Wednesday, October 10, 2007

How to be your own travel agent 2

I was chatting with a friend yesterday who told me that he and his wife just came back from Italy. I said, wow, how fun but he was less enthusiastic. He said, Italy is overrated, it's too expensive, he paid U$450 a night for a room at the Sheratan in Rome. Of course, if you don't do the research and if you call up a travel agent, since they work on commissions, guess what, they'll book you a room at the Sheratan in Rome. You'll end up paying a ton of hard earned money for a trip that could be had for a third of the price. You have to do the work, you have to be your own travel agent, it is not difficult work, everything can be done on the Internet. It sounded like he has buyer's remorse. I would too.
Analysis of my upcoming trip:
1) Airfare (return) U$1250
2) hostel in Catania E46 (2 persons)
3) hotel in Palermo E80 (2 persons)
4) hotel in Trapani E60 ( 2 persons)
5) hotel in Catania E85 (2 persons)
6) hotel in Lyon E65 (2 persons)
7) hotel in Roussillon E65 (2 persons)
8) hotel in Avignon E58 (2 persons)
9) hotel in Paris E90 (2 persons)
These are still very high prices but definitely not U$450 per night. If you let a travel agent do the work you'll end up going to fewer places for 3 times the cost. Europe has definitely gotten more expensive and with the falling value of the US dollar, it will continue to be expensive. While I skimp to save on lodgings, I don't skimp on safety. At the prices I'm paying I have money left to see more places and therefore buy more experiences. I come back from every trip after seeing a wide variety of places and not having doled out a fortune. I have enough memories to fill volumes. I don't come back disillusioned because I paid too much.
I read guide books for fun. I love Let's Go because it caters to people with my kind of budget. I bought a 2007 Let's Go Italy at a reduced price. I know why they reduced the price, there are mistakes in the write up on Trapani. I've noticed mistakes in past copies too, a section on Venice, they referred to something on one of their maps which is not there. But it doesn't detract from their usefulness. Maybe they should hire me to proof read their future publications. (hint).
Reading glossy travel magazines, you would think that travel is out of the question, how can you afford $300 or more a night rooms? Understand that magazines make money from advertisements and only the most expensive advertise with these glossy magazines. The truth is there's a myriad of other hotel alternatives. I've stayed in very cheap rooms and very expensive rooms, they don't affect the trip at all. Since I use the rail system a lot, convenience and proximity to the train station is more important to me.
The truth is, anytime you ask someone to do the work for you, you'll add on to the cost. Do it yourself, be your own travel agent.

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