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How do you arrange your trip?

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
we usually pick where we want to ski, then book an appartment, flights and car hire ourselves. It always works out way cheaper than going with a tour group.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
There are loads of good reasons to book things yourself. As people rightly point out, you might find things that no TO offers in resorts that no TO offers. However there are some big advantages to booking with a TO:

1. Entire package will be Atol/ABTA bonded as long as you ensure you book through the correct channels. No chance at all of losing your cash which can quite easily happen if booking different components seperately. Booking a whole chalet directly with the owner may sound nice but you're totally unprotected.
2. Atol packages also place the responsibility on the TO in the event of problems. Say your independently booked transfer gets stuck in snow on the way to catch your EasyJet flight (also booked seperately). Does the flight wait for you? Of course not. You need to re-book at your own expense. You might get a payout from your insurers but not guaranteed and you'll certainly be kept waiting. Book with a TO and you'll most likely be on their charter flight and if there are huge traffic problems they have the ability to hold flights whilst coaches get there. Even if the worst happens and the flight leaves without you, the TO MUST accommodate you and make the neccesary arrangements at their expense, not yours.
3. In resort support. OK not all reps are brilliant, but if you have a problem that your hotel won't rectify, complain to your TO in resort and they may have a bit more influence than a single customer would complaining. You also have assistance in case of any emergencies like an injury.
4. One single booking. Instead of co-ordinating everything yourself with flights, transfers and accommodation, make a single payment and let someone else do the nitty gritty. TOs will often do free names chanegs if booked their charter flights. Change your plans with pre-booked BA/Swiss flights and the airline will charge you a whole new ticket (at that day's fare) for a name change.

Yes you might pay a little more for a TO booking, but with operators like Club Med and Crystal their packages are actually pretty good value and give good flexibility. You'd be doing very well to do all transport, lift passes, lessons, open bar etc etc for £950pp total which is easily do-able with Club Med on a low season date in mid-Jan for example.

Finally, never book directly with the TO. Agents like www.ifyouski.com will quote multiple TOs at once, saving you collating quotes from several sources and will quite often do a better price than if you book directly as they get a good commission from the TOs.
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Wait for buttons.
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As others have alluded to, they're a few main things to decide on for booking a skiing trip:
1) Dates. When are you going?
2) Resort. Where are you going?
3) Accomodation. Self-catered appartment vs Chalet vs Hotel
4) How are you getting there? Flight, car, train.
5) Extras. Are you renting skis? Taking lessons/clinics?

These should be answered roughly in order, except maybe 4. If flying, then best to book as early as possible flights to an airport that offers a good choice of destinations (say Geneva), especially if you're going at Feb Half Term.

For 1) you should avoid school holidays if possible, both in the UK (assuming that's where you're based) and in the country of destination. This not only keeps costs down, but means they'll be fewer people in resort. I ski with my brother and friends, and he's a teacher, so I don't have that luxury anymore. Oh well...

2) should be answered based on skiing abilities and desires of the group, as well as taking into consideration apres, etc. if that's your thing. If you're beginners there's no real point in booking the big resorts. If you're not interested in Off Piste, don't go to La Grave, etc. My group tends to be advanced intermediates who stick to pistes but enjoy getting around a bit and skiing some challenging runs. As such, we tend to focus on the resorts with quite a large amount of pistes km, e.g. Espace Killy, Paradiski, 3V, etc. Ease of access should also be considered.

3) Really depends on what you prefer. I head to the mountains to ski, and don't mind staying in a shoebox apartment (brother does the cooking). I do though want to be as close to the pistes as possible as I like hitting them nice and early when the lifts open, and enjoy skiing back to the apartment at the end of the day. We're not rich, so compromise on comfort for the better location (both in terms of choice of resort and location within). Most years I don't even have wifi in the flat, and that's perfectly fine. I usually book directly through the resort website, but you can also shop around.

4) is fairly obvious. I find the French resorts easier to get to by train (+ local bus) rather than flying which leaves quite a long transfer at the end. But then, I can fly to Paris, stop over at my parents on Friday evening, and take a relaxed train down to BSM or whatever on Saturday. I enjoy the train from Paris as you get the mountains and snow gradually arriving into view as you go. It also can be quite cheap if you book trains when they come out (bus transfers from airports are quite expensive, usually cost as much as the flight if not more). Anyway, that's me. Most people from the UK either drive all the way or fly and get a bus or hired car from the airport. As mentioned, if going second option, it's a good idea to book flights sooner rather than later.

As for DIY vs packages, I've done both with pretty good results. Nowadays I prefer the DIY option as it allows for more flexibility, but for first holidays going through a TO can be a good idea if it all seems a bit daunting.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
bobcat wrote:
If you don't own a property abroad, how do you go about finding your accommodation and everything? I've booked through Crystal this time, but am hoping there is a cheaper way for the future. Is it cheaper to go for a chalet? Catered or not? Hotel half board? Or apartment and going out to eat? I am new to this and any hints and tips are much appreciated!

Trying to replicate a TO deal doing DIY to save money, especially a budget end operation like Crystal, in general is not going to happen. If you think about what makes up the components of a ski holiday there aren't many that you can source individually that a bulk buyer like Crystal can't equal or better. But, as discussed in the thread, there are a number of ways of doing something else cheaper and there are non-financial factors to consider that may result in you seeking out alternatives. As you can see from the replies you've received already there are 101 ways to skin this cat. Actually more like a 1001.
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@bambionskiis, if you like covering masses of km every day then yeah I wouldn't go for more than a weekend, if you just want to see a few different places and explore the mountains in the general there is a quite a lot to do. Also you can always pop over the border to Slovakia (a TatrySki pass does currently cover 1 or 2 Slovakian resorts I think...although not the bigger ones).
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Quote:


Trying to replicate a TO deal doing DIY to save money, especially a budget end operation like Crystal, in general is not going to happen. If you think about what makes up the components of a ski holiday there aren't many that you can source individually that a bulk buyer like Crystal can't equal or better


I think this is only half true, the tour operators also have to have a margin, cover overheads and cover costs of unsold holidays which as an individual you do not. In my experience they hugely mark up holidays at times when there is high demand and mark down holidays at times of low demand. During school holiday time I invariably find it cheaper DIY'ing whereas low season it is often hard to get close to their prices.
Quote:

But, as discussed in the thread, there are a number of ways of doing something else cheaper and there are non-financial factors to consider that may result in you seeking out alternatives

But completely agree with this bit.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
NeddySkiGoon wrote:
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Finally! Some straight answers!
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Thanks for your responses everyone. I think I have learned that
1. I won't be able to beat TOs like for like
2. But if I want to go some places that they don't, then obviously that's an advantage of DIY booking it. However...I haven't been skiing in very many places in Europe, I find most of my information from TO catalogues and so only know the popular places where the TOs obviously go.
3. You have extra protection going with a TO, although there can always be Be Nice please! ups that they aren't around or are unhelpful with
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Quote:

I find most of my information from TO catalogues


TO catalogues are the last place I'd look for reliable information. They'll tell you what the TO wants you to believe about any particular resort, hotel, chalet etc.
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T Bar wrote:
Quote:


Trying to replicate a TO deal doing DIY to save money, especially a budget end operation like Crystal, in general is not going to happen. If you think about what makes up the components of a ski holiday there aren't many that you can source individually that a bulk buyer like Crystal can't equal or better


I think this is only half true, the tour operators also have to have a margin, cover overheads and cover costs of unsold holidays which as an individual you do not. In my experience they hugely mark up holidays at times when there is high demand and mark down holidays at times of low demand. During school holiday time I invariably find it cheaper DIY'ing whereas low season it is often hard to get close to their prices.
Quote:

But, as discussed in the thread, there are a number of ways of doing something else cheaper and there are non-financial factors to consider that may result in you seeking out alternatives

But completely agree with this bit.


The more kids you have, the better DIY is during school holidays. Book flights as early as possible.

Alternatively leave it as late as possible and go for a last minute bargain. It is impossible to beat these prices, but you lose all control over your holiday decisions.
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And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
Not to mention TO's are expensive, especially during school holidays. MW to L2A at Feb half term was some thing like £1400 for flights, accom and transfers. For a family of five, once you add in lift passes, ski hire, lessons you are nudging 9 to 10k for a week.
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
swiftoid wrote:
Quote:

I find most of my information from TO catalogues


TO catalogues are the last place I'd look for reliable information. They'll tell you what the TO wants you to believe about any particular resort, hotel, chalet etc.


TO brochures and websites will tell you a lot of useful information and on the whole they don't write untrue information. What you must do though is remember that the TO is ONLY telling you the upsides of each destination and won't ever point out the downsides. If you want a completely objective point of view then there are countless excellent review sites.
ski holidays     
 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
In this age of information, why would you use a tour operator? They were mostly set up to exploit under used summer charter fleets... so the motivation was never to make sure you had a good time...
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@bobcat,
Quote:

1. I won't be able to beat TOs like for like

Yes, you can quite, easily, but not all of the time. If you want to go mid January then the TO will be very hard to beat. The last time I used them a catered chalet with flights, transfers, food and drink for 6 days came in at £400 per person. I couldn't get near it organising it myself (OK the reps messed up the lift pass purchase which cost us an hour of skiing and there was no hot water for a shower in the evening, but you cann't expect perfection for that price).

Meanwhile in Feb the TOs are charging close on £1000 per person per week. I can rent an apartment and drive to it for about £100 more per person than I can in Jan. Fuel, tolls, food and lift passes cost the same. The rental rate and ferry crossing are all that go up.

There is no simple "do this" answer, you have to do your research

@froomie, Search out an old copy of Where to Ski and Snowboard. Very good information
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
under a new name wrote:
In this age of information, why would you use a tour operator? They were mostly set up to exploit under used summer charter fleets... so the motivation was never to make sure you had a good time...


Many and varied reasons that using a TO is a good idea. Granted not always the cheapest option, but having someone else do all the arranging and having the peace of mind that any problems are for someone else to fix is definitely worth a premium.

Also, if you go on the right dates then TOs can offer amazing value. Try putting together the equivalent of a Club Med package yourself and tell me you can do it for £900 ALL-IN? Not a chance but Club Med can in low season...
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Oh I will do my own research but there are (what seems like) limitless options so it is helpful to pick up tips from people more experienced than me.

Ok so i probably won't be able to beat TOs in off peak times. That's interesting though, we don't have kids so mostly choose to go outside of school holidays although we do have friends with kids so probably will be looking at peak dates in the future.
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
@froomie, "having someone else do all the arranging and having the peace of mind that any problems are for someone else to fix is definitely worth a premium" while there is some merit to that approach, one can simplify the argument to that of airlines - and a counter example where I was in Stockholm wanting to get home to Geneva (connecting as no directs available) and the airline in question absolutely was going to leave me stranded (as I could see the positions of the operating aircraft and there was no way I was going to get my connection (with associated costs at their expense) until I found a solution and presented it...had to argue to get it but cheaper and happier for everyone...
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under a new name wrote:
@froomie, "having someone else do all the arranging and having the peace of mind that any problems are for someone else to fix is definitely worth a premium" while there is some merit to that approach, one can simplify the argument to that of airlines - and a counter example where I was in Stockholm wanting to get home to Geneva (connecting as no directs available) and the airline in question absolutely was going to leave me stranded (as I could see the positions of the operating aircraft and there was no way I was going to get my connection (with associated costs at their expense) until I found a solution and presented it...had to argue to get it but cheaper and happier for everyone...


Looks like you're talking about a flight booking, not a package holiday? Package holidays are VERY tightly regulated and there is simply no question that a tour op (assuming they are operating with an Atol license) can strand you. If their transfer is stuck for ANY reason which causes you to miss your flight they are obliged to rebook you at their expense. If the rebooked flight is the next day, they are also obliged to provide accommodation overnight. Hence why I argue in favour of using a tour op.
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Also you should be careful with the term "stranded" as I don't think that's what you mean above.

Yes there may be operational reasons that the airline couldn't get you home and make your connection. But if you have a through ticket to Geneva with a connection in Stockholm and for whatever reason you miss your connection in Stockholm and the next flight doesn't go until the next morning, I am confident that the airline has a responsibility to accommodate you until that flight departs and rearrange your ticket at their expense. That is not "stranded". Stranded would be if you missed your connection due to their failure and they then took no action and told you you're on your own, leaving you to pick up the bill for hotel and rebooked flights...
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@froomie, yopur experience of TO reps are clearly better than mine. My experience is that they really don't know what they are doing and need telling and if the problem is too difficult then they go sick. But I can see the advantages if you have never been skiing before, never been to a ski resort or, perhaps, never been to that country before.

My experience with airlines is very similat to that of @under a new name, I got stuck in Delhi when a volcanic erruption distrupted air travel. I realised that the phone lines were going to be jammed so went straight to the klm office at the airport and after a bit of a wait got a flight home the next week. My colleague using a travel agent got a flight home a week after that.
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[quote="johnE"]@froomie, yopur experience of TO reps are clearly better than mine. My experience is that they really don't know what they are doing and need telling and if the problem is too difficult then they go sick. But I can see the advantages if you have never been skiing before, never been to a ski resort or, perhaps, never been to that country before.

Reps can vary, you're right some are useless but by no means all. I've seen countless useless reps for TOs, but the point I'm making is that, rubbish rep or not, the TOs obligations are stautory and if logistics go wrong they HAVE to provide alternatives. Yes things can be frustrating but you will never be in a situation where you have to make all arrangements yourself as Crystal, Neilson, Skiworld etc simply cannot leave you stranded.
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
I have booked and enjoyed all types of ski holiday but have never really found it cheaper to DIY, just think this option is better because you are not controlled by some student working for the TO or having to wait for later flights to land before the transfer to resort can leave.

Imho it's better to be in control of you own destiny and choices.
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northantsred wrote:
I have booked and enjoyed all types of ski holiday but have never really found it cheaper to DIY, just think this option is better because you are not controlled by some student working for the TO or having to wait for later flights to land before the transfer to resort can leave.

Imho it's better to be in control of you own destiny and choices.


It really depends when you are going. Halfterm week - massively cheaper to DIY.
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Ravelin. If you aren't already aware then note that the Solden campsite will be fully booked over christmas and new year by about mid July.
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@bobcat, if you were booking a weekend city break or a weeks beach holiday or a two week touring holiday what would you do? A skiing trip has a few variations/complexities but broadly it's the same. And of course it may be the answer may be different on a trip by trip basis. And of course there isn't necessarily a right answer. It depends.

Second, why don't try both and see how things pan out, what works best for you.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
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@froomie, I used to own (as in, it was my company) a tour operator... I understand very well the pros and cons...
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 So if you're just off somewhere snowy come back and post a snow report of your own and we'll all love you very much
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Quote:

in one of my very favourite areas of Austria, that no TO offers holidays

This is, IMV, the key advantage of DIY holidays - the UK TOs only offer a very limited range of accommodation in a very limited number of the thousands of ski resorts throughout Europe. Personally I enjoy being more self-sufficient and dislike hotels. Even if money was no object I'd not go to a 5* hotel. I'd probably rent a catered chalet with a private chef (not a school leaver being paid £60 a week), a swimming pool overlooking the slopes and a Range Rover and driver to take me to and from the slopes at any time of the day. If the budget prohibited that I'd probably rent a nice apartment and go out to eat in a different restaurant every evening. On a tight budget I'd rent an apartment (with priority being given to ski convenience) and be sure to have friends or relatives with me all capable of sharing the work of planning, shopping and cooking meals.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
When pricing up DIY, I can never seem to better the TO price (we do get a 5% discount as stepdaughter is a TO employee). There also appears to be a wider range of ski destination airports available through TO charter flights versus (direct) airline schedule flights, when flying out of Scotland.

For us it is a case of get on flight, get on transfer and receive lift pass. We have no further contact with the TO, or their reps, til we get on the transfer to go home. Welcome meets etc aren't obligatory and we never get the 'hard sell'. Have done a few quiz nights, but only coz we enjoy quizzing.
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@pam w, Good to see you haven't deserted us.

Am I alone in not finding cooking on a self catering holiday a chore? Our kitchen area is part of the living area. I get on with preparing and cooking the food while being part of the general conversation, drinking beer and wine with the rest and summoning sous chefs as required. TBH it is easier than at home when I am in the kitchen on my own.
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 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Quote:
Am I alone in not finding cooking on a self catering holiday a chore?

No. I've self catered with family and with friends. And it's never really been an issue and most of the time very enjoyable. Eating in a restaurant daily can actually become a chore. But I'm not set against catered chalets, Hotel, eating out. Again, there is no right answer. Just like flying v driving v train, France v Austria, etc.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
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I quite like cooking in general, including when on holiday, though as said the brother usually takes over the kitchen when we're skiing so I become sous-chef or am tasked with opening wine and cutting cheese and saucisson for the apero. Suits me fine. Then again, we have lunch out on the mountain as too much faff to get back to the appartment, remove boots, etc. and then get out again. But I agree with Layne, eating out every meal for a week would probably become a bit much. We might go out the last evening sometimes, though we didn't this year as we had far too much raclette left over from a previous night: asked for three portions of cheese + cold meats from local shop which lent you the machine, and they gave us at least enough for six, so we had two raclettes, and stuff left over for Saturday sandwiches, result!
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Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
We do family ski trips three times a year at New Year, half term, and Easter. There's no way we could afford that at TO prices.
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@froomie, I'd have to disagree with that, based on some of the stories I've read on here. For example, the Snowmaggadon thread from a couple if years ago - the weather caused problems for everyone but those travelling independently had the flexibility to stop and book a hotel, and a taxi for the following day, whilst some of those travelling with TOs were stuck in sports halls for 48 hours before it was their 'turn' for the coach. Or Sparklies overbooking thread this year, where the TO just left her high and dry with no solution except to cancel her holiday until she sourced an alternative apartment herself.
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Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Quote:

Am I alone in not finding cooking on a self catering holiday a chore?

No, in my own place I enjoy it - because I have good utensils, knives, loads of basic and not-so-basic stores - and I'm never there for just a week.

But if the budget were unlimited and I was staying in a place with lots of good restaurants (e.g. Megeve) I'd probably have a glass of champagne and some nibbles at home, with my feet up, and then saunter out to try a range of establishments in the evenings.

As it is, I rarely find eating out good value, so I rarely do it, whether at home or on holiday! £25 for two buys you a superb meal + wine if you shop sensibly - and how long does it take to cook a fillet steak, open a bag of salad, slice the baguette and take the top of the bottle?
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johnE wrote:
@pam w, Good to see you haven't deserted us.

Am I alone in not finding cooking on a self catering holiday a chore?.


I love cooking and food shopping when we are away, its part of the holiday to source different ingredients and come up with tasty foods, but I insist the apartment has a dishwasher and that those I cook for do the clearing up lol

Like Pam w I too have rarely found eating out good value!
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Gämsbock wrote:
whilst some of those travelling with TOs were stuck in sports halls for 48 hours before it was their 'turn' for the coach.

That's the key!

TO will try to sort things out, EVENTUALLY. But if it's a wide spread issue, your place in the queue is a luck of draw.

Whilst DIY, you get to WORK yourself to the front of the queue. Some people are good at it, some people not.

(I too, had one TO trip that got seriously delay due to weather. I took it upon myself to sort out a solution, ahead of others in my group)
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Gämsbock wrote:
@froomie, I'd have to disagree with that, based on some of the stories I've read on here. For example, the Snowmaggadon thread from a couple if years ago - the weather caused problems for everyone but those travelling independently had the flexibility to stop and book a hotel, and a taxi for the following day, whilst some of those travelling with TOs were stuck in sports halls for 48 hours before it was their 'turn' for the coach. Or Sparklies overbooking thread this year, where the TO just left her high and dry with no solution except to cancel her holiday until she sourced an alternative apartment herself.


Ah yes I remember this one. Yes a lot of people had to sleep in sports halls etc but this was down to local capacity issues. Several thousand people blocked in the Tarentaise valley all looking for accommodation simultaneously. Extreme and very exceptional circumstances but I also remember reading about people having to sleep in their own vehicles. Not everyone was able to find or afford a hotel or taxi at no notice. Again, give me the choice and I'll take being with a TO with a duty of care. But you can't expect a TO to magic hotel rooms out of thin air where they simply do not exist.
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abc wrote:
Gämsbock wrote:
whilst some of those travelling with TOs were stuck in sports halls for 48 hours before it was their 'turn' for the coach.

That's the key!

TO will try to sort things out, EVENTUALLY. But if it's a wide spread issue, your place in the queue is a luck of draw.

Whilst DIY, you get to WORK yourself to the front of the queue. Some people are good at it, some people not.

(I too, had one TO trip that got seriously delay due to weather. I took it upon myself to sort out a solution, ahead of others in my group)


All very true, and the savvier travellers may well benefit in situations like this. However not everyone has the required skills and knowledge. Not to mention resources. Also much easier to fix things if you have a credit card that can absorb spiralling costs. Not everyone does.
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froomie wrote:
Gämsbock wrote:
@froomie, I'd have to disagree with that, based on some of the stories I've read on here. For example, the Snowmaggadon thread from a couple if years ago - the weather caused problems for everyone but those travelling independently had the flexibility to stop and book a hotel, and a taxi for the following day, whilst some of those travelling with TOs were stuck in sports halls for 48 hours before it was their 'turn' for the coach. Or Sparklies overbooking thread this year, where the TO just left her high and dry with no solution except to cancel her holiday until she sourced an alternative apartment herself.


Ah yes I remember this one. Yes a lot of people had to sleep in sports halls etc but this was down to local capacity issues. Several thousand people blocked in the Tarentaise valley all looking for accommodation simultaneously. Extreme and very exceptional circumstances but I also remember reading about people having to sleep in their own vehicles. Not everyone was able to find or afford a hotel or taxi at no notice. Again, give me the choice and I'll take being with a TO with a duty of care. But you can't expect a TO to magic hotel rooms out of thin air where they simply do not exist.


Having been a part of the snowmaggadon I was, and remain, very grateful we were in our own car with plenty of experience of driving in heavy snowfall. We managed to avoid being corralled on the autoroute, we had food and drink and comfort stops. We made our way slowly but steadily to our destination in La Tania arriving in the early hours of the morning. Friends of ours, and those telling their tales in resort over the following days who had been relying on TO`s had a truly awful time. Transfer busses, often with young, inexperienced drivers who had clearly tried their best were simply stuck, much of the day, all night, and into the next day! Passengers had no food, no water, no access to loos.
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