Let me just start by saying, there are a lot of great travel agents out there. If you are an internet novice, or you barely have enough time in your day as it is, I suggest you do your homework and find yourself a great travel agent.
That being said, if you are comfortable surfing the web and keen to have a go at some great travel related Apps, it can be a lot of fun organising your holiday yourself.
I won’t lie to you though, it can be very time consuming, but for me, planning the trip and the anticipation that it builds is half the fun.
Once you have decided on your trip “bucket list”, do some research on roughly how long you need to spend an each place. You can either consult travel brochures or news papers for itineraries that are similar to yours and check how many days they plan to spend at each place. I always Google “Top 10 things to do in …” and then I click on the “Image” tab of google to see if I see anything that I think I would like to do.
You could consider joining a group tour if you find one that matches what you are keen to do. While I personally have never been on a group tour, friends of mine have, and find them a great way to meet people and they enjoy the fact that they do’t have to worry too much about getting from point A to point B. You could do both and split your holiday between a group tour and some time on a self navigating adventure.
Using a travel agent
Travel agents are great in that they give you peace of mind and someone to contact if things go wrong while you are away. Travel agents I think would also be helpful for larger group bookings.
There are a couple of things that you should think about when choosing a travel agent. Price isn’t everything, there is a lot to be said for experience. Try to find someone that has been to the places that you are interested in, or at least has someone in their agency that they can turn to for advice.
Recommendations are always good, and Google again can be your friend when trying to determine how good a particular agency is. But in my opinion you can’t beat word of mouth.
If you choose a travel agent make sure you do some homework and compare prices, travel agents will often match prices that you have found else where.
Make sure that you check the proximity of the hotels that the agent is planning on booking for you. Check that they are in safe location and are close enough to the main part of the town or city you are staying, too much time can be wasted commuting back and forth to your hotel between tours and activities.
Booking your holiday yourself
When organising a holiday yourself, it is important to consider your travelling companion(s) if you have them. There is no point planning an action packed, non stop, whirl wind holiday, if the person you are going with is either not fit enough for it, or is more of a relaxed and laid back person that is looking for periods of rest and relaxation scattered throughout their holiday.
The great thing about organising your holiday yourself is the flexibility that it gives you. When you are travelling and decide to deviate from your original plan it is harder to do if everything has been booked an paid for through your travel agent.
One of the other benefits I have found, is that I can book accommodation and watch it over time, if there are changes in prices I can easily cancel and re-book at cheaper rates if necessary. I can also compare prices across different sites, unlike many travel agents who are forced to go through certain suppliers.
When you are on a group tour, you are restricted to spending predefined amounts of time at each place, whereas when you organise your trip yourself you can stay longer in places that you love and not as long as planned, if you discover you have seen enough.
If you decide that you want to have a go at organising your trip yourself, I will be putting together a whole series of posts on how to go about doing just that.
Whichever way you decide to go, do some research yourself and enjoy the process, the holiday itself is usually over way too quickly, the planning phase can help to add the enjoyment of your eagerly anticipated holiday.