnaire but as these were not sealed i would imagine they will not reach head office
My recent holiday in Western Canada has to rate amongst the best, if not the very best holiday I have ever had. The organisation was superb and, when my sister and I missed a day of our holiday thanks to British Airways policy of overbooking aircraft seats, Archers made it up to us by paying for us to go to somewhere that had been an included excursion we had missed. Fortunately we had not planned on doing the optional excursions for that day so had a wonderful afternoon out thanks to the company. All excursions were excellent, the tour manager, Darcy Hamilton, was well suited to the job, making sure that everyone was well catered for and sorting out mishaps in a relaxed and reassuring manner. Our coach driver, Mitch, was also excellent and we always felt safe and relaxed with him. I would definitely recommend Archers direct to anyone.
Archer's Direct offers not only a substantial saving for those booking holidays abroad, but also enables you to avoid the horror of the travel agents on a Saturday afternoon. Archer's Direct is Cosmos's phone-only tour operator. This means that you can't book via a travel agents and have to ring them in person; personally I don't see this as much of a disadvantage, having often spent time queuing in one only to find the holiday/hotel isn't available. In the past I've also had to prompt travel agent staff to include money-off deals, which leads me to conclude their operating systems aren't too advanced; however, when I rang Archer's Direct, with a list of all the costs in front of me (holiday plus supplement minus £50 off per couple plus travel insurance minus half-price offer - you can see why it's hard to keep track of these costs!), the phone operator rattled off the breakdown of the total to me with no problem, and all the discounts were included. The Archer's Direct brochure can be ordered via their website (www.archersdirect.co.uk) or over the phone (0845 600 1410). It's not as large as most of the other brochures available, like Thompson's or JMC's, so there aren't such a large number of hotels to choose from. Some destinations, for example, only give you the option of one hotel. In addition or prior to browsing the brochure, it's worth looking at the Archer's Direct website. If you've got some idea of where you want to go, there's resort descriptions (which thoughtfully include reasons not to go as well as the plus points!), relevant average temperatures and monetary information, as well as hotel descriptions and photos. My only criticism is that prices aren't included, meaning you have to either phone and ask for them, or have the brochure already. Alternatively, also on the website, there's an online form you can fill in which suggests whi
ch hotels might suit you best. You can request information on hotels that offer half-board, have a jacuzzi and a mini-golf course and are less than 500m from the beach if those are your requirements. The search results will bring up a varied list of hotels in various resorts and countries; unfortunately this list doesn't seem to be comprehensive, just the first ten or so that match your prerequisites. I looked at the Archer's Direct brochure in conjunction with a whole batch I got from the travel agents, and my conclusion was that, for the holidays in the £300-450 price range I was looking at, Archer's seemed to be about £75-£100 cheaper than those in the other brochures. The gentleman I spoke to when ringing to book the holiday was efficient and polite, and the whole process took ten minutes at most, even with the poor guy having to read out the travel insurance rules and regulations as required by law. As far as the holiday itself went, we were treated just like the other Cosmos customers, so there was no downside in terms of not getting the full rep service. (On the other hand, since our rep was a bit of an eejit who turned up at the hotel one night as the entertainment - "The Scott Experience" featured such songs as 'My Way' and 'Mack the Knife' - maybe that's not such a good thing!) UPDATE 27/01/03 Just received a new holiday brochure from Cosmos, and it seems as though whilst they're still offering a smaller range of holidays only bookable over the phone, with great discounts, this is no longer via the Archer's Direct brochure, but has the Cosmos branding. I don't know if this means the two have parted company, but it seems the above summary may no longer apply.
One of the cheaper tour packages I know of are from Cosmos. You can opt the fly direct to the destination or take a cheaper alternative 'bus all the way' (European countries only). If you are planning to opt for the former, then I would recommend Archers Direct because they offer exactly the same tour packages for a cheaper price. You can save at least £50 (or more) on each tour package compare to Cosmos prices. Brochures can be obtained through post for free by just requesting online at www.archersdirect.co.uk or calling the number 0870 751 2000. The only drawback is that you cannot book through any travel agent, but why not book through phone if you can save so much!