Help me plan to fly a few places, with a service dog?
August 17, 2010 12:47 PM   Subscribe

Do travel agencies exist any more? If so, will it be worth it to use one for this trip? Can they make it easier to travel with my owner-trained service animal?

We're planning our Thanksgiving vacation and there are a few factors that make it a little harder than previous vacation I simply booked on Orbitz.

1. We'd like to go from point A to point B, spend a few days, rent a car to drive to point C, stay in a specific hotel a few nights, then fly home (to A). We could drive back from C to B and then simply buy a round trip, but I'd prefer not to drive 4 hours then fly 3.


2. Would using a travel agency provide help with this part: I have an owner-trained service dog (meaning he was not provided by any school or organization.) My state doesn't require any registration or certification so we don't have any. I'd like to bring him with the least amount of difficulty. He's too large to count as a carry-on pet.
I'm aware that a "public business" is not legally allowed to require proof of disability, but I've been told it can be incredibly difficult to fly with an SD without a doctor's letter. I don't have one and would prefer other help than "go get one" ;)
posted by jesirose to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total)
 
Your situation is exactly what travel agents are good at. You could do the reservations and find out about the service animal yourself, but a travel agent will take the work off you hands. Also, travel agents tend to get better, quicker responses from airlines and hotels. If you get to the airport and you have a problem with the dog the agent can call the airline immediately and get things moving.
posted by nestor_makhno at 12:55 PM on August 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think you should definitely look into using a travel agency. A couple of years ago, I was used to using online services all the time but ran into some trouble when trying to get some specific requirements for time of day, layovers, etc. I went with a travel agency, and i know I saved more money (if not more sanity!) than the $30 fee they charged. Very much worth it.

Can you work specifically with a travel agency that has experience with service animals and/or disability?
posted by Madamina at 12:55 PM on August 17, 2010


Yes, they exist. Yes, they can probably help. Look them up in the yellow pages, call them, explain the situation, and see what they have to say.
posted by smorange at 12:56 PM on August 17, 2010


My 87-year-old grandmother bought tickets from a travel agent yesterday.

I don't know what she paid, but I do know she got exactly the trip she wanted, she can pick her tickets up from the agent the day before she flies so she doesn't have to worry about printing them or the mail or anything, and she loved it.
posted by goblinbox at 1:05 PM on August 17, 2010


Except the rules for a service dog are set aside by the airlines and the hotels you'll be using. What's wrong with just calling the airlines you prefer to use and the hotels you plan to stay in and asking their requirements for using a service animal?

That's just what the travel agent would have to do and charge you a commission for his/her time.

Use a travel agent only if you don't have the time or patience to do a bit of research yourself. That's how they earn their money.

As far as your flights, they're not terribly complicated and many of the search engines for online travel allow you to plug in "multi-destination" dates.
posted by HeyAllie at 1:10 PM on August 17, 2010


If you have an American Express card and are near an American Express Travel I believe their services are free. Might want to check it out. They were very helpful with setting up our honeymoon and subsequent vacation although both were very strightforward vacations.
posted by Busmick at 1:12 PM on August 17, 2010


goblinbox: "My 87-year-old grandmother bought tickets from a travel agent yesterday.

I don't know what she paid, but I do know she got exactly the trip she wanted, she can pick her tickets up from the agent the day before she flies so she doesn't have to worry about printing them or the mail or anything, and she loved it.
"

I would pick them up two days before she travels just in case there is any mixup. 24 hours goes a long way to solving travel problems.

Travel agents do this sort of thing all the time. My buddy just used one to book 9 people on a cruise to Alaska. I overheard him discussing details such as room placement and even table placement near a window on the second night sort of thing.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 1:14 PM on August 17, 2010


@Madamina - Thanks, that's exactly what I was thinking. Not sure if such an agency exists, I have googled "travel agency" and got mostly the online places like orbitz so I was hoping people might know of good ones, or a better way to search.

@heyallie - Actually the "rules" are set by the law. The airlines set their own rules about pets. However, it can be difficult to work with airlines, so I've heard. Not to mention, the DOJ just updated some terms which may confuse things for the businesses and employees. "What's wrong with just calling the airlines you prefer to use and the hotels you plan to stay in and asking their requirements for using a service animal?" - The logistics of how many places we plan to deal with. I'd have to develop contact with each place and honestly if I can pay money to someone else to do this...I will.
posted by jesirose at 1:25 PM on August 17, 2010


My friends and I used a travel agent through Triple A last summer to plan a complicated series of flights for us while we studied for the bar. She was also quite useful when one friend who had planned to stay longer than the rest suddenly decided she didn't want to. We paid a bit more (I would estimate $50.00 each) than we would have doing it online, but it was worth it for the time savings and peace of mind. So, check out Triple A if you're a member (or even if you're not, it might be worth it to join - it's not very expensive.)
posted by wuzandfuzz at 1:45 PM on August 17, 2010


Not sure if such an agency exists, I have googled "travel agency" and got mostly the online places like orbitz so I was hoping people might know of good ones, or a better way to search

Do you have a AAA membership? I'd start with them, at least they're established and reliable and I imagine they're familiar with all different kinds of requests. I haven't used a travel agent in years, but if I needed one, that would be my default place unless I had a great local personal recommendation.

On preview: what wuzandfuzz said!
posted by DestinationUnknown at 1:47 PM on August 17, 2010


I work for a company that has a sister company, CTA Travel. I've used them in the past, and they always did a good job for me. Feel free to MeMail me if you'd like me to give you a specific person to contact.
posted by willnot at 1:48 PM on August 17, 2010


I have googled "travel agency" and got mostly the online places like orbitz so I was hoping people might know of good ones, or a better way to search.

Try searching "travel agent" alongside your location. I just tried it with the location in your profile and got a half dozen promising results. You may also want to try searching "travel agent" disability, which turns up results like this one.
posted by Partial Law at 1:57 PM on August 17, 2010


See, I just spent 27 minutes on the phone with the airline we'd like to use, and they were incredibly difficult and would not help me. I'll pay someone to do this. :)

Thanks for the links guys
posted by jesirose at 2:29 PM on August 17, 2010


My "very particular" former MIL always uses a travel agent: Elin at Ocean View Travel in Berkeley, CA. They're small and always seem to do a great job for her.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 3:12 PM on August 17, 2010


I don't know (and don't need to know) what sort of disability you're dealing with, but you might check with an advocacy group for people with blindness or other disabilities that typically benefit from working with service animals. Or, you know, a service animal organization, even if you haven't worked with one yourself. This is definitely the kind of situation where hearing personal experiences would be very helpful.

Here's a list of agents who specialize in working with travelers of varying abilities. Some specialize more in tours or stuff with seniors, while others do more with mobility impairments, but there's at least one on there that specializes in travel with a service dog.
posted by Madamina at 5:46 PM on August 17, 2010


Not returning the rental car where you got it costs quite a bit extra.
posted by notned at 6:20 PM on August 17, 2010


notned: "Not returning the rental car where you got it costs quite a bit extra."

Not always true. I have had situations where I was dropping off a car at a different location and it was the same. The reason given to me was that the destination was a high traffic area that was below optimum level of mid-size cars and I was actually doing them a favor instead of them having to dead-head an empty car to this location. Check the specific locations. I assume it also is a function of the place you are taking it from too. If they are short or overstocked will make a difference.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:19 PM on August 17, 2010


Google "your city name travel" and I bet one of the first couple of things that pops up will be a local travel agency. I know there is an Austin Travel and when I lived in Santa Barbara I worked many times with Santa Barbara Travel.
posted by magnetsphere at 9:49 PM on August 17, 2010


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