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Booking with Travel Agent

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
Hi all,

For the last few seasons I've booked through Erna Low and I can't fault them. However, they've not agreed contracts for next season yet and I can book direct with Odalys now. Apart from ATOL/ABTA is there any advantage to using Erna low (for example) over booking direct? You can buy cancellation insurance direct from Odalys when you book plus we have travel insurance so wondering is there any need to use an agent at all in future? We usually book lessons, any hire and ski passes direct as it costs less than using a travel agent.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
I asked a similar question a while back here - https://snowheads.com/ski-forum/viewtopic.php?p=3279409

I've since booked holidays DIY - the first time its a bit unnerving, but for each one I've saved around £1000 for our family.. so the first lot of that went into an 'insurance' pot in my bank, incase we needed access to cash due to something going wrong.

I don't have a problem with package holidays - I've gone on others since booking DIY (ski trips), but with the big TOs - the reps... really are there for the experience. I don't blame them, but most of them don't really care if things go wrong, they're stressing about the next party that is about to arrive. After a couple of mishaps with some of the big names, I'm sticking with DIY.

I've found if you speak to hotels directly, they'll beat booking.com prices etc.

There's also the snowheads bashses you may wish to consider too?
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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?
I have and do book both DIY and tour operator trips and don't think there is a right or wrong answer.

Last Xmas, was looking for a trip to Austria and chose a hotel/resort that ticked all the boxes. Looked at prices on the hotel website directly as well as booking.com and similar as well as flights etc but it turned out we could book a package through Crystal including the flights and transfers etc for the same price as booking the same rooms in the same hotel directly. Additionally, lift passes were a fraction cheaper via the TO as well.

Admittedly I could have perhaps got a better deal if I phoned the hotel and of course had we wanted the widest choice of potential places to stay etc then DIY would probably have worked better. On that occasion however booking with the tour operator worked for us.
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@James77, I wouldn't book with Odalys personally. Better off booking with an owner direct.

Where are you looking to go?
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
DIY over package = if anything goes wrong in DIY, then its up to you to sort out other arrangements.

I've not been on a package for god knows how long. Always prefer to DIY it.
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 You'll need to Register first of course.
You'll need to Register first of course.
Layne wrote:
@James77, I wouldn't book with Odalys personally. Better off booking with an owner direct.

Where are you looking to go?


Back to Flaine. We want the same residence as this year as it worked out so well for us and with Covid 19 knocking around we didn't do all we wanted usually we wouldn't go to the same place twice.

The question isn't really DIY over TO generally, its is there and value booking with Erna low when I can book exactly what I want directly like for like. Only difference I can tell is protection TO provides.
ski holidays
 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Think you've hit the nail on the head there James. If anything goes wrong, the TO will get you home... if you book yourself, it's up to you to sort yourself out.

Erna low may have a contract in place with the residence so they may not be able to offer it out directly..
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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!
marksymoo wrote:
If anything goes wrong, the TO will get you home... if you book yourself, it's up to you to sort yourself out.

I think this is a bit of a misnomer though. Or at least there is a bit of a trade off.

Yes, the TO has to manage your trip but that doesn't mean they'll do a good job. There are plenty of horror stories - poor comms, long delay in getting sorted, no options or poor options given. Wrong decisions made.

That's just my view anyhow. I'm not advocating not using a TO just that I wouldn't want to rely on them dealing with major issues too well.

In this instance for example if Erna Low are just booking into an Odalys I think accommodation wise you are largely at the behest of Odalys. The one time I stayed with Odalys (I had to do a last minute switch on account of a lack of snow) check in was a sh-it show. Whether I'd booked through Erna Low I doubt it'd make much difference. It was what it was.
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 You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
[quote="Layne"]
marksymoo wrote:

Yes, the TO has to manage your trip but that doesn't mean they'll do a good job. There are plenty of horror stories - poor comms, long delay in getting sorted, no options or poor options given. Wrong decisions made.


Absolutely - I've travelled with TOs often - the majority of times they've been ok... but the 3 times we've had issues with them has more than made up for the good times - I was trying to not to be too damming of them, but the reps are young adults (in most cases), and as such they've only had a few weeks training when they're new & aren't prepared (or in some times, don't care enough) to deal with problems. The last time we had an issue, we had our kids with us - they're 8 & 10 now, so it wasn't as bad as it could have been with younger children but after being left on the pavement without any rep/transfer option -- I was then done and dusted with said TO.

That said though, I am aware of a couple in their late 40s that wanted to do a season, so opted to do the season as chalet hosts... I'm sure due to experience of life/their careers they'd have been able to deal with our situation better than our host were (along with the rep!).

Since then it'd been DIY for me Smile

I suppose the fact that the TO will deal with it (in whatever capacity!) is something that people find comfort in.

My views are with the mainstream TOs though - I suppose the "premium" TOs are a different kettle of fish, if you have the finances to go with them?
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 Ski the Net with snowHeads
Ski the Net with snowHeads
As others have said. TOs earn their keep when something goes wrong. The rest of the time everyone is effectively paying them paying an 'insurance premium' to cover the problem occasions. That can make a lot of sense for anyone without the experience, or ready money, to address those problems if they arise.

From what I've read on here, most TOs seemed to do a good job of repatriating those people who had just arrived when France suddenly closed it's resorts on 14 March. Arranging additional or rescheduled flights and/or coaches to get people back to the UK within around 48 hours.

It would be interesting to know the experience of those who arrived that weekend on a DIY trip. Any who drove out could just drive back again. But if with a return flight booked for the following weekend, was it: book another flight midweek / lock down in resort for a week / book emergency accommodation near Geneva for a week / ...?
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 snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
The only material DIY problem I had once was when fog closed London airports for 3 days. My wife was unable to fly (she'd gone back to the UK for a couple of days work, and was due to come back to the Alps to rejoin us skiing) and there weren't any alternative flights.

Since we were DIY, I booked her on Eurostar/TGV and collected her from the train station at Geneva instead; BA refunded the flight although that didn't cover the full cost difference; I chose to absorb that myself. If that had been a tour operator flight, she'd have been waiting 3 days.

I used to travel a lot for work and trying to get the travel agent to deal with stuff was a real nightmare - "we'll look into that and call you back" as I board a delayed flight that is going to misconnect... Much easier if my flights and hotels were all direct with the provider.
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 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
As a DIYer I've mostly driven to France and have had the following issues:

1) Driving out and there was snow all over southern England and mainland France on Friday evening and Saturday. Got turned away from the Tunnel with little hope of an imminent return to service as normal. I knew two other cars going over the same evening, one managed to get into the terminal before closing and after a 4-5 hour delay got over. The other took a ferry, 9-10 hour delay. Our kids were pretty young so we holed up in a Premier Inn near Ashford and effectively started 24 hours late. We would have had to spend Sunday night in a Hotel but one of the aforementioned cars was going to the same ski station so was able to get our apartment key.

2) Due to lack of snow the resort we were going to didn't open as scheduled at Christmas. I switched with 3 days to go to a resort that was open. Lost deposit on the first apartment was the only cost.

3) Same trip as 2) on the return Saturday a storm blew in overnight and the valley road got blocked out. Spent the night in emergency shelter (sports centre in Tignes) before leaving early Sunday. Arrived home 24 hours later than expected by incurred no costs.

Not sure a TO would have done much different in any of those situations.
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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
Just took a look on Odalys the same apartment size we had this year is £500 more next season. Presume this is the covid effect.

It's going to price a lot of families out which is sad. We're still going just waiting to hear if it's the same price through erna low presume it will be.
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 You know it makes sense.
You know it makes sense.
marksymoo wrote:
If anything goes wrong, the TO will get you home... if you book yourself, it's up to you to sort yourself out.

I’ve highlighted the “up to YOU” part. That’s the difference.

It makes sense for the following to rely on TO to get them out of the jam:
Quote:
for anyone without the experience, or ready money, to address those problems if they arise


But most DIY’ers have the experience or ready money to address those problems to suit THEIR OWN SITUATION, rather than the one-size-fit-all solution the TO come up with.

So how do you get experience? ... By do it yourself for the first time! Smile
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 Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
Otherwise you'll just go on seeing the one name:
ecureuil wrote:
... It would be interesting to know the experience of those who arrived that weekend on a DIY trip. ... But if with a return flight booked for the following weekend, was it: book another flight midweek / lock down in resort for a week / book emergency accommodation ...?
As you're asking...

I arrived in BC (Canada) for that weekend. I got a day in the resort, which as it turned out was the last of the season.
I spent a day trying to see what was still possible to do in Canada, but within 24 hours it was clear that it was "game over", so I cancelled all my bookings, booked a new single flight home and came back.
Easy. My mum taught me how to look after myself wink

My view is that Tour Operators are nearly always going to be cheaper, simply because they consolidate flight and accommodation costs.
However the **** hits the fan, the things which ordinarily make them efficient are probably obstacles.
I can get on that "last flight out" because there's one of me, and I have a working Visa card... it's hard for the Tour Operator to compete there.
ski holidays
 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
@James77, it could be worth looking at the other resorts in the Grand Massif - 500 quid more is a heck of an increase, unless your dates now knock you into a school holiday week whereas this season you weren't (although I seem to recall you were on the HT drive thread so guessing not). In fear, I've just looked at similar apartments to what we had this half term in Les Contamines booked via the tourist office and there's nothing like that rate of price hike - you've put the fear in me now though that other places might be ramping prices up and I've not even thought about next season much yet.
latest report
 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
James77 wrote:
For the last few seasons I've booked through Erna Low and I can't fault them. However, they've not agreed contracts for next season yet and I can book direct with Odalys now. Apart from ATOL/ABTA is there any advantage to using Erna low (for example) over booking direct?
Are you actually buying a package from Erna Low, including flights?
ATOL has no relevance at all unless the booking includes flights (it's also irrelevant for a 'flights only' booking.)

What 'advantage' are you expecting of ABTA?
ABTA is a trade association for travel companies. Funded by membership fees, their first responsibility is to those companies, rather than to their clients. They do require member companies to meet some financial criteria, which in theory assures the client of the operator's financial stability, however it doesn't always hold up eg. Thomas Cook.
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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?
x7 wrote:
James77 wrote:
For the last few seasons I've booked through Erna Low and I can't fault them. However, they've not agreed contracts for next season yet and I can book direct with Odalys now. Apart from ATOL/ABTA is there any advantage to using Erna low (for example) over booking direct?
Are you actually buying a package from Erna Low, including flights?
ATOL has no relevance at all unless the booking includes flights (it's also irrelevant for a 'flights only' booking.)

What 'advantage' are you expecting of ABTA?
ABTA is a trade association for travel companies. Funded by membership fees, their first responsibility is to those companies, rather than to their clients. They do require member companies to meet some financial criteria, which in theory assures the client of the operator's financial stability, however it doesn't always hold up eg. Thomas Cook.


Not really. Book apartmemt and tunnel through them.
ski holidays
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My observations from both DIY & TO experiences over many years.

Stuff can go wrong in either experience. In DIY you have the opportunity to fix it yourself, with TO you are left with someone else, probably remote and not necessarily communicating with you to fix it at an unknown time and location. For some the "kept in the dark" factor can be a problem. TO staff on the ground with you can be useless (kids, kept in the dark, no empowerment etc) but of course can also be superstars. With DIY if you don't fix it yourself you're compunding the problem so prompts you to action.

Airlines for all their faults will usually see you right. Just they can't necessarily be relied on to confirm the plane you are on isn't going to fly in time for you to make the best alternate arrangements. When there is an airport load of passengers suddenly needing an overnight hotel at 10pm pays to be able to make decisions swiftly. You can also sometimes haggle with them for goodwill like rollover onto the next flight if you've been delayed reaching airport etc.

Being stuck in an airport overnight on your own has an element of romance and is nowhere near as depressing as being stuck on a broken bus with a coachload of fellow whingers.

Conclusion - if you like to be in control DIY, if you have the mentality to be chill and trust in the TO fairies than TO may be OK for you.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Dave of the Marmottes wrote:

Conclusion - if you like to be in control DIY, if you have the mentality to be chill and trust in the TO fairies than TO may be OK for you.

Excellent conclusion!

As far as I can tell, people who aren't too fussy, they can save money and time going with a TO. Who, when push comes to shove, will get you home, eventually.

From time to time, I see people asking question about TO offers and have their own requirement list stretch from here to the Moon. I always wonder "if you're THAT fussy, you'd do better DIY"!

Also, for long time DIY'ers, you have the experience to know what's possible and not. You tend to find fault with the TO's solution not being the best based on that experience. But for people who never DIY, they can't tell a bad solution from a good one short of being forgotten on foreign soil. They're fine with the result as long as they EVENTUALLY got back home. Different standard, different effort. Different stroke for different folk.
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abc wrote:


Also, for long time DIY'ers, you have the experience to know what's possible and not. You tend to find fault with the TO's solution not being the best based on that experience. But for people who never DIY, they can't tell a bad solution from a good one short of being forgotten on foreign soil. They're fine with the result as long as they EVENTUALLY got back home. Different standard, different effort. Different stroke for different folk.


My particualr bugbear is TOs who collect you on a 6am transfer coach because you have to pick up elasewhere when your flight isn't until mid afternoon (& yes I have caught a couple of flights DIY only by sprinting breathless through the terminal from a delayed train or traffic jammed car)
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
always29 wrote:
@James77, it could be worth looking at the other resorts in the Grand Massif - 500 quid more is a heck of an increase, unless your dates now knock you into a school holiday week whereas this season you weren't (although I seem to recall you were on the HT drive thread so guessing not). In fear, I've just looked at similar apartments to what we had this half term in Les Contamines booked via the tourist office and there's nothing like that rate of price hike - you've put the fear in me now though that other places might be ramping prices up and I've not even thought about next season much yet.


We go half term. I can confirm the price rise at Le Panoramic in Flaine is c£500 more than last season. Presume this is realted to needing the money after the loss last season. Has anyone else noticed a similar increase? wonder if we should be looking elsewhere, however, we loved the location of Le Panoramic right on the slope and by ski school alse it's one of the closer resorts for driving.
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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!
@James77, I normally book for Christmas in Sept/Oct. I've never booked this far out.

I book directly with agencies or owners.

Maybe have a look at Sunweb and Snowtrex websites to get an idea of prices.
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 You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
Dave of the Marmottes wrote:

Conclusion - if you like to be in control DIY, if you have the mentality to be chill and trust in the TO fairies than TO may be OK for you.

My particualr bugbear is TOs who collect you on a 6am transfer coach because you have to pick up elasewhere when your flight isn't until mid afternoon (& yes I have caught a couple of flights DIY only by sprinting breathless through the terminal from a delayed train or traffic jammed car)

Good illustration of the principle. Basically, if you DIY, you have only yourself to blame. Smile

But if you use a TO, you'll just shrug and bear it.

I don't DIY when I have others in my party. Too much responsibility and be the source of blame (I have family member who like to place blame. But they're the kind who will just shrug and bear it). I've gone on many TO trips. At least 3 I remember that "something" went wrong. One of them, I fixed it myself outside of the TO's solution, with better results. I also help out my fellow travelers with the same. But there were others in the same trip who just didn't have the initiative. They defer to the TO's offer.

So it's really a mentality thing. For many, they want a holiday. By god they should deal with the stress!
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 Ski the Net with snowHeads
Ski the Net with snowHeads
Is it better to be stressed about having to deal with something yourself or stressed because someone else is meant to be sorting it.
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 snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
snowHeads are a friendly bunch.
@Layne, if you're the type who stressed about the latter, you've got too much expectation for the TO. Laughing Laughing Laughing

Too high a standard to be left to the TO.
ski holidays
 And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
And love to help out and answer questions and of course, read each other's snow reports.
@Layne, absolutely. We've had a situation in Canada which was one of our last TO arranged trips. Not enough beds for us all (one king and one less than full-sized double for 2 large teenagers). The only solution they offered us was for us to go out and buy a blow up bed to put on the floor for a holiday that cost several thousands, or a room in a separate hotel (not 2 rooms for all of us) at a cost of over 1000. Our booking invoice clearly stated kitchenett suite with king size and twin beds, but apparently we were wrong in that assumption. Hubby and I ended up in the smaller bed with kids in the bigger one, as there wasn't really room for a blow up mattress in any case.
The rep was already unhappy that we'd sorted out our lift passes and ski hire ourselves, and arrived 30 minutes before the transfer coach as we'd hired a car. We saved 100s of dollars by sorting the passes out ourselves, and had specific requirements for the skis, as hubby wanted to try a particular pair of Rossignols. However, it probably meant she was less willing to assist us.
We also made our scheduled flight home by car, having left before lunch and stopped off on the way while the transfer coach ended up stuck in an appalling traffic jam. I guess we could have been in the jam too, and hopefully would have been sorted by the TO as their clients.
We got a voucher for a ridiculous sum when we got home and complained. Didn't use it, as didn't want to use them again
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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
Hells Bells wrote:
We've had a situation in Canada which was one of our last TO arranged trips. Not enough beds for us all (one king and one less than full-sized double for 2 large teenagers).

Our booking invoice clearly stated kitchenett suite with king size and twin beds, but apparently we were wrong in that assumption.

A "twin" in north America means a bed fit for one person, with a bit of extra width so you don't fall out in the middle of the night (the term "single bed" is rarely used, nor a true "single" bed ever offered in any sort of commercial lodging establishment)

A bed wide enough for two is a "double" bed.
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