A good travel agent (or travel planning tips)?

airplane aisleWith what sounds like quite a trip ahead of her, Wendy emails:

We are planning a family vacation later this year that will include one-way plane trips and one-way car rentals. I've started poking around on the various travel planning sites, but I'm wonder if the brilliant and resourceful readers of AOA have suggestions for either a good travel agent, or for a site that has worked especially well for them. (The trip is Albany-San Diego-Phoenix-Albany).

Having planned a trip like that a few times, lining up everything up -- and checking prices against each other -- can take a while. We're curious if a travel agent could score Wendy a deal and save her some work.

So, got a suggestion for Wendy? Please share!

photo: Flickr user irishflyguy


I don't have a suggestion, but am interested too. Looking for a local Travel Agent for a cruise to book.

I'm typically a plan-it-myself kind of person (and my wife makes fun of my travel planning spreadsheets), but I just read about a service for flights called Flightfox - you pay a fee of $29 and they find the best prices on flights. Haven't tried it yet, but the fee is refundable if you aren't happy with it, and it says they allow for flexible/unusual plans, so it might work for your one way flights.

I generally use Kayak.com for flight/rental car searches as a good starting point. And of course being somewhat flexible on days and times can sometimes make a big difference in prices. We've used Priceline before to get some good flight deals, but they come with the risk that your flight times might be earlier/later than you would prefer.

As a reasonably tech savvy fellow, I was utterly disappointed in the abilities of the travel agents I tried when book a three legged Albany-Miami-Carribbean trip.

The price they gave me wound up being about 30% higher than the trip I eventually booked.

I suggest getting a rough itinerary from one or more online sites and then seeing what a travel agent will charge you.

Southwest flys to all those locations, and all of their fares are sold on a "one-way" basis, so I would check them out first.

@ike: a group of friends and I are planning a trip overseas, so we are interested in local travel agents too. I was dubious at first since Google Flights and Kayak have done a good job for me in the past but it seems travel agencies may have up their game to compete, if you believe that recent NYT article:

Re: flight - I spent last week in San Diego and flew US Airways. Major diappointment. Huge delays both ways and they weren't helpful at all. Save yourself some frustration.

My family have been happy using Sand Dollar Travel in Clifton Park: http://sanddollartravelandcruises.com/

Hi Wendy!
I'd love to help you with your travel plans. I am an expert travel consultant w/over 25 years experience. I can be reached at East Greenbush Travel ph 518-472-1450. My email is travelgerl@yahoo.com.

See Sean and/or Denise in Liberty Travel in Crossgates Mall. Smart, saavy and knowledgeable about travel. They really put the client first and will ease any fears you may have about travel.

Assuming they are flying from Albany to San Diego then driving the one way to Phoenix and then flying back to Albany, it's pretty straight forward. You can easily book a one way flight from Albany to San Diego, rent a car in San Diego, drive to Phoenix, and fly one way on southwest back to Albany. The only caveat is that booking a one way car rental can be expensive. The devil is in the details though, you'll need to provide more in terms of how long you'll be where to determine the best car rental options.

AAA isn't just for towing and jump starts. My wife and I sat down with a booking agent to handle our Europass, ferry, and car rental when we went to Europe for two weeks. She also helped us save $, apply for a foreign driver's license and buy travelers checks. Everything was simple and easy and because we're AAA members, we pad NOTHING for the service.

We use Wood Travel in Niskayuna. Highly recommended.

First of all, find yourself a great travel agent like Amy (above). (I have known Amy for almost two decades, calling on her when she managed Boscov Travel and now with East Greenbush Travel.) In the Albany area, look for a travel agents who is a member of WITS (Workers in Travel Services) because these are the pros in our region. WITS agents attend monthly educational seminars which keep them up-to-date on what's going on in the travel and hospitality industry, so they can best advise you.

For general travel ideas and stuff to do, check out the blog http://www.albanykid.com. My friend Sandra Foyt has been focusing on family travel and has lots of good info. Full disclosure: I've also contributed articles for AK, but not on travel :-)

If you are looking for accommodation resources, I highly recommend airbnb.com. The idea is that normal people rent out either a guest room or sometimes even their whole house on a part time basis. The site has pictures of the accommodations, reviews written by people who've stayed there in the past, and facilitates the arrangements. My husband and I used it for staying in Italy and in Paris, and we had amazing experiences. It was great to meet up with locals, everyone was very helpful, and the places we stayed were absolutely beautiful and a fraction of hotel prices. The network of available rentals is pretty extensive so you should be able to find places pretty much anywhere you want to go. Of course, it is at your own risk, so do your homework with the reviews and try to get a feel for who you're staying with.

We just had a great experience with Kathy, mentioned above (518-346-4066, http://www.woodtravel.org). She was really helpful, suggested tons of great options, and answered our emails in a very timely fashion.

As far as lodging, thanks to Phoebe above we discovered a lot of very interesting plans in Paris via AirBNB (http://airbnb.com).

Hope that helps

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