We are often asked by new clients why they should entrust us to book their travel, rather than taking the seemingly comparable ‘DIY’ option offered by the internet in the 21st Century.
There are many good reasons why you should, some of which are not apparent until you have personally benefited from having booked with a specialist travel agency such as us, but essentially because…
We will save you time and, in many instances, money too.
HOW DO YOU GET PAID? WILL IT BE MORE EXPENSIVE BOOKING WITH YOU?
We are almost always paid a commission by the hotels, cruise lines and tour operators (or any other service provider) which we book for you, so in most cases, you won’t pay any more. We are impartial travel advisors and always recommend what’s best for you. We will charge you a reasonable retail price for your airfare which will reflect the work involved in managing your flight bookings before, during and (in some cases) after you travel. We’ll always be available to help you quickly, compared to the ‘DIY’ alternative where ‘help’ usually means a long wait on hold to a call centre in another country. In many cases we’ll be saving you not just time, but also money by utilising our know-how to identify ways in which we can reduce the cost throughout the booking process.
CAN’T I JUST BOOK MY FLIGHTS ONLINE?
There’s a common misconception that booking flights online will be cheaper. However, online travel agents are often little more than automated flight aggregators, which scrape airline websites for available point-to-point fares, combining them to create tempting ‘lowest price’ offers. They’re certainly not as useful if you want to stopover en-route or enjoy multi-destination itineraries.
These odd combinations of frequently separate airfares which are sometimes suggested, do not serve you well if you incur a flight schedule change, or your flight is delayed/cancelled as, when this happens, they are a real challenge to un-pick. This has become very apparent as the airline industry has struggled after Covid to scale back up to meet increased demand, with staffing shortages meaning waiting times to talk to airlines for direct bookings running to several hours in many cases.
WHAT IF MY FLIGHTS CHANGE OR ARE DISRUPTED?
Disruptions are much more common than you might think, and not just in destinations like Africa and South America (where they are a regular occurrence!) Just recently, we’ve witnessed significant disruption to schedules caused by aircraft and engine issues, strikes, political events and natural disasters. When these happen, we go to work to reschedule your flights, reissue tickets and sort the problem out! The Covid-19 pandemic certainly shone a light on everything that travel agents do for our clients as we worked tirelessly for nearly 2 years to successfully chase millions of dollars of refunds from overseas and continue to manage hundreds of supplier credits on their behalf. Once travel resumed in March ’22 we managed hundreds of itineraries with Covid-related travel rules and requirements in constant flux.
WHY SHOULDN’T I JUST BOOK A CHEAP SPECIAL AIRFARE I SEE ADVERTISED?
We are airfare specialists – we understand which airfares will work best for your needs in the wider context of the overall itinerary which you are in the process of planning, and we will make a qualified recommendation, accordingly, including any stopover options. Comparing flight options online is often comparing ‘apples and oranges’ – we’ll explain the differences in their comfort and travelling experience across different airlines, airports, aircraft type, class of travel and seats.
We certainly recommend that you don’t rush into buying that temptingly low airfare before the whole trip is planned, or you might find you incur significant cost making the itinerary fit around the booked flights. Putting travel together is essentially a jigsaw puzzle where the pieces can, and do, move. Our mantra is ‘itinerary first, airfare afterwards’! We’ll even hold flights for you on a provisional basis while we plan the rest of the itinerary.
We will also dissuade you from booking those special one-way airfares often advertised in the market, as the one-way fare for the flight back home will often be so high you will end up paying a lot more than the return airfare would have initially been! We will also explain what is possible within the minefield of various airline Frequent Flyer schemes.
WHAT IF I WANT TO RESEARCH MY OWN HOTELS?
Great! The internet is now awash with accommodation aggregators, all promising you the cheapest possible rate for any given hotel room or apartment. Many of our clients enjoy researching, reading reviews and booking their own hotels and are welcome to do this. Others find the choice overwhelming and get stuck agonising over the merits of each option. Let’s work together. Allow us to qualify and make recommendations for you – we know the destinations well, will have been to almost all of them personally and will find something perfect for you. In addition to our own hotel contracts, we also have our own corporate contract with Expedia, which means that in most cases, we should be able to offer one of the lowest possible rates on the market for any given hotel room or apartment.
WHY SHOULD I BOOK MY CRUISE, TOUR OR VEHICLE HIRE WITH YOU?
This one is easy! We should always be able to book a tour, vehicle hire or a cruise for you at the same price, if not cheaper, than you can find online. We are one of the biggest seller of cruises in Christchurch; we will help you navigate the bewildering number of choices and will make a qualified recommendation. We have special wholesale rates with many of the larger cruise lines and have excellent relationships with our preferred suppliers that we will leverage on your behalf. If your tour or cruise is cancelled due to insufficient numbers, we’ll go to work to find you a suitable alternative, and re-book your travel arrangements to fit.
If your tour operator or cruise company is based overseas, the chances are that they will want payment in a foreign currency, which can be an expensive exercise in bank and credit card fees. We buy foreign currency at preferred rates on your behalf, which usually means you’ll be paying far less than if you try to do this yourself.
I ENJOY BEING MY OWN TRAVEL AGENT – ANY PITFALLS OF DOING IT MYSELF?
By far the greatest risk of booking your own travel online is that ‘you don’t know what you don’t know’. Travel is an incredibly complex industry where rules and regulations change almost constantly. Our job is to keep abreast of these changes and make sure you don’t fall foul of them!
Among the common mistakes made by travellers are not having visas/e-visas or digital travel authorisations, international driving permits, sufficient validity on passports, correct onward ticketing arrangements to meet immigration requirements or the required vaccinations for entry. These oversights can, and frequently do, cost thousands of dollars to remedy or in the worst case, prevent travel altogether. Did you know that you need e-visas for Canada or India, an international driving permit for Greece or Japan, 6 months passport validity for Abu Dhabi or a Yellow Fever certificate for Kenya? Or, that many overseas visitors now need an eTA to enter New Zealand?
CAN YOU HELP ME IF I HAVE A PROBLEM?
Yes, despite best laid plans, unfortunately, the chances are that at some time in your travelling career, you will need some help. A family emergency here while you are overseas, a medical event while you are travelling, you’ve overslept and missed a flight or simply want to make some changes to your itinerary. Trying to change travel arrangements is not always straightforward, as anyone that’s spent time on hold directly with an airline or car hire company overseas (at significant cost) will know.
That’s when we can help. We’re available out of hours for these emergencies. We have great relationships with our wholesale tour operator, airline and insurance partners and we’ll leverage these to affect the best possible outcome for you, quickly, in these times of stress.
Furthermore, in these more uncertain times, we’ve recently witnessed the unfortunate collapse of several high-profile tour operators like Thomas Cook, Cox & Kings, Bentours and One Ocean Expeditions, and on each occasion, we quickly stepped in to achieve the best possible outcome for our clients. When Covid hit, we worked for two years for free to manage your disrupted bookings. And we do this because we work for you.
CAN I TRUST YOU WITH MY TRAVEL PLANS?
Absolutely! We’ve been doing this for a long time. 2023 is our 24th year in business, but the collective travel industry experience of our team is 144 years! We’ve certainly not spent all that time sat at our desks; we’ve been out there discovering the world. Between us, we have visited 145 countries, flown with 121 airlines and have been aboard 26 cruise lines.
In 2019 alone, our team explored Antarctica, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Russia & the Baltics, Germany, The Netherlands, Turkey, Qatar, the UAE, the UK, China, Tibet, Lombok, Japan, Israel, Jordan, Australia & the Cook Islands.
With travel restrictions now gone, 2023 sees the Discover Travel team back together again and we’ve been out there exploring the world again – in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Spain, France, Norway, Svalbard, Japan, the USA, Samoa, Niue, Hawaii, Cook Islands & Australia.