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How is working with an agent beneficial for couples booking destination weddings?
Travel agent Jennifer Doncsecz of travelbyvip.com is known for her travel savvy and insider perspective on under-the-radar destinations. Here, she shares her best advice on planning a destination wedding.
An agent can negotiate a group hotel rate, then renegotiate as your date gets closer, when hotels know more about their occupancy levels (low occupancy equals deals!). When you book a block of rooms directly with an online travel site, you always have to pay the full fee up front. But with an agent, final payment sometimes isn't due until a month prior, which gives you loads of extra time to firm up your guest list.
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If a couple scouts a property, can they receive a discount if they book their wedding there?
Absolutely. Some places offer rebates or credit if you end up reserving more rooms. Use the money to buy your guests a round at the bar.
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Are there discounts for group air travel?
Yes! If at least 10 people are flying to your wedding, American Airlines, for example, will create a savings code -- usually 5 percent off -- for your guests. It doesn't matter if they're flying from the same airport or not.
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How can newlyweds score upgrades?
Let your hotel know it's your honeymoon when making your reservation. They're usually happy to give you a little something extra -- a welcome bottle of Champagne, breakfast in bed, or even a better room -- at no extra charge. That said, adults- and couples-only resorts cater almost exclusively to honeymooners and don't normally offer added perks.
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Any rules to live by when arranging flights?
Generally, travel is cheaper in September. Kids in the States are back in school, Europeans are home from summer trips, and it's hurricane season in the Caribbean and Mexico. Midweek flights can be money savers too. If you're country-hopping, consider a "circle trip," which many airlines offer. It starts and ends at point A, but includes stops in between. The total should be less than buying a bunch of one-way tickets.
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What issues do travelers often overlook?
Luggage fees (some airlines charge per bag; others, like Delta, give you one free on international flights), visa requirements (many cruise lines leave it to you to arrange visas for their ports of call), and ever-changing passport requirements (for countries like Costa Rica, your passport must be valid for 30 days after arrival, but others, like Fiji, count three months past departure date).
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What are your go-to tips for long flights?
Pack a blanket that comes in a bag -- you can use the bag to cover the airplane pillow. (Try Donna Karan's version, shown; $200, donna karanhome.com.) Healthy snacks, like trail mix, are a must, since airplane food is either prepackaged or pricey. And I always like to study up on my destination. DK Eyewitness Travel Guides are great (shown, us.dk.com).
Any advice for those who decide to make their own travel plans without an agent?
If you can, book well in advance. Sign up for airline and hotel e-blasts, and monitor their Facebook and Twitter pages for deals, too.