Mystery shopper: Maidstone and Hempstead, Budapest in autumn

Mystery shopper: Maidstone and Hempstead, Budapest in autumn

Location: Maidstone and Hempstead, Kent
Wanted: Two friends want to visit Budapest and another nearby city in autumn for up to a week and travel between cities by rail. They would also welcome tips on sights to see.
Budget: £2,500

Baldwins Travel
21-23 Earl Street, Maidstone
Everything was tidy and the agent was friendly and polite. I was given three options, which included easyJet and Ryanair flights, but I was told it would be better to arrange my train journey when I was there. The first was three nights’ B&B at the Grand Hotel River Park, Bratislava, and four nights’ B&B at Corinthia Hotel, Budapest, for £2,156. The second was three nights’ B&B at Danubia Gate, Bratislava, and four nights at the Continental Hotel for £1,850. Both with Fred Holidays. A third option, Regent Holidays’ Budapest and Bratislava twin-centre, was offered, including thermal spa entry and city tours for £1,890. A lot of thought went into the quotes.

61 Hempstead Valley shopping centre

I was acknowledged straight away by a smart agent. I was offered four nights in the four-star K+K Hotel Opera in Budapest and three nights at Wilson Palace in Bratislava with Ryanair flights from Stansted to Budapest, returning from Bratislava. It included first-class rail travel on GRJ Independent between the countries. The total cost was £1,670. Although I felt everything was taken care of, I was only given one option.

Thomas Cook
249 Water Lane, Maidstone

I was greeted as soon as I walked into the shop and offered a Super Break trip, flying easyJet from Gatwick staying the full seven nights at the Radisson Blu Beke Hotel, Budapest, for £1,264. The train to Bratislava was mentioned but I was pushed towards booking an overnight stay in Bratislava. I was continually quoted the lowest prices and encouraged to take the cheapest, so may have missed out on a better holiday within my budget.

Winning agent 

Gemma Hall, senior travel consultant

“We’re getting more of eastern Europe and I try and give the customer as many options as I can. It’s the second time I’ve won mystery shopper, the first was six years ago. It keeps you on your toes.”


Baldwins’ range of choice impressed our mystery shopper, who had a generous budget. Thomas Cook struggled with the twin-centre brief.

Elite resorts caribbean

Top-scoring agent each month will win use of a car for 10 days.

The winning agent must be at least 25, for insurance reasons. Winners under 25 will win a week’s all-inclusive holiday at an Elite Islands Resorts property. The prize is non-transferable and the car must be driven only by the winning agent. The winner must not have any serious driving convictions. Elite Island Resorts will endeavour to supply the car to the agency but reserves the right to request the winning agent to collect and return the car from Essex or a central location


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