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Of course I know you can walk into a travel agent, have your entire trip booked in under an hour, walk out with a massive wad of receipts and paperwork in your hand, and head straight to your local for a nice relaxed beer knowing everything has been organised for you.
And do you really feel happy with someone else planning a dream trip for you?
Travel agencies work on commission. They receive a cut of everything you spend, which means…they will only recommend their partner companies.
And of course they will try to push the companies that pay a higher commission.
But it’s not just that you may pay a little more, it’s that your options are immediately limited to the companies affiliated with that particular agent.
This is not to say that the airlines, hotels or tour companies that are being offered are not good. They probably are. But it may not be the best product for what you want.
That’s the first reason.
The second reason is: it is so much more satisfying.
One of my closest friends recently returned from an amazing trip to New Zealand and she organised the entire trip herself. She has two kids and a husband.
This is the first time my friend has ever done this…and now there’s no turning back!
She has a taste for how much you can tweak your trip if you organise the entire thing yourself and she has already begun arranging a tailor made month in Croatia!
Admittedly, planning a dream trip on your own does take a lot more of your time. But it is definitely worth it.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when you are organising your own trip:
Do loads of it: research tour companies, airlines, accommodation, destinations…the lot!
Trip Advisor is a travel review site and is great for researching and reading what other travellers have to say about accomodation and tour companies. I have found it especially useful for finding accommodation and some of the best places I’ve stayed in were found there.
Check prices of flights on several the flight search engines: Expedia; Kayak; Skyscanner; and Momondo are all good.
Having a little flexibility with your dates could help you find a better/cheaper flight and you can sometimes get a good deal by purchasing directly through an airline.
I saved $1000 on my return flights to Europe earlier this year by doing some painstaking research and refusing to accept that the cheapest flight I could get was going to cost $2700!! Needless to say, the savings was worth the extra research!
To save money on flights use budget airlines when you can, but keep in mind that what you save in dollars may be cancelled out by the frustration of delays, flight changes, and cancellations that budget airlines are notorious for.
(Note: I fly budget airlines regularly and have had very few of these things happen. A couple of delays and only ever ONE cancellation. Ironically most of my bad luck with flights has been with the non-budget airlines – go figure!)
And yes, you absolutely do need it. I am a firm believer in the old mantra:
If you can’t afford travel insurance then you can’t afford to travel.
An acquaintance of mine will be paying off close to $200,000 worth of medical expenses incurred after a rock climbing accident in the USA, because he neglected to buy travel insurance. Not fun.
It is easy to overlook travel insurance when you are organising your own trip. I have got into the habit of booking my insurance right after I book my flights so it’s all done and I don’t have to think about it again.
Make sure you read the fine print and ensure that any adventure activities (rock climbing, skiing etc) or any expensive equipment (cameras, laptops etc) are completely covered under the policy you choose.