So you are planning on bypassing a travel agent and decided to organise a trip of a life time yourself. After working as a travel agent, I picked up some tips along the way which can add value to your trip. Here is how to do it. An agent’s main job is to organise all aspects of travel to ensure everything runs smoothly. The way I achieved this was to write a checklist and mark off when everything has been organised. This is a great tool as you can visualise what needs doing. The list includes but is not limited to:
Multi day tours
The internet has changed the way people go about booking their holidays. Back in the day you had to walk into a store to have everything booked. Who would of thought? Today you can do it all in the comfort of your own home. But you are going to have to weigh it up. Are you going to spend endless hours searching the internet for the best and cheapest deals? I think of it a bit like doing small plumbing jobs. Sure you will be able to fix the burst pipe, but is there something important you’re missing out on by not having someone do it for you.
The first area to look at is flights. Flight prices can differ and are live prices. This means they can change at any moment in time, even if you are halfway through filling your name out in the form. The airlines have different fare classes and you are right in thinking First class, Business and Economy. But they go further. In each class, you have multiple fare price points. For example, say you have 100 seats in economy, 20 of these are priced at $1000. Once they have sold out, the price will increase. The next price may be $1200 and so on. Here are some tips to search for the best fare.
When you are looking at how to get to a particular destination, a good way is too search for the destination airport and follow the links to their list of arrival airlines. Then work your way backwards.
Use websites which search multiple airlines at once such as www.skyscanner.net
Look into whether the airline offers a free stop over. If it is a National carrier, you might be able to snag a couple of nights for no extra cost.
Be sure to understand the cancellation and changes terms and conditions. Third party websites and travel agents will usually charge their own fee on top of the airlines.
Cheapest is not always the best, especially if you are travelling for 20 hours. Paying the little bit extra might give you a more comfortable flight.
Check out the airlines luggage allowance, including the carry on.
Now you have flown into your destination, you will need some accommodation. Have a look at the Review section of Itchy Feet Escapades for some tips. Otherwise, it’s time to do some research. You can use websites such as www.booking.com or www.kayak.com to search a destination for multiple hotels at once. When you have found a few which you like, it is always a good idea to search their review on Trip advisor. Some people will always bag out a hotel due to a bad experience they had. A majority of these are people who expected 5 star services but decided to stay in the cheapest hotel. I look at where the majority of people rate the hotel. If there are lots of Excellent and Very good, you have a safe bet the hotel is probably a good one.
If you are arriving into a large city after a long flight and want to quickly check in at the hotel, have a look into transfers from the airport. This will take the hassle away from finding the right bus, which connects to the right train with the stop closest to your accommodation.
One of the most important things to consider is Travel Insurance. It seems like a waste of money, especially if you have never made a claim. But there are the horror stories of medical bills heading into thousands and hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth. Now don’t always go with the cheapest as this will most likely not provide the best cover. A few tips to compare the policies are:
What activities are covered whilst you are away
The amount of coverage for lost luggage
Any excess on the policy
How long you can travel on a single trip
You are almost complete in being your own travel agent. Oh wait a second, what are you going to do during the nights and days? Well this is when you organise your activities. Are you going to hire a car and drive yourself around? Websites such as www.kayak.com can compare different car companies to find the cheapest deal. If you don’t want to drive yourself, why not jump on a tour. It can be a day tour or a multiple day tour. Today there are many companies which offer different tour styles. Some are tailored for a smaller, more intimate group, where as some are busloads of people. The choice is yours and all depends on your style of travel.
Before anything is booked, it is worth confirming your passport is still in date. I have had customers in the past who have turned up to the airport with an expired passport. It does happen. Checking if you need a visa to enter the country is another good move. Some applications for visas can take months to complete. Do your research through each countries consulate. You will also need to figure out how to spend money when you are in a country. What is the currency? Do they accept US dollars? Are their ATM’s available? Either way, I recommend changing some money before you go. This way you can at least buy a bottle of water when you arrive. Another option is to look into Travel Money cards. They differ from a credit card as you are spending your own money and are usually paying fewer fees to take out money abroad.
If all of this sounds like a lot of work, well it is. Travel Agents do provide all those extra tips and save you time. Unfortunately they won't be able to help you with your plumbing - for that, you will need a plumber.
If you need any help organising your trip, please feel free to contact me or get in touch via our Facebook, twitter or Instagram accounts.