Airfares to Europe in July-August / Online search vs Travel Agent (not Expedia/Travelocity etc. but an actual agent)

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Oct 10, 2016
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#21
Jane, I have nothing to add except empathy. Putting a trip together as you're attempting is absolutely beyond frustrating. Neither the airlines' websites or dealing with a real TA is very effective. Thank goodness you know not to book with an online booking service. The only easy way to book travel these days is to book whatever you want and not care about the price. This option is not available to most of us!

The most productive, issue-free approach is to book the four of you into a European city, nonstop. Stay overnight (or two) at a hotel with good public transit into the area you might want to spend some time in. Fly out to Vienna (a most magical city) non-stop on a separate booking. I've been booking Virgin-Atlantic to London for a couple of nights and then on to the city of our choice with a totally separate res. It's better than losing your mind trying to make things work; there are just too many variables. But I understand that not everyone has a "couple of days" on each end of the trip to plan this way (I am grateful to be self-employed). Know you have my sympathy and perhaps I've given you some food for thought.
I suggest you find a good, reputable brick-and-mortar travel agent and let him/her do the work. I have one that I highly recommend. I would never try to book a multi-stop flight myself. I may pay a little more, but my time & sanity have value too. I you use a TA loyally, he/she will always do what is best for you. I recommend The Signature Travel Network.
 
Likes: jsn55
Apr 23, 2018
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#22
I have a thought that may or may not be worth considering. You live in the Boston area, I gather. Have you thought of flying to Montreal on a BOS-YUL return ticket and purchasing a non-stop to Vienna from there? I live in San Francisco, and two years ago, I flew to Vancouver and took Air France's non-stop to Paris from there. The fare quote was a tad less than the US quote, but it was in Canadian dollars. I can't remember what the exchange rate was then, but if I were to do it today, it would cost 78% in US dollars. And, if you have them, you could cover the Montreal air and hotel expenses with points to keep the costs down. (I flew to Vancouver on Alaska points and overnighted in Vancouver on Holiday Inn points both going and coming to alleviate possible delayed flight connection problems. However, overnighting in Montreal might not be necessary if you take an early flight from BOS.)

A couple of things would have to work for this to make sense in your case. Your family would have to have legal status and the correct paperwork to enter Canada. If you are all US citizens, or green card holders, that will not be a problem. Also, you probably will have to go to the airlines' Canadian websites to find the Canadian dollar fares. (I booked mine on airfrance.ca.) Aircanada.ca is showing fares around $1,550 Canadian for the first three weeks in August. That is about $1,200 US. Would that be enough of a saving to make it worthwhile?

This scheme would probably require separate tickets for the two segments, but potential problems would be alleviated if you flew the same airline for both (e.g. Air Canada). And, there may be tangential advantages, like not having to navigate connecting flights and airlines in foreign-language Europe, also being able to pre-clear US customs and immigration in Montreal on your way home.

This idea might not work for you for a variety of reasons, but it seems like you are going to great effort to keep your costs down, so I thought I'd just throw it out there for your consideration. Also, it would be interesting to hear what other seasoned advocates think of it. Thanks!
 
Likes: jsn55
May 16, 2018
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#23
Thanks GAT, that's an interesting idea! I hadn't thought of it. I will have a look at round-trip fares from Montreal.
(I did already check from NYC and other airports within striking range but the prices were identical to flying right out of Boston.)
 

johnbaker

Verified Member
Oct 2, 2014
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#24
@Jane4321 If you go the Montreal route, remember that you are not protected for any delays so you need to factor in the cost of arriving the day prior and spending the night in Montreal.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
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www.promalvacations.com
#25
I like what you’ve come up with. There is a great website insuremytrip.com that gives you comparisons of cost and coverage from different companies. Find one that looks to be the best for you and then call and ask any questions you might have.

The key to travel insurance- if you can’t afford to lose everything you have paid for your trip if you have to cancel once booked- you need to buy travel insurance. Also, if your health insurance doesn’t cover you outside the US- you need to consider travel insurance.

We have this pinned to our insurance forum:

http://forum.elliott.org/threads/the-right-travel-insurance.1283/
 
Likes: jsn55
Jul 27, 2016
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#26
The key to travel insurance- if you can’t afford to lose everything you have paid for your trip if you have to cancel once booked- you need to buy travel insurance.
If you can't afford to lose everything you have paid for your trip, you shouldn't be taking the trip (assuming it's a leisure trip). After all, if the trip goes as planned, you'll lose everything you paid for the trip.
 
Likes: Vinkin
Apr 23, 2018
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#27
A couple of other things to consider:

Unless you have a credit card that does not charge foreign transaction fees (my Amex one does not charge them), you should add 2%-3% to the cost.

A propos Neil's comments about travel insurance, one of the questions you should ask is whether the policy will definitely cover your particular ticketing situation.

Finally, you might explore whether aircanada.ca might quote a Canadian dollar price for a single itinerary BOS-YUL-VIE. Air Canada may be too savvy to let that happen, since you are originating in the USA, but you can't lose by trying to fool the system. You would have to try it on their Canadian website.
 

Neil Maley

Moderator
Staff Member
Advocate
Dec 27, 2014
12,698
12,700
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www.promalvacations.com
#28
If you can't afford to lose everything you have paid for your trip, you shouldn't be taking the trip (assuming it's a leisure trip). After all, if the trip goes as planned, you'll lose everything you paid for the trip.
That’s not what I mean. Most people can afford their trip but the can’t afford to throw away that money if they get sick and can’t go. In 16 years I had one client who didn’t care about losing his $3500 he paid when he got sick and declined insurance. He didn’t make a fuss, he accepted th blame.

On these forums- we are inundated with people who chose not to buy insurance and then want special exceptions made because they didn’t buy it. That’s what I meant.
 
Likes: Vinkin
May 16, 2018
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#29
Hi Neil, I've already called InsureMyTrip and am working with an agent.

John Baker, thanks for the reminder about overnights in Canada. Anyway I've decided that since no matter how I route it, the fares are not much different from city to city, I prefer to take a simpler routing.

GAT, regarding foreign transaction fees, your post made me wonder if I need to worry about that when booking with a foreign airline when booking thought their 800 number or through their US website. I don't remember ever paying foreign transaction fees when using my credit card with a non-US airline, but it seems prudent to check.
 
Likes: Neil Maley
Apr 23, 2018
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#30
I believe if you are using a US-based credit card, i.e. issued by a US bank, and your fare is quoted in USD, the transaction is an entirely US one. But note my use of "believe." You might want to check with your credit card bank (not visa or mastercard, but the issuing bank). However, not exactly on topic, you may incur foreign transaction fees when you use your credit cards/ATM cards in Austria.
 
Likes: Neil Maley
May 16, 2018
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#31
Many thanks to all! I'm so grateful for all of your comments and help.

I just purchased my tickets, and the winner is......

Aer Lingus

$4660 for the 4 tickets. Not trivial for us, but less than the other airlines and less than the travel agents were quoting. I bought them online at the airline's website.

It includes a checked bag, a carry-on bag, a meal, and a reserved seat, though I will admit that I splurged and paid another $280 to get 2 rows of 2-seats each (window/aisle) for the long haul flights at $35/seat. The configuration is 2-4-2 and the only free/included seats available were in the middle sections right next to the bathroom, so the splurge was actually a no-brainer for us.

The itinerary is Aer Lingus all the way, with just one stop in Dublin. This proves to be a boon on the return trip since it turns out you can clear US customs in Dublin before boarding the flight back to Boston.

Now I just need travel insurance!
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
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#33
It certainly is more fun to toss out ideas on planning a trip than on how to solve horrendous problems! I had heard that Aer Lingus had the best fares. You did have those passports right in front of you when you booked the tix, right? The stories of "wrong names" we hear on this forum make you want to cry ... and of course they're the same people that don't carefully review their confirmations within the 24-hour period. Well done, Jane!
 
May 16, 2018
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#35
Hi there jsn55, I discovered another nice thing about Aer Lingus. They only allow you to put first and last names when you book the ticket. There is simply no box for a middle name or initial.

After booking, I called to be sure, since passports always have the complete middle name, but they insisted that only first and last names are required, and that this is what they want. Just out of curiosity I called American Airlines to see what they are doing now, and they do the same--only first and last name on the ticket itself. This seems like a positive new development to me.

In the past I've found that the middle initials/middle names unfortunately can invite scrutiny. On one trip some years ago when my kids were small, the TSA guy objected to the fact that the airline only put a middle initial rather than the full middle name on each ticket. I explained that the airline wouldn't allow more than one letter/character, but he wasn't buying it.

His objection was just ridiculous, but as we all know, it's not helpful to be right when the other person has the power to be wrong! I was very sweet and offered up other forms of ID to supplement. I told him that we knew he had an important job to do and would be very happy to have a supervisor look over everything.
And then he let us pass. I got the feeling that he didn't actually want a supervisor to help out!
 
Mar 17, 2015
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#36
Jane - I just (as in yesterday) went through the same thing with KLM. No middle names. I called to be sure, a very nice agent put the middle name info into the secured traveler data for me and assured me that we were OK to fly with no new tickets. There is not a place to put the middle name, or you have to leave no spaces between your first and middle name, which is crazy. I was told to make sure all the passport information was in correctly and there should not be a problem. Of course, time will tell!
 

jsn55

Verified Member
Dec 26, 2014
6,635
6,637
113
San Francisco
#37
Jane - I just (as in yesterday) went through the same thing with KLM. No middle names. I called to be sure, a very nice agent put the middle name info into the secured traveler data for me and assured me that we were OK to fly with no new tickets. There is not a place to put the middle name, or you have to leave no spaces between your first and middle name, which is crazy. I was told to make sure all the passport information was in correctly and there should not be a problem. Of course, time will tell!
I never use a middle name on an air tix. The issues we see are FAR worse than that! Think booking tix with "Jenny" instead of "Jennifer". Or brides who book the honeymoon 6 months out and are dismayed when their "new name" doesn't compute with TSA. Alas, it happens too frequently. Jane, I think you ran into the elusive TSA jerk on that last trip ... just proves that they are out there and really proves how important it is to be nice to those dopes, no matter how wrong they are.
 
Likes: Tanya
May 16, 2018
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#38
You will probably all laugh at me for this, but today I unsubscribed from every last website that checks airfares. If the price goes down, I honestly don't want to know!

I'm almost all set with travel insurance now as well. I found the Squaremouth website easy to use and the agent was super helpful. After going through the options, it turned out that the less expensive option had more coverage in the areas I actually want. For example, I don't care about having a concierge to get concert tickets and such, but I do prefer a policy that covers trip interruption or cancellation in the event our host at our destination were to become ill. I was surprised that quite a few policies cover this.

Now the fun begins!

So many thanks to everyone for all of your helpful responses and encouragement.
 
Jan 21, 2018
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#39
One web site which I use at the start of planning any trip is https://matrix.itasoftware.com/. This web site was sold to Google a couple of years ago but is the only site I have found which lists every known flight between two points on this earth, giving all the ticketing details to hand to a travel agent who can book your ticket(s). A few years ago I was tying to get from Oslo, Norway to Alborg, Denmark. I found a direct flight on Cimber Air (which doesn't exist anymore) which provided direct flights between the two cities without having to fly to Copenhagen. One feature of this site is the ability to sort flights by Duration which I often use to avoid multiple stops to reach my destination. Great site.