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travel agent fees - unreasonable ? 2007/8/8 11:10
I typically plan all of my own vacations. However, due to the many arrangements that needed to be made for travel within Japan, plus the language barrier, etc., I decided to hire an agent.

I paid a flat $150 consulting fee and so far the agent has booked international air fare from the U.S. to Japan and in-country air fare from Osaka airport to Hokkaido.

The agent has provided a quote on various hotels in Tokyo and Kyoto as well as airport shuttles, private tours, and Shinkasen from Tokyo to Kyoto.

I've done lots of online research on this trip and the rates I'm being quoted by the agent seem to be unreasonable.

Palace Hotel Tokyo - was quoted $388/night. Do not know if this includes breakfast or tax. Found online rate (at hotel web site) for $198/night for a standard queen/double. Does not include 15% tax. Also, I saw that I can apply to join the Palace club and receive an additional 10% off.

Hyatt Regency Kyoto - quoted $319/night, found online rate (through hotel web site) of $230/night.

Was quoted a flat fee of $595 for two people for the following:
Tokyo to Kyoto by Nozomi (Shinknsen) w/ reserved seats; train from Kyoto Station to Kansai airport; and two T-Cat airport shuttles to Narita from Tokyo, plus one additional airport shuttle for my brother, who is living and Japan and will join us in Tokyo.

According to my research, this should cost a total of $345 ($113 per ticket for Shinkansen, $28 per ticket for train to Kansai airport, $30 for 3 airport transfers (my brother will join us in Tokyo - long story)

When I asked the travel agent to break down the fees, she told me that this was not possible as we get a discount for the total package. When I asked again and shared what I had found online, she indicated that the $595 includes the following:
- Meet & Greet (not sure yet what this is)
- handling fee
- reserved seat fee
- ticket issuing fee
- all Shinkansen surcharges and advance tickets/reservations

I am skeptical as to whether or not this is necessary or not. My husband and I are in our early thirties. We have both traveled extensively throughout the U.S. and Caribbean, and I have traveled throughout Europe and Russia.

On the one hand, I would like to have tickets in advance and taken care of. On the other hand, it is hard to justify spending and extra $200-$350.

Would appreciate any suggestions you can share.

Many thanks!
(P.S. - will be traveling Sept. 22 - Oct. 4).
by Evie  

... 2007/8/8 22:48
Your research is correct. The prices quoted by the agent are very uncompetitive. Either this is due to you being accompanied by a guide (guides tend to be very expensive) or they are trying to exploit you. I recommend to continue your skeptical approach.
by Uji rate this post as useful

... 2007/8/8 23:27
Ask the travel agent 1)Room types 2)Breakfast included or not.

I typed a date in October, which I improvised, into the hotel webpage (of Hyatt Kyoto) and found out that Standard King with breakfast is 316USD and Deluxe King (with b/f)367USD. Assuming that an agent usually charge you 10-15% charge, the quoted price is not necessarily high.

As for Palace Tokyo, the quoted price may be a bit high but if it Superior Room, price is 307USD without breakfast and excluding tax. (194USD is a price for single occupancy)
by J Lady rate this post as useful

on your own 2007/8/9 00:04
I am much older than you and went to Japan by myself once after my travel companion had to cancel a few hours before we were to leave. I should add that, due to some complicated reasons, we can't book hotels, trains etc. in advance, yet I had no problems at all (that trip was in early September a few years back). I do not speak Japanese but, after trips to European countries where I couldn't neither read the language not speak it (Finland for example) I chanced it. I had no problems in Japan on my own!. You have been to Europe: taking trains and subways in Japan is similar. Your travel agent may not be trying to rip you off intentionally. Many have little travel experience outside Mexico etc. and are trained to sell a package they aren't familiar with. You can easily plan your trip, do reservations etc. on your own. Trains reservations are free if you have a JR pass or it is only a small amount to pay if you don't. The internet is an amazing source of info, for exemple maps of airports terminal and main railway stations, information on how to get from the customs exit to limousine buses or trains etc. As you know the site we are using is a gold mine. Take advantage of it. You will have a great time!
by Plantagenesta rate this post as useful

Thanks 2007/8/9 08:49
Thanks to all of you for the great input. Confirmed my gut instincts on this. Many thanks!
by Evie rate this post as useful

. 2007/8/9 08:59
Room rates may also differ because room rates like airline rates have certain rules depending on which one you book. Often times the cheapest published rate are the non cancelable rates for people, travel agents may have access to rates that are cancelable with refund.

I'm not saying thats the case here, but just one possibility.

The "Meet and Greet" part is probably what is raising the price on the transportation end, since having a personal guide can be expensive.
by John rate this post as useful

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