Shopping for: A budget break to New York for four girlfriends in May, with bargain activities
9 Derby Road, Borrowash, Derby
I was acknowledged shortly after walking into this clean and tidy agency and the consultant who served me was friendly and ready to help.
She checked flights and a hotel for me, but didn’t offer options for different hotels. She gave me a Virgin Holidays USA second-edition brochure, and a printout of prices for a flight from Heathrow and hotel – which came to £821 per person – as well as her business card.
The agent told me about the dollar and how much it had dropped recently. She suggested activities to do on a budget, but the information was from her knowledge, rather than researching options.
The agency lost out on points as I didn’t feel the consultant was very enthusiastic about my request and didn’t ask many questions.
Ilkeston Co-op Travel
26 St Peters Street, Derby
After eight minutes browsing the racks, I was approached by a helpful agent who apologised for the wait.
She offered hotel choices and consulted a colleague who had stayed at one of the hotels. I was offered three nights at the Comfort Inn Manhattan, flying from Heathrow to JFK airport for £522.50. I was hesitant about a Heathrow flight, but she produced a cost-effective car parking price.
She said it would be cheaper to book Broadway shows in advance and gave me a booklet with details. She explained that it is cheaper to book tours here in the UK.
I was given a printout of the quote and her business card and we agreed I would contact her. Despite the branch being very busy, I did not feel the agent had skimped on advice.
82 St Peters Street, Derby
When I walked into this well-presented agency, two agents were on the floor making an advertising placard.
I was welcomed immediately and sat down with an agent, who questioned me carefully about my request. Battling a slow computer, she was eventually able to offer Continental Airlines flights from Manchester, staying at the Hotel Wellington for £765 per person or Hotel New Yorker from £698 per person.
She told me about excursions, offered prices and outlined my insurance needs. I left with a brochure and a well- defined travel plan.
The agent rang me later offering to reduce the price to £648 per person. I was impressed with the way she overcame problems to find out the information.
81 St Peters Street, Derby
Despite computer problems, the agent serving me was calm, competent and showed great empathy.
She immediately greeted me and we sat down to discuss the booking, with her constantly asking relevant questions. While awaiting answers on flights and accommodation, she used the time to find out about trips and Broadway shows.
The agent found a flight from Birmingham to Newark airport and three nights at the Thirty Thirty Hotel, all for £767 per person. I was given a copy of the Signature brochure and a customer enquiry form with her details.
She phoned me later to tell me she could reduce the cost to £730, offered an insurance quote and said she would call again after I had discussed it with my friends.
This impressive agent gave me a thorough insight into the holiday.
Agencies in Derby were well presented and staff friendly and efficient.
Thomas Cook received a high score with the agent producing a thorough quote and making Mystery Shopper feel she was working hard to offer the best value for money.
There was little in it between Ilkeston Co-op Travel and Thomson, with both consultants giving a comprehensive quote.
Mystery Shopper felt she had to work harder at Travelounge and asked a lot of questions herself, although the consultant was friendly and helpful.
Tip 1: NYC and Company, New York’s tourist board, says there are great deals to be had on US public holidays as the city is less busy. Memorial Day Weekend falls in May.
Tip 2: The New York City Explorer Pass ‘Choose 5’ gives admission to any five of the city’s top 33 attractions, offering savings of up to $50. It also includes shopping and dining offers. The group might enjoy the Sex and the City Hotspots Tour – sold through Attraction World.
Tip 3:The New York CityPass offers six attractions for $74 (worth $134). The booklet contains the actual tickets to places such as the Museum of Modern Art or the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, so visitors will avoid queues. See citypass.com
Tip 4: Girls planning a shopping trip will be pleased to learn that the Bloomingdale’s visitors’ information desk offers all overseas visitors an 11% discount.
Tip 5: Tourism sectors in New York often put together special offers. Check out nycgo.com for details.
Mystery Shopper prizes
Each month’s highest scoring travel agent gets the chance to drive a Porsche Boxster S courtesy of Elite Island Resorts. More at www.travelweekly.co.uk/elite
Mystery Shopper scoring system
- 60% Advice and product knowledge
- 12% Customer service
- 8% External/internal appearance
- 7% Welcome
- 7% Farewell
- 6% Staff presentation
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