My son and I decided to travel to Australia but had very little time (less than a month) to plan the trip. Undertaking the planning felt daunting. My wife suggested we use a travel agent, which was a service I had never used before. She did a little research and stumbled upon Zicasso, which I had never heard of. After answering a few questions posed by Zicasso about our trip and what we wanted to do, we were contacted by two travel agents in very short order, as promised by Zicasso. We decided to use the first travel agent after the second agent and I mutually agreed that we weren't well matched based on the type of trip we were looking for and the type of trip they organize.
The first agent at our travel company was wonderful. We put ourselves completely in her hands, and are glad we did so. She was fast, responsive and communicated very well. It was also clear that she was putting in a lot of thought for us and not just slapping together a package. She made some decisions that saved us some dollars, but she also told us very clearly when something may have been a bit expensive but was definitely worth the cost. Following her advice always paid off. She also did not over-schedule us. She listened to our preferences for times when we would want to do some exploring on our own.
On some level, planning a trip to Australia is easy: you want to see Sydney Harbor, you want to see the Great Barrier Reef, you want to see Uluru, etc. But it is all the little details that are difficult to nail down. Where to stay, organizing flights, which tour operators to go with. Our agent was willing to let us make as many or as few of those decisions for ourselves as we wanted to. I thought I could save a little by redeeming hotel points for some of our stays. But I would have had no idea whether I was staying at hotels in the most convenient areas for our trip. For example, I would have stayed in Cairns at some name brand hotel for our trip to the Barrier Reef. Our agent sent us to a little boutique hotel in Port Douglas. It was a wonderful hotel in a wonderful little town which was way more convenient for our tours than Cairns would have been. In the end, putting ourselves in the hands of a professional and an expert was the best decison we made. Maybe I would have saved a few dollars -- perhaps not -- but there was a higher likelihood that I would have made bad decisions. This is the difference between cost and value, and our agent's services were of immense value.
Here are two more examples of how following our agent's advice paid off. First, we were scheduled to climb the Sydney Harbor Bridge, but I was surprised to learn that we would be doing it at night instead of the day, and initially I was disappointed. Our agent explained that it was somewhat cheaper to do it at night. (I suspect there may also have been an availability issue. Remember, this trip was put together rather last second.) Well, the night climb turned out to be extraordinary. We had already seen Sydney by day from various vantage points. Seeing it at night all lit up from atop the Bridge was a fabulous view. Also, my son and I were thankful we were not baking under the sun on that bridge. Second, I knew I wanted to see Uluru, but I didn't know I wanted to hike completely around it and I didn't know I wanted to do so on a very small, 8-person tour. Thank goodness our agent knew these things because it was definitely a highlight of the trip.
The travel company is not just this agent, of course, and at one point during the trip I had a question for them. Not a problem, just a question. I emailed our agent, but her out of office message said she would be gone for over a week and that I should contact her colleague instead. Yikes. It was the weekend and we were dealing with the extreme time difference, and yet the colleague got back to me in less than 24 hours. And, needless to say, our agent also replied a little bit after her collegue, despite being out of the office. (By the way, the company's website was excellent and easy to use when it came to reviewing itinerary, costs and downloading e-documents.)
So, to sum up, this was the trip of a lifetime and I am so thankful to our agent and this travel company for putting it together for me. The best decision I made wasn't to go to Australia but to work with this travel company.
Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, hiking around Uluru and climbing the Sydney Harbor Bridge.
Perhaps schedule just a little less downtime. Every tour we were booked on was great. We did OK on our own -- a free walking tour of historic Sydney was fun and informative, for example -- but there were a couple of moments when we were trying to decide what to do next. Also, I should have taken a little time to research the resort we stayed at in Uluru to understand what it had to offer beside the tours of the national park.
Each review is written by a verified traveler who was matched by Zicasso to the reviewed agency. Traveler must have purchased and traveled.
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