I just want to leave the city!
May 27, 2017 5:56 PM   Subscribe

I have two free months, some vague ideas/destinations, a bit of money, and a boatload of anxiety. Talk to me about using a travel agent to deal with all of the above.

I have the great fortune of having two months (July and August) of vacation this summer. I want to travel and have the financial means to do so. I have vague ideas about where I want to go (Tokyo! New Zealand! India!) but the thought of coordinating flights/hotels/buses/trains/etc is stressing me out, on top of my stress that I am going to "waste" this opportunity.

Then I remember travel agents exist and are presumably still a thing.

1. I basically want someone to take care of flights, transportation within a country, hotels, and point out/book a few really notable attractions or cool experiences I wouldn't know of otherwise. Is this something travel agents can help with - what are the services offered by most travel agents?
2. What is the typical cost of a travel agent?
3. Any recommendations (online or in Toronto)?

Any other things you think might be helpful are welcome.
posted by hepta to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
If you join a hiking/walking tour they take care of those things too. You can do self guided walking tours as well. I used Walk Japan for that kind of trip and it was great.
posted by frumiousb at 6:03 PM on May 27, 2017

kevinderntravel.com. He prices by the complexity of your trip. Keep it simple, price is lower, more complex, it's higher. Super nice guy and very knowledgeable.
posted by rglass at 6:21 PM on May 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

My parents really love the self-guided village-to-village walking tours organized by Inntravel. They research routes where you can walk from one town to the next in a day, book all the hotels for you along the way, and organize a car to carry your luggage from one stop to the next. Before you go they send you a package with topo maps and a little book with incredibly detailed directions and lots of well-researched information about local history and stuff to check out along the way. They will also optionally organize your travel to and from the start/end locations. Prices are on the site: they're not the cheapest way to travel but not super expensive, especially since you're staying in rural areas and a lot of meals are either included with the hotel or picnic food. Excellent, friendly customer service. I think all of their tours are in Europe, though.
posted by theodolite at 6:26 PM on May 27, 2017 [4 favorites]

My family and I have done some of the higher-end, small-group tours (12-30 people) and have really enjoyed them precisely because they saved us all of the arguments of planning and decision-making when we've been too stressed to agree on anything... We've had good experiences with Smithsonian Journeys, Grand European Tours, and our various university Alumni Association tours, if you want to cobble together a few and extend your stay in one location between them.
posted by TwoStride at 7:03 PM on May 27, 2017

I travel a lot for work and I definitely recommend travel agents if you have access to one. I have no idea of their regular rates, but I think they charged us $150 or $200 for each trip we took. Could be a corporate rate.

The best thing about them is that they do everything you want for you. "Oh I have to stay an extra day at this site", I make one call and the hotel, rental car, and airline return is all done in literally 1 minute. Bing Boom Bang. Done. "Oh I had this trip scheduled for 6 days and it only took me four". I make one call and Bing Bang Boom it's all done. My flight is changed, my hotel is done with no cancellation fees, and my car rental knows I'm coming back that day instead of two days later.

I really didn't like some things about my last job, but access to a travel agent was like a hella perk no one ever told me about. Now I have to do all that bullshit myself and it is NOT fun. Travel agents have some kind of back channel and it's worth every penny to have one on your side.
posted by sanka at 7:35 PM on May 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

Decide first where you want to go or at least what kind of trip you want to do. With that sorted you trip planning/flights will look less daunting. Once you narrow your options things could be found online. Or post here again once you have destinations in mind and people can respond more specifically.

Also the research you do to figure out your trip will throw up many leads. For instance there is a website that collates all the great rail journeys in the world, if you choose that as an anchor of your trip you're then planning cities based on rail routes. You could go, as far as I recall now, from Beijing to Vladivostok by train (not sure if that's still an option)

As others have mentioned there are walking/hiking/biking tour organizers as well. If all you need are plane tickets, You could use travel agents but would they get you the prices that you could find online? Also Priceline etc have call in numbers so they sort of act like agents too. All the best - what a great quandary to have!!
posted by whatdoyouthink? at 7:46 PM on May 27, 2017

Can't recommend specifics in Toronto but yes, everything you mentioned is exactly what travel agents do and the cost is not large. Definitely a thing middle class folks can and should do. My best experiences are with agencies that specialize in a country or region. Have fun!!!
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:57 PM on May 27, 2017

I asked a similar question here a few months ago when planning our honeymoon, and someone here on the green recommended Kevin Dern. (kevin@kevinderntravel.com) He is a travel agent that did for us what you ask for in your point #1 -- he helped us book flights and other transportation, accommodations (AirBnBs, in our case), decide on a few guided tours, and even just provided general advice to help us make decisions about where and how to spend our time, etc. It was my first time working with someone like that (I'm used to planning it all myself) and it was a great experience. He was an incredible resource and it relieved a lot of stress to have a knowledgeable planning partner in him. He's local to me but we basically did all our planning via email and phone so I would think you could probably work with him from anywhere. And our trip went great!! He was even in touch with us throughout the trip to support us if we experienced any glitches, which we did on our departing flight and his assistance helped us rebook quickly and still get to our destination in time. You can get in touch with him for a quote based on what you're looking for from him. I found his pricing to be reasonable and well worth it.

Wishing you all the best for your trip!
posted by inatizzy at 7:04 AM on May 28, 2017

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