Q – I thought I’d reach out to you for suggestions to extend a Scandinavian trip for next summer already booked. We are considering having our kids fly to Stockholm to meet us and then spending a week in Sweden, just the four of us. We are active, nature loving, travel veterans and usually enjoy avoiding cities and renting a house or cozy inn in a smaller town with easy access to the outdoors. I’m guessing Sweden has neat towns on pretty lakes but I could use a little direction. The alternative, or additional, thought is to head up north to check out Lapland since it is so unique. Our travel time is July 28th – August 6th and we probably wouldn’t want to go more than 2 places in that time. We usually do the travel planning ourselves, how does working with an agent work in terms of fees work out?
A – We think that either destination could work well for six days or so. There are some transportation issues in Lapland, but those can be overcome.
The answer to your question is simple – all of the years that you have been making your own arrangements you have been paying a 10-15% supplement for a travel consultant’s services. It is in everything you ever bought. If you demanded a refund of that money after the booking was made, then you have not been ripped off. Otherwise, you have consistently been charged for services you never received. When we arrange a tour or a cruise, we have never had to charge fees of any kind. It is always part of the supplier’s price.
In any other industry we suspect, this would be considered fraud, the idea of being charged for consulting and processing services that the hotel, airline, cruise line etc. never provided. But in travel it is accepted practice. It is one of the industry’s dirty little secrets.
Now there is one exception to the rule above. If you ask us to craft a vacation experience especially for you, using the best available guides, vehicles, and planners, we work with a mark-up in the 30% range. That is rather standard but it often goes higher. But that is only when hours of work are devoted to creating something unique for you and your family.
Lapland is a location where both Sweden and Norway-based travel firms handle arrangements. You can book directly and save some substantial planning fees.
Most of the better travel agencies in the States have consortium affiliations with top-level travel firms in Sweden. They can create a wonderful private experience based entirely on your likes and dislikes using properties that will please you and one-of-a-kind experiences. But in Sweden, this can get fairly expensive.
This is a remote wilderness stretching north of the Arctic Circle, that is a part of Finland. Lapland has always had an air of mystery about it, not least for its climatic idiosyncrasies—the omnipresent Midnight Sun of the summer months, the perpetual twilight of winter and, of course, the dazzling spectacle of the Northern Lights.
Blanketed with snow from September to April, Lapland is one of our ultimate winter destinations for families. Just imagine a vacation where your kids can visit the official home of Santa Claus, whiz through the snow on a snowmobiles, ride a husky-pulled sled past herds of wild reindeer, then bed-down in an atmospheric ice hotel.
The decision to have a travel agent do personal trip planning on your behalf is a delicate ratio of expertise versus cost. The public is generally unaware of the high mark-up tour operators attach to arrangements for individuals. Tours and packages that reflect group savings can be of high quality while coming in at a substantially lower cost. Your travel consultant needs to be a travel traffic cop – directing you toward the best options for each component of your trip. This is particularly necessary when considering travel to Scandinavia and the areas surrounding the Arctic Circle.
So, bottom line: One of world’s top destinations for families – but comes at a high price for ice.