* Prices may differ from that shown
Booking a cheap holiday. Very difficult.. and very frustrating. Travels agents charge you for the flight,accomodation, then add a bit on to make money. We all want the best, and cheapest deals we can find.. but how? Well, first things first, forget package holidays! Soemtimes, they can work out quite cheap, but either way, get them out of the picture! Here is how you can book the cheapest holiday you can.
*-*Choosing A Destination*-*
Choosing a destination is important. This is where you will be spending your wholeeee 1/2 weeks. This is where travel agents are useful. Have a look around some travel agents and pick up some brochures. Asking your friends is important, they can give you a better description of the place than anyone else. Travel agents are just trying to sell the holiday! Try going online to loook for some images of the place. Look at the descriptions, the reviews. Gather as much evidence as you need. Then, sit down with your children, partner, friends, family, and come upon an agreement of where you would like to go.
*-*booking the flight*-*
This is the hardest part.. booking the flight. You have to do alot of browsing for this! If you log onto www.travelsupermarket.com, you can catch an idea of the average price. However, don't book from theese people, they don't give you the cheapest airlines. The best thing to do, is search on Wikipedia.org and search your airport. There, it will list you all the airlines that fly to/from your airport. Be patient, and search through every airline for the cheapest quote. Also, searching "cheap flights to (destination)" you may find a good quote. If you are fussy about the airline you fly on, do a little research on the history, and, ofcourse, search the reviews on Dooyoo! Just remember to try EVERYWHERE for a flight and you will find the cheapest.
People are a bit funny about accomadation they stay in. You can still find somewhere nice to stay, very cheap. Let me reccomend some holiday companies
Once again just browse "cheap accomodation in (destination)" and you find find lists of results. Please, once you think you have found something suitible don't go booking yet. Try searching reviews for the acommadtion. These sites may help
You are ought to find something suitible.
*-* transfers *-*
They only down-side of this is, you have sort out your own transfers. There are online companies who will provide this service for you at low prices.
- If you are looking for a late deal, please go directly to online travel agents, they will do a deal cheaper than this system. However, this system has worked out cheaper for me than most.
Don't believe me? Well ive took the time to give you an example of how you can save money on using this system.
Imagine you are travelling to Barcelona for 1 week, August 12, 2 adults, 1 child, from stansted. Here is how much you could save by using my method.
These are real quotes.
Cheapest Flights: £214
Cheapest Hotel 3 star: £408
Online Travel Agents
Cheapest 3 Star Holiday: E-bookers £974.86
So, by booking seprately, you could save £352.86.
Next time you book a holiday, do it the indapendant way.
We have been on a holiday on Camping Ca Pasquali in Italy with the organisation "Go4Camp" last year. It was just fantastic. They have great, new accommodations and lovely employees.We just discovered there new UK website:http://www.go4camp.co.ukThey offer camping holidays in Italy, Spain and Croatia.Any more people who go on a holiday or have experiences with them?
www.holidayextras.co.uk - check this site out for deals on parking at airports, transport and hotels at uk airports, etc. every time they have beaten all offers on airport parking - ok - one week at stansted airport only saved me 8 pounds but even so booking on line was fast and easy - confirmation (which was not needed as you can print off booking confirmation) was received by first class post. the latest deal i booked was transport by national express to heathrow and one night in a 4 star hotel there and it includes the heathrow hoppa (normally 5 pounds return each). friends of mine have paid 25 pounds more for the same accommodation the same week but they booked at a travel agent. it just makes you want to spread the word - why pay more than you need on the basics of the holiday -
We all seem to be on a constant trail of bargain-hunting these days and flights and holidays are certainly no exception. Everywhere you look (teletext, Internet, Sunday papers), you are bombarded with the latest deals in travel. But where do you start? How can you tell a real bargain? I have been working as a travel agent for several years now and this op should help separate the fact from fiction when it comes to travel. Fact number one: with a few exceptions (promotional offers, preferred agent agreements) no travel agent has any better prices than any other. This is particularly important to remember when shopping for flights. Airlines release the same discounted contracts to each and every travel company. The prices are the same, the booking conditions are the same and even the cancellation penalties are the same. The difference lies in the individual agents. For example, a passenger intends to travel to Singapore and calls various agents for fares. Agent A quotes £400 on Air France whereas Agent B quotes £420 on Lufthansa. Is Agent A cheaper? No, both agents have the same fares but Agent B just didn't want to sell the Air France fare. Agent C then quotes £450 for Air France. This is purely a case of a higher mark-up. The base fare is the same, the mark-up is just higher. Many agents work almost purely on commission and rely on marking up flights as much as possible. One agent will mark-up 10% and another 15% and so on. If Agent A can offer Air France for £400, every consolidator in the country can. Fact number two: no travel agency has a secret allocation of seats! Basically, if a flight is sold out - it is sold out. No amount of ringing around various agents (who are probably all sub-divisions of the same company anyway) will get you a seat. All agents all over the world book seats from exactly the same allocation. Even calling the airline themselves will not help as they are also booking from the same allocat
ion. Sometimes it may be the case that the flight has sold out of discounted tickets as there are a limited number of these on each flight. The only seats then left are at the airline's higher published fares and often have to be purchased instantly. Fact number three: scheduled airfares do not drop nearer to the time of departure. Too many people are confused by the different principles on which chartered and scheduled air fares work. Chartered air fares are slashed a few days before departure (subject to seats still being available) as they need to sell as many seats as possible to operate the flight. This may mean selling them at much lower profit margins and gives passengers the opportunity to snap up last-minute bargains. The disadvantage of waiting until a few days before departure is that you run the risk of the seats being sold out beforehand. Scheduled air fares, however, increase in price closer to departure date. Seats are released 331 days in advance. There are a limited number of seats at the lowest fare. These are usually the ones to be booked up first and once they've gone, they've gone for good. There is no such thing as a last-minute cancellation. If someone who bought a ticket 10 months ago for £200 cancels two weeks before departure, the seat will not go back on sale at £200 but at the current maximum selling price, which could be £800. Or if may be automatically assigned to someone who has been sitting on a wait list for 3 weeks. Fact number four: Only the check-in staff can allocate the much-coveted exit row seats. It is a CAA regulation that the check-in staff must physically see and visually assess the person assigned a seat in an exit row as there are certain criteria that must be met before being allowed to sit there. The passenger must be over 15, be able to communicate in English effectively, not suffer any physical disability which may prevent him/her from opening the door quickly and saf
ely, etc. It is interesting when taking reservations over the phone that all male passengers claim to be over six feet tall! This doesn't help at all. The bulkhead seats in the centre block can be pre-allocated by the airlines but are only assigned to parents with infants requesting bassinets and wheelchair users. A certain number may be reserved for high-status frequent flyers but this is not always the case. Fact number five: There is no such thing as a cheap fly-drive. 'Fly-drives' are becoming increasingly popular, particularly in the US. Many travel agents will offer prices as low as £249 for a 2-week fly-drive to the number one love it/hate it destination: Florida. Watch out! These fares are often based on 4 adults travelling and are usually for a two-week stay but with one week's car rental of the lowest grade (2-door economy). Tax, insurance, handling fees, surcharges are not included. The cost of renting a such a car for one week in Florida is well below £100.00. Divide this by four and add it to the flight price and Bingo! There's your fly-drive. However, 4 adults will not fit comfortably in the car, they will have to 'upgrade' to a higher category anyway. The rental is only for one week so they'll have to pay for an extra week. Then comes the cost of the insurance (which in the US is astronomical). Many an innocent tourist has been faced with a huge bill within an hour of getting off the plane and if they didn't expect this and budget their spending money accordingly, it can be disastrous. My tip is to book flight and car separately. It may seem expensive, but remember that 80% of the car rental price is insurance which would only have to be paid once you get there anyway. Fact number six: There are no free child places. Nobody gives away anything free - it's just a matter of pricing policy. The 'free child' offers that we see constantly are a clever way of encouraging f
amilies to book this particular resort or with this particular operator. But the parents pay for the child in their inflated adult prices and flight supplements. It's a well-known trick. Compare the prices of resorts for adults only of the same standard and see the difference in price. Better still, book the hotel and flight separately with each supplier directly and see the saving you make. Not only did you cut out the middleman, you paid for exactly what you wanted. If you are travelling with children then the 'free child' offer is probably a good thing because you simply pay for them in the adult price. However, if you are travelling without children, it seems unfair that you should pay higher prices to cover the cost of other people's children. A real example taken from a brochure: One week in a three-star all-inclusive resort in Jamaica in April - £759. One week in a three-star all-inclusive resort in Jamaica offering massive child discounts in April - £929. These two resorts are almost next-door to each other and offer almost identical facilities and entertainments. Why the difference in price? To cover the cost of the children. I hope that this information helps you a little through all the options available to you. My number one piece of advice - only book with ABTA-bonded agents. That way you can be sure your money is safe.
We all want the perfect holiday at the cheapest possible price – it’s human nature isn’t it? But how to go about it – that is the question. I always prefer to leave things as late as possible – frightened in the knowledge that if we book too far in advance we will ·Change our minds where or when we want to go. ·Have it cancelled by the tour operator due to lack of sales. ·Have a nasty accident & be unable to go. ·Destination could be having a civil war, an earthquake, hurricane, plague or pestilence. ·Horror of horrors - see it advertised later at half the price. As you can probably tell – I’m not the most optimistic of people & I find that if I leave it late I have less time to worry – that makes sense doesn’t it? Now, if you want to leave it late all the bargains you find on Teletext will be the dregs – what no one else wants. It could be poor accommodation, half way up a mountain, over a night club, flying at 3 a.m. and, almost certainly will be accommodation "allocated on arrival”. They will tell you that you could be upgraded rather than downgraded but, lets face it – how likely is that. What is even worse – it could be an 18 – 30 hotel. Nearly fell into that trap quite recently. I’ve got nothing against young people you understand – I was a young thing in the sixties, I’ve got some street cred but my idea of a holiday is enjoying the day and sleeping at night – not the other way round. Having said that it’s worth trying & I have found Orchid Travel very good in the past but I always insist on knowing where I will be staying so that I can check it out first. TV Travel shop – I’ve seen quite a lot of this recently and the thing that surprises us are the prices – they all seem pretty high and are on a par with the brochures – can’t see the advantages here at all. Apart
from which the constant repetition and the ‘Oh so happy ‘ presenters makes me want to throw up at times. There’s one guy who used to be on Esther Rantzen’s show years ago that has a voice like a strangled cat – drives me nuts. The Internet? I know people who do do this but I’m not totally convinced it’s safe or reliable. It also takes ages to fill out the forms – I’ve done a few dummy runs and there is no one there to ask advice from or help this middle aged lady choose between a week in Torquay or 2 weeks in Barbados (as if that’s a choice). The net IS good for checking up on the resort and/or hotel – Virgin net have a resort finder where you can find out everything about the place you are thinking of visiting from the weather to the the culture and visitors can leave their comments on various places. Very useful as we say in Dooyoo land! I think the best course of action is to build up a good relationship with your local travel agent. In 1990 we wanted to celebrate our silver wedding with a trip to America. We had never been further than Spain before and were very apprehensive. We also wanted to travel around and take some internal flights and this gem of a girl arranged absolutely everything. Nothing was too much trouble, she was available to answer any worries or queries and she knew the ins and outs of travelling. We had a great time – everything went like clockwork and we have been back to her many times since. Most recently was a couple of weeks ago – we called in and said we wanted a cheapy somewhere warm, not from Gatwick – it’s a 5 hour drive for us and she started searching the tour operators on her computer. Several, at first glance, seemed interesting but they were either middle of the night flights, allocation on arrival, 18-30’s or the back of beyond. These were things she was aware of but we would not have been. It took a long
time – about 2 hours before we walked out with our holiday booked but her advice was invaluable and we know what we have booked – where it is and the flight times are reasonable. The cost - £249 each for 2 weeks in Cyprus self catering!! Not bad eh? Considerably cheaper than the brochure price and we are off in 10 days. A final useful tip – I hope, is parking. We are going from Birmingham and the airport charges are quite expensive. We have booked into a hotel and the car is parked free for 15 days. Nothing unusual in that you might think but we are staying over night on our way back as we land in the evening. We would not have thought of that but our friendly travel agent did & it’s only going to cost about £20 more than the airport parking and we get a night in a hotel with a leisurely drive home the next day. No rush, No fuss – a pleasant way to finish our holiday. Here’s hoping the weather will be good to us too.
You know I can't wait till my holiday in May, well I was. Let me tell you a little story Back in November I was looking at TV Travel shop on Digital TV. TV Travel shop is a channel that offer holidays to all destinations, any time off the year at discounted prices. I had browsed this channel for about 6 wks on and off looking for a holiday that was fit for myself, my wife and our two daughters. Finally I found one which I liked the look of. It was to Alcudia in Mallorica, one of the Balleric Islands off the coast of Spain. Alcudia is a family oriented resort, which I thought would be great for my family. The holiday itself was a two week hoilday, all inclusive, with flights and accomodation. When I say all inclusive, I mean all inclusive ..food, soft and local alcoholic drinks, and some water sports too. We have been on an all inclusive holiday to Dominican Republic and Cuba so I thought we could go Fully Inclusive again. Its a lot of money up front but its worth it as all you need to take over is spending money. I phoned TV Travel shop and quoted the number which you are given at the end of each holiday shown. I was given details similar to what was shown on the station, things like flight details, prices for ourselves and kids and insurance. You can book the holiday over the phone, which we did, and then they send you the details in the post. This is great, no hassle in crowded shops, no wondering in and out of travel agents, all done in the comfort of you home. Well, sorry if I'm boring you all, but 2 wks later we got our conformation and the deposit paid. The whole holiday cost just over £1000, but we had to pay a deposit of 20% there and then and the rest 8 weeks before the time of departure. Well, its now 4 wks to count down and we have had some really bad news. Cosmos has cancelled our holiday. YES cancelled it. We had a letter today stating that there is no longer any flights available at the airport
we were travelling from, which was Manchester. We live in Rotherham, so its the nearest about an hours drive. We have been given the same holiday, same date but to t from London Gatwick, which is at least 4 hrs drive. Cosmos hasn't said why the flight had been cancelled, just a letter apologising and asking us to phone our tour operator. Well as you can imagine I phoned up this evening not very impressed at all. First of all I phoned TV travel shop to ask what was going on. They told us nothing we already knew, but offered Cosmos' help line. So, I phoned Cosmos. After waiting what seemed like eternity I spoke to a lass, who after telling my story to was fairly helpful. After a few moments she came back with another holiday, again same destination, price, but was 5 days after we were originally going. This would under any other circumstances, would be been o k but I have some CIMA (Accounting) exams at the end of May and this meant it would leave me 3 days before then. After quickly consulting with my wife, chrissy, I asked about flight times etc. Well going out was ok, our flight would be at 9.15 am from East Midlands airport, and we would arrive at Palma, Mallorica at 1225 noon. East midlands airport is about 30 minutes away from my mums, so we could go there the night before. The real bug was coming back. The flight to leave Palma was at 6.25 am. Bearing in mind that you have to be at the airport 2 hrs before departure and it was 30 mins transfer time from our hotel to the airport. It meant that we had to leave the hotel at roughly 4 am! So ok, if it was just my wife and myself, then I'm sure we could of done it but I have 2 children to think about. I told the young lady that I have two daughters, one 3 and the other 10 mths, so it was a bit unfair to get them out of bed at that time to come home. She replied , " You be surprised how children can adapt and go back to sleep" !! Well, I was a bit taken aback by this
comment but all I could say was that we had 14 days on the letter to make our minds up. She then told me that I have only 6 days left not 14 days. When I looked at the letter she was right. It took over a week for the letter from Cosmos to get to me. Well that was it, after a few sarcastic remarks and told that I had 6 days to make my mind up I told this young lady to go and speak to the manager, I wanted 2 wks to make my mind up, as I have to reorganise my time of work, lifts to airport, house sitter, and lifts back from the airport to home. I told her that she can phone me back with this information as I had already been on the phone for over 10 mins, 6 of which was from waiting. I also asked her, if we did take the holiday, is there any facilities for breakfast on the way back as it will be 4 am in the morning. The kids need to have something to eat before we travel, and was it necessary to be at the airport 2 hrs before. After giving my phone number, I came off the phone, steaming with madness. After 10 mins, the young lady phoned me back, and told me that I have 10 days to decide whether I wanted the holiday, it was necessary for us to be at the airport 2 hrs before even though it wouldnt be really busy. Unfortunately there would be no facilities open at that time within the airport apart from a small shop, which I could get some sweets, drinks or sandwiches. I think we will go, but I think its a disgrace that Cosmos has cancelled our holiday 4 wks before we go on holiday. I am sorely tempted to cancel and get a late booking, but after having a look tonight, there is nothing which is good enough. I even suggested that we could go abroad in June, but as my wife pointed out, its too hot and crowded for our children as they are 3 years old and 10 mths. Just be aware of the changes that travel agents can make on your dream holiday, and what it states in the contract about changes. Its states in ours that they can make changes or cancel upto
2 weeks beforehand with full refund. Normally if the offer you a alternative holiday you have to pay extra if the holiday is more expensive than the one they have cancelled. If you go on at them, like we have you can get it at the same price. Just don't give in until you get what you want. Its their fault not yours. I'm quite pushy when it comes to complaining but many are not. Some of you will just except that you will have to go out of your way to an airport, or pay extra. Dont do it.. push.. push and push until you get what you deserve. Its YOUR holiday.. don't let anyone spoil it.
I have got a Royal Bank of Scotland current account for which I pay a monthly fee of £4. The only thng which makes this monthly fee worthwhile is that when it comes to booking your holiday, you can book through the travel line which is part of the account service and you always get a minimum of 10% off the price quoted in the travel agents. You can take advantage of this by either phoning the line and telling them roughly what you're looking for and letting them do the work and then phone you back with a few options, or else find the exact holiday you want and giving them the details. That's it - dead simple but over the last couple of years i've saved a few hundred pounds which have gone towards cocktails and nightclubs. As long as the person booking the holiday has an account then they can book for the whole party so everyone saves. On top of this, the account gives you free travel insurance (annual cover) so that's another wee saving! Of course ther'es always a down-side - if you dont know the holiday and just let them find one for you then you might not get to see a brochure before booking. The monthly fee seems worth it to me but for the more cunning you could always close the account after you've booked the holiday of your dreams!!!!
I recently booked a holiday to Cyprus through an internet travel company and the trip started to go wrong at Manchester airport. At check in I was told that my air ticket was not valid. After an hour of worry I managed to find someone who could help with this. The airline would not accept the ticket as it had the name of the tour operator on it: Sundial Travel. No one would tell me why. After another half hour I was handed a fresh ticket headed: Blue Sky. The airline accepted this. On arrival at Paphos in Cyprus everyone was told that the hotel we had booked was closed and therefore we would be upgraded to 5 star.(This turned out to be untrue as the hotel was open!) When we arrived at our new hotel we were told that our tour operator was Falcon Travel. I made some enquiries and discovered that there had been some irregularities with the tour operators and ABTA bonding meant that our holiday still went ahead. We were supposed to fly home after 8 days from Paphos but we were told that there was no flight for us and that we would have to stay in the hotel until the next night. Eventually we were bused to Larnaca and flown home by Airtours. This is an excellent example of why you should always make sure that the company you book your holiday with is ABTA bonded. This is your guarantee.
Before I start wittering on about holiday brochures, I should first point out that often the cheapest holiday will involve buying tickets from one of the low-cost airlines like RyanAir or Go, and sorting out your accommodation using the web. The downside to this though is that if things go wrong you'll have no one to sort it out for you, you'll have to make your own way from the airport to the hotel, and - perhaps worst of all - there'll be no holiday rep around to rope you into a fancy dress karaoke evening. But now onto the holiday brochures. It's best to pick up at least six (but not all in one go, as they're surprisingly heavy). Unfortunately you need quite a few in order to compare prices and so on, but if you don't write all over them and fold over the pages then you can always return them to the travel agents to avoid feeling guilty about the environment. THE BROCHURE: The first thing that will strike a novice brochure user is confusion. So here's a brief explanation of how to translate the brochure information: The price of the room will be based on a) type of accommodation, b) what time of year you're going (low, mid or high season), and c) how many of you are sharing a room. The accommodation will usually be either self-catering (no meals included, but you will get a 'kitchenette', generally comprising a couple of cooking hobs, a fridge, and some crockery and cutlery), bed and breakfast (no kitchenette, but you will get a breakfast, often served at a buffet), half-board (no kitchenette; breakfast and evening meal at the hotel included) and, occasionally, full-board (no kitchenette; breakfast, lunch and evening meal included). Nowadays some hotels are offering 'all-inclusive' deals, where your holiday price includes food and drink throughout the day. Personally I prefer self-catering, not because I enjoy cooking abroad, but because it means you can eat out every night without
offending the hotel chef, and it makes my boyfriend happy because he can store numerous bottles of beer in the fridge. Often in self-catering accommodation you'll have a choice of either a studio apartment (basically a bedsit) or a 1-bedroom apartment (with the bedroom separate from the lounge and kitchenette). Look at the dates you want to go on to find the right price. Usually each row covers about 2 weeks, with July and August (high season) being the most expensive. If your holiday covers two different rows then the travel agents will average out the price. Most of the holiday prices you see in the boxes will be based on a certain number of people sharing a room. It should say somewhere in the box something like "4 sharing". If there's less than four of you, you'll need to look at the bottom of the box, where you'll find the "low occupancy" supplement. The cost of the supplement depends on how many of you there are, and what time of year you're planning on travelling. The supplement will be on a per-night basis, so if you're going for 7 nights you'll need to multiply the figure by seven. Another supplement you need to remember is the flight supplement. These are found at the back of the brochure, and their price will vary according to which airport you're travelling from and what time of day you're flying. A dash (-) usually means that flight isn't available, whereas NIL or £0 means there is no extra flight supplement (this is rare). SO THIS IS HOW YOU WORK OUT THE COST OF YOUR HOLIDAY: Take the cost of the room, add the supplement if there are less of you than the room price is based on, add the flight supplement, and then the cost of travel insurance (you don't have to take the travel insurance offered by the tour operator, but if you don't you'll need to have arranged it before you book the trip, and it'll need to offer coverage as good as the o
ne in the brochure). This is what it will cost one person to go on that particular holiday. HOW TO SAVE MONEY: Either book early or book late. If you book early, a lot of brochures (e.g. Airtours, Archers Direct) will offer you some money off the price of the room. Those newspaper-like discount brochures are usually a waste of time though - if there's anything good in them it'll normally be snapped up sharpish. I think their job is mainly to draw you into the travel agents even though there's little chance of the hotel you want being available. As for booking late, this refers to those fab deals you often see in travel agents' windows. The downside to these is that often all you'll know before you arrive at your destination is whereabouts you're going (not necessarily the resort, but you'll know if you're going to Ibiza or Majorca) and what quality of accommodation you've got (2 star, 3 star, etc.) So only take advantage of these if you're flexible, because you may find that although you've saved a hundred quid you have to take a ten minute bus ride to the beach every day. There are also some tour operators who don't sell holidays via travel agents, and so save you the agents' cost. Travel agents don't stock these brochures so you need to look out for their advertising. One good one is www.archersdirect.co.uk, which had holidays for about £100 less than equivalent holidays in other brochures. THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR: Flight times - usually you will be kicked out of your hotel room at 12pm. If your flight is at 3 in the morning, that's a long time to be hanging around with nowhere to go, so bear that in mind when you're choosing a flight. The good news is that the hotel will have a luggage room where you can put your suitcases until the coach arrives, and some hotels offer a late check-out option where you pay a fee to have a room till around 5 pm. This won't often be the sa
me room you were in for your holiday though. Does your room/hotel have either a safe or a safety deposit box facility? Because you really don't want to be either walking around with all your holiday money or leaving the whole lot in your room when you're not there. If you're a couple looking for a relaxing break, I'd recommend avoiding those hotels with Kids' Clubs as there are bound to be more families there. Also hotels with those 18-30 type logos by their description are best avoided if you like a peaceful night's sleep. How far is your hotel from the beach? Some are over 3 kilometres away, or up a steep hill. Is your town in a rowdy part of town? Or is it next to the local funfair? You have to expect some noise in most Mediterranean resorts (take some earplugs with you), but some locations are definitely preferable to others. Are you vegetarian? If so, don't expect to be able to try the local cuisine. Unless you visit Italy (which has loads of naturally vegetarian dishes), you may find that the only food you can eat is omelette and chips (believe me, I've been there). For this reason vegetarians may be better off at the larger resorts as they tend to have a wider variety of restaurants. I've found the most honest brochure to be Thomson's. They seem to be very good at telling you the bad points to a hotel as well as the good, and best of all they have a chart showing you how last year's guests rated the accommodation, the location, the food choice and the holiday overall. TOP TIP: before you book the holiday, ask your travel agent to look up the hotel in the Agent's Gazetteer. This will tell you what the hotel is really like, and travel agents are required to show it to you if you ask for it. Good luck, and I hope you find the perfect destination!
~ ~ For the past few years we have visited the Tuscany region of Italy as our family holiday. (And before you ask, Tony Blair had nothing to do with it!) Last year and in 1999, we used the same travel agency, a company called Abbey Travel, who are considered to be one of the top travel companies here in the Republic of Ireland. In 1999, we were booked into a lovely “villa residence” called “El Salvetino”, about five or six miles outside the small Tuscan town of Col Val De Elsa, midway between the cities of Florence and Sienna. We were absolutely delighted with this holiday, and with both the accommodation and the facilities, and so decided to use the same agency again for our holiday in 2000. As we were going for a longer period, we requested that we be given the choice of a slightly more upmarket villa with air conditioning. (It gets VERY hot in Tuscany in July!) ~ ~ We were advised by the agency to book a hotel “residence” called “ Hotel San Luigi”, which was only a couple of miles from where we had been the previous year. I proceeded to then check this place out on the Web, and it looked absolutely ideal. It boasted a large outdoor swimming pool that is an absolute must for us, as my ten- year- old daughter thinks she is a reincarnation of a dolphin, and was actually meant to live in the water. It also had what looked like a good restaurant, lovely grounds, a tennis court, bowling alley, table tennis, and best of all the illustrations of the guest accommodation were marvellous. ~ ~ On arrival at Bologna airport we picked up our hire car, (a marvellous Alfa 156, see my review PLUG, PLUG) and drove to the residence, arriving at around mid-day. Imagine my astonishment when we were shown to our “luxury” villa accommodation. Instead of the marvellous image we had viewed on the Web advertisement, we were ushered into what I can at best describe as a f
airly large bed sitting room. It had no separate kitchen, only a small cooking alcove set into one of the walls. There was no separate bedroom as we had stipulated, the sleeping arrangement being a loft set into the ceiling, comprising of two single mattresses laid on bare concrete slabs. The third person in our party (myself) had to sleep on a fold down couch, which had to be made up each day. And to add insult to injury, the whole place was so small that you bumped into each other if you tried to turn round at the same time, and it hadn’t been properly cleaned since the departure of the previous guests. About the only redeeming feature was a tremendous outside patio, with separate tables and chairs for eating, and sun loungers for our personal use. ~ ~ This is where the “tip” to readers really starts. I immediately complained bitterly to the hotel management, only to be told that this was the accommodation reserved for “Abbey Travel” visitors, that there was nothing they could do, to take it up with the agency, and that in any case they were completely booked out and there were no alternatives free. I stated I was unwilling to accept this explanation, organised for a big pot of coffee to be delivered, and got out my old, trusty Nokia phone. (since changed to a Siemens) I rang the agency representative in Italy, a charming lady who was to prove most helpful throughout the whole holiday, and told her of our predicament. I also rang the Travel Agent in Dublin direct, and told them that if they didn’t “sort it out” forthwith, they could arrange for return flights to Dublin, as we were simply not prepared to stay in the accommodation we had been offered. Within the space of half an hour the Hotel manager was back, and we were offered alternative accommodation. This wasn’t a whole lot better than what we had originally been offered, but at least it had about double
the living space, and room to actually breath and turn around. Rather than totally destroy a holiday the whole family had been looking forward to all year, and because my wife, and in particular my little girl, were both nearly in tears at this stage, I reluctantly decided to accept the alternative offered. ~ ~ To say that this incident destroyed our holiday would not be true. We stayed the full two weeks, and the rest of the facilities at the residence were as described on the Web site. The pool was wonderful, as was the restaurant, and all the staff proved extremely helpful and pleasant after our bad start. It was not the end of our problems however. The advertised satellite TV turned out to show only one English language station, “Eurosport”, and my wee lassie had to watch all her favourite cartoons in Italian, French, or German for the entire stay. Also, the air-conditioning was not inclusive in the price, and was metered and paid for separately. (we had not been advised of this) It was also so noisy as to be worse than useless at night time. (just when you need it the most) You were either cool and awake all night, or roasting and sweaty if you wanted to sleep. I put all of these complaints in writing immediately, and gave a list of them to the holiday rep, and also faxed them direct to the Agency’s head office in Dublin. ~ ~ On our return to Dublin, I straightaway started a campaign to get recompense for what I considered the shabby way that we had been treated. I called in to the Agency and complained. (fobbed off) I wrote letter after letter of complaint to the Company head office. (One reply, apologising, but making no offer of compensation) Eventually, after threatening action in the small claims court, I got an offer of a £100 discount voucher. (I told them where they could put it!) But I persevered. About three months after our return home, I eventually got some satisfaction. At
this point I had issued the summons to the small claims court, when out of the blue, a cheque suddenly turned up on the mat for £350. This was around 15% of the total purchase price of the holiday, and I accepted. ~ ~ The lesson to be learnt is simply this. ALWAYS complain when you are treated badly, NEVER take no for an answer, and PERSEVERE. The “small man” is not always beaten.
Having sampled the delights of many tour companies over the years the question has to be asked..are they value for money? Over the last 2 years or so I have been taking a little time to organise my own holiday arrangements with a the help of the 'net' and have made considerable savings by simply matching flights with accommodation and arranging own transport to a resort. I realise that IT companies will always have their niche markets but often I don't think people realise just how much they can save with a little D-I-Y. For example , I recently saved £135 per person to go to the exact same accommodation in Menorca...and all for the sake of a little net searching.That makes the often dubious services of a Rep seem very expensive. Remember you can also make considerable saving on travel insurance by sourcing your own too! With an increasing number of Low Cost airlines serving the UK, giving excellent deals to those who can book early I would suggest this idea is worth some thought.