There are two ways your trip to Europe can be booked. One way is by a prepaid arrangement so that all your cost for hotels, ground transportation and sightseeing arrangements has been paid in advance, before you get to Europe. The other way is to book your hotels and other services using credit card guarantee to hold your reservations so that your actual payment is made during travel in Europe.
For most ItalySource trips, you will experience both methods of booking your reservations. That is, a portion of your trip cost will be paid in advance, and the balance will be paid in Europe, during your trip.
Why do we do it like this, with some portion to be paid in Europe? The short answer is that we can provide more value and have more quality control over what you get when we arrange for you to pay for hotels and services in Italy, during your trip. For a more involved explanation, please read on…..
It’s easy for any travel agent to go into a computer and select prepaid arrangements for your trip. It’s just like using a vending machine. You can go to Expedia or Travelocity for that, or you can do it yourself by piecing all the components together at various websites. But doing it that way does not usually result in the highest-quality, or most reliable, travel arrangements. Many people are surprised at this, thinking they should get extra credit for paying upfront. But it doesn’t work like that.
When your trip is booked at the prepaid, contract rates, you can expect there to be a big corporation in the middle of the reservation process that specializes in obtaining contracts for a high volume of prepaid rooms and services. Those companies are the Walmarts of travel. They are essentially accounting organizations, who must deal with the complications of working out the contracts, calculating the risk on the exchange rates, and getting payments to the hotels. What they do is impressive, as far as it goes, and assuming that you understand what they are providing, which is a relatively impersonal type of travel arrangements.
But the reality is that hotels in Europe generally do not want prepayment for their rooms. We have never met a hotel manager in Italy (or other locations we specialize in) who likes dealing with the discount hotel booking companies. They think of doing that as a necessary evil, giving some of their rooms to the big booking companies as part of the hotel’s overall marketing strategy. That hedges their bets on filling rooms. Because they do it, you can go on the internet and book rooms at thousands of hotels and pay for them with a keystroke. But in most of those hotels, that only gives you access to the smallest rooms, usually the least desirable rooms.
Hotels reserve their best rooms for direct bookings, done the traditional way — the booking is made with a credit card number to guarantee the reservation, and payment is due at the time you check out of the hotel, payable in the local currency.
Nevertheless, Italysource does use some prepaid hotel bookings. When we do, our objective is simply to keep down the cost to our clients, whenever we feel that those arrangements are reliable and represent a good value. But when we do use the prepaid rates, we do so at hotels we know, ones we have inspected, and ones which have demonstrated that they treat guests well regardless of how the booking was made. If we learn otherwise, that a hotel treats its prepaid guests in an inferior way, or that the hotel has some less desirable rooms that it holds back for prepaid bookings, we drop that hotel from our roster.
The very same situation applies to guides and drivers in Italy. If we book them under prepaid arrangement, using high volume contracts through a big company, then we have no idea who they will be and how good they are. Put simply, there is a middleman, and we are then distanced from the actual people who provide the services.
Finally, there is the unavoidable fact that lots of hotels and services we want to use are just not available via prepaid rates. Very few of the little hotels in small town and countryside Tuscany, for example, are available in a computer reservation system. Yes, we could work out contracts with many of them for prepayment, and wire them your money, but that would make us into an accounting organization, more than a travel company, and it would raise the cost of our services. We have no plans to do that.
So when you contact us about your trip, we will work up the numbers and give you a quote for the total price. That price will include the portion you pay in advance, in US dollars by credit card. It will also include the portion you pay in Italy, where the payment is made in euros, the currency of Italy. In order to give you a total price shown in US dollars, we convert the payments in euros to dollars using the current exchange rate. Your final documents will include statements for each payment to be made in Europe.
If it is important to you that as much as possible of your trip be planned so that you have it paid in advance, before you go to Europe, please let us know at the outset, so that we can do our best to choose hotels and services which we can feel good about booking under prepaid contract rates.
In today’s travel news… History of the Vatican Museums The Vatican Museums originated as a group of sculptures collected by Pope Julius II (1503-1513) and placed in what today is the Cortile Ottagono within the museum complex. The popes were among … (read more)
The ItalySource “Top 8 or 10 or so” list. We love these trips, of course, but we’re not sure why they’re selected more than others. Maybe one of these will become a fave of yours?