international travel

Discussion in 'Your Questions' started by llamar, Feb 18, 2005.

  1. llamar

    llamar Newbie

    Feb 17, 2005
    4
    0
    My wife and I are travelling Syd-Lax 28 May 2005 and returning Lax-Syd on the 24 June via FF Award redemption. It appears that FF points are not earned on this flight according to QFF. As we are not frequent flyers we have no idea on how to book flights/hotels and tours. We plan to visit San Franciso, Las Vegas, Vancouver/Toronto and probably New York. Have approached travel agents and they suggested that air passes are the way to go. What about hotels and tours? Has anyone heard of or used RatesToGo for travel planning and booking of flights/hotels/tours? We are in our 60's and any advice/help/tip to make this trip of ours memorable would be very much appreciated. Is there any advantage of booking and paying tours here in Australia via travel agents?
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  2. NM

    NM
    Moderator

    Aug 27, 2004
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    Welcome to AFF llamar.

    Airpasses are generally only available to people from outside the country for which they are being used and must be purchased from outside that country. They can be good value and offer reasonable conditions. Certainly worth looking into.

    I like to book hotel stays using the hotel's own on-line booking systems. I always book a rate that can be cancelled without charge, preferably on the day of arrival. That gives me maximum flexibility if I change my plans or find a better rate even at the same hotel (yes, that happens). I try to avoid pre-paid stays even if they are a little cheaper. Some places you can't avoid pre-payment, such as staying within the Grand Canyon National Park.

    I look for the major hotel chains and use their web sites. For personal vacation stays I look for places like Best Western, Comfort Inn, Hampton Inn, Travelodge, Sleep Inn and even Super 8 can be ok. I do also look for special deals at more up-market places as they can be good value, especially on weekends - places like Hilton Garden Inn, Doubletree, Holiday Inn etc.

    Places like Priceline can offer great savings on accommodation. For information on using sites like Priceline, have a look at Bidding for Travel. I don't personally use Priceline, but many people do and have been very satisfied with the huge savings available.

    I have used Travelocity a few times when they offer better rates for some things, especially car rental. I found their rate for a one-way rental (had to be between airport locations) was significantly cheaper than for the same car type, dates and locations directly with the same rental car company.

    I generally don't use tours so can't comment too much there. Perhaps see if you can book directly with the tour company. The travel agent will earn a commission from booking you on a tour. They don't get much commission on airfares these days. So if you want help from a TA, it might be best to use a tour booking as a carrot.

    One of the best places to get first hand information from experience travelers and locals on the places to go and the places to avoid, is the Travel & Dining: Destination >> United States forums on FlyerTalk. I used these extensively when planning a 3 month round the world family vacation. Its amazing how helpful it can be getting answers to specific questions from people who live around the corner from the place you are asking about. AFF is good for Australian information and experiences of Aussies traveling to other regions, but FT is great for USA and Europe local knowledge.

    Make sure you have appropriate travel insurance. Many travel insurance policies do not cater for FF award tickets and the strict conditions that can be imposed by the airlines on the use of those tickets. Ask the question of the travel insurance provider before paying for the policy. A good place to learn about travel insurance policies and compare products is http://www.travelinsurance.com.au/ .

    Make sure you do your research. I found the planning part almost as much pleasure as the trip itself (we were traveling economy - the trip would have won out if traveling in business or first class :lol: ).
     
  3. llamar

    llamar Newbie

    Feb 17, 2005
    4
    0
    Thanks a lot NM for the information and tips you gave. I will try my best to look at those links and plan our tripl, though we are in a tight budget.
     
  4. drron

    drron Enthusiast

    Jul 4, 2002
    15,447
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    Sunshine Coast
    My wife and I go to the USA for at least 6 weeks each year-our son lives in Manhattan.For the best of the States it is best to drive but if this is your one trip then I would suggest tours for some of the highlights.For example to stay in the Grand Canyon you need to book up to 12 months in advance.however it is a good idea if staying in a city like New York to book your own hotel-we always use Hiltons as they have a great range from Hampton Inns,a good quality motel style, up to luxury hotels and apartments.You can go to www.hilton.com and you can see all their brands together-occasionly you find the luxury hotel is cheaper than the downmarket brands.
    Another good site for information is www.tripadvisor.com which have forums on most of the larger US cities.
    For travel by air in the USA it is also a good idea to look at the airline websites directly-american Airlines are in Oneworld with Qantas.At www.aa.com you can get quotes and they can be a lot cheaper than you can get from a travel agent-we often do this-all you have to do is pay at an AA office and there is one in Sydney-from Queensland we just fax a copy of our credit card to the Sydney office and have had no problems sofar.Keep checking as prices change frequently.
    If you do go to Toronto you must try to get to Niagara falls-it is not far and worth the visit.
    If you want more info leave another post and I could get in touch by email if necessary.
    Enjoy your trip.
     
  5. llamar

    llamar Newbie

    Feb 17, 2005
    4
    0
    Thanks a lot for the info and advice. Certainly, I will look into those links. Due to time constraints, we would love to join tours to see the highlights of the cities we plan to visit. Is it easy to book a tour in the hotel, or, easier to book it here through some websites.? How safe and sure of booking via the internet here in Australia? We are not frequent flyers like you but any advice to make our trip frutiful and enjoyable will make a lot of difference and sense.
     
  6. Julie Williams

    Julie Williams Junior Member

    Feb 9, 2005
    17
    0
    Sydney
    Hi there!!

    I would suggest if you going to be doing a lot of flights it economy it may be worth your while to join the Frequent Flyer Club that your flights mainly consist of. This way you will be able to relax in a 'nice' area of the airport, have a shower, clean toilet facilities and nice comfortable seats whilst you wait for your flights.

    With booking tours it may be worthwhile actually booking them with a travel agent than over the net. If something does not go right you can go back to the travel agent or get in touch with them whist you are away and they normally can fix it up for you. If you book over the net and something goes wrong, you only have yourself as backup. :oops:

    As you have never done this before it would probably be worth your while in knowing that something has been booked properly and you have a voucher for it for peace of mind.

    With accommodation previous users have given good advice and I couldn't really add much more onto it.

    There are somethings to look at when booking accommodation though. Check out to see if they offer a 'free' breakfast to you in their package. Sometimes booking A with free breakfast is dearer than booking without. I know the Embassy suites (Hilton Chain) give free breakfasts to everyone regardless of rooms. They are great rooms and have separate sitting areas to the bedroom area. :p

    There may also be an advantage to joining all the free memberships offered by accommodation chains. If you tend to stay at the same chain you may find that you will have enough points at the end of your holiday for a free weekend away when you get home. Memberships also gain you a few freebies like free upgrades, bigger rooms, cocktail hours in member floors, free parking etc. :wink:

    If you are not too fussed about where you stay and are staying for several nights in a big town (where there is heaps of hotels) then you can book the first nights accommodation and when you check-in see what the stand-by rates are at the same hotel or surrounding hotels for the next couple of days.

    If you would like to book ahead and know tht you have a room then using the internet to book your room is great or you can use a travel agent. Sometimes the travel agent can get you a few extras thrown in. It may be a little bit more expensive but if you don't have the time or confidence in doing it yourself it may make it easier for you to have everything pre-booked before you go. :lol:

    Hope you have a great holiday! Look forward to reading about how you go and how it all went when you get back!

    Julie :D
     
  7. drron

    drron Enthusiast

    Jul 4, 2002
    15,447
    10,895
    Sunshine Coast
    The internet is generally quite safe to book your travel arrangements-we have not yet had a problem but have had problems with hotels when booked by an agent.You do have to keep looking however.For example the whole family is going to the states in september and naturally with the grandkids we are going to go to disneyworld in orlando.We had been quoted ~ $A300 for new york orlando return and on the AA website it initially was ~ $US220-about the same price but on friday was able to book it for $A 173 on AA website-a good saving when you are buying 7 tickets.
    However it does sound from your posts that you are not comfortable using the internet for travel and usually an agent should be able to get you as good a price and with more peace of mind.
    As for city tours our experience in the past is it is better to do that when you are there as usually a greater choice of operators.All the larger hotel chains have a concierge desk to give you advice and book tours- be sure to tell them you are an Australian- we are flavour of the month there at the moment.
    Dont be scared of trying something different.We always drive in the USA and have no problems- just remember the passenger is closest to the kerb.You will generally find Americans are much more courteous drivers than we are.Driving in the USA opens up much more things for you to do.
     
  8. Julie Williams

    Julie Williams Junior Member

    Feb 9, 2005
    17
    0
    Sydney
    Hi Again

    If you do decide to drive in US also be aware that the speed limit is a bit higher on expressways and if you are not a good driver (be realistic with your driving skills and navigation) you might find it a bit fast for you.

    Also with hiring a car be aware that your travel insurance (please buy it as you would be stupid not to) will cover all the additional bits the hire companies like to put on like excess waiver and waiver deduction. Check with your insurance company if you are unsure - this will definitely save you alot of money. When returning your car - try and return it to a person so it can be checked in.

    We were caught out in Brisbane International Airport where we can hand over the car in person or put the keys in a box. We opted for the personal touch and were given a print out receipt. As we had arrived ten minuted before return time we though we were okay but by the time the assistant got to us as there was a back log of cars it was six minutes past our retunr time and we were charged over time!!!! Needless to say I read my dockets and commented on it. The assistant signed it and told me to go the the actual car hire desk to get it reimbursed. I was reimbursed plus given an extra discount for the error. This was great but I wonder what would have happened if I just dropped the keys in the box?

    Have you started to make arrangements yet?

    Julie
     
  9. NM

    NM
    Moderator

    Aug 27, 2004
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    If you rent a car in the USA, always remember to fill the petrol (gas) tank just before returning it. The current pump price for fuel in the USA may be something like US$1.10/gallon, but the rent car agencies will charge you something more lilke US$6/gallon if they have to top it up. That make for a very expensive tank of gas!
     
  10. peggysue445

    peggysue445 Newbie

    Jul 9, 2004
    6
    0
    GST refund in Canada

    Hi
    I thought this may be of help to you seeing as you are looking at Canada. Remember to keep all receipts from purchases for your GST refund while in Canada ie: accommodation, gifts etc but no refunds on entertainment, fuel, air, train & bus tickets nevertheless it can be worth it. The total of the receipt must be $50CAN BEFORE TAXES On our trip in Dec we were able to claim back over $250 CAN, just make sure you arrive a little early at your last departure airport in Canada to get your receipts stamped by Canadian Customs there is a desk especially for this purpose. They will advise you of eligible receipts once presented. Then once home you have 12months to lodge the receipts for your refund. Stay clear of private companies offering this service they will take a high % fee for the service. Another tip if you are driving in the States we found booklets on heaps of accommodation for all over the US we tried the accommodation in Carmel & Santa Barbara & they were great, we only required an overnight & the rates were excellent saved $$$$'s this way. You will love America have a great trip. :D
     
  11. llamar

    llamar Newbie

    Feb 17, 2005
    4
    0
    To all those who have given wonderful tips/advices, thank you very much. They are all very useful and constructive and we appreciate very much. Most certainly, we will keep them in mind and hopefully make our trip memorable and enjoyable.
     
  12. daveoakley1

    daveoakley1 Newbie

    Mar 23, 2005
    3
    0
    Bathurst NSW
    As you and your wife are both in your sixties, I suggest you join the AARP (American Association of Retired People) at www.aarp.org. You can join online. Membership will cost you US$28 a year and will cover you and your wife. You will receive individual membership cards.

    AARP are huge in the US. Most hotels, motels and restaurants will give you a discount as good as you would get from an online booking (I assume you will not be travelling with a laptop). Some places which do not advertize the fact will give a discount if asked. Also some eating places have AARP specials. You will also receive 10% discount on admission to National Parks and National Monuments.

    DaveO
    Bathurst
     
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