While travelling through Mexico earlier this year with Contiki, I met this twenty-something girl from Australia on our tour. She had arrived late on the first day of the tour, which meant she had missed out on our first full day of the tour exploring Teotihuacan. She was flustered and upset to say the least. After talking to her I found out that she had been having some bad luck with her travels so far.
In fact, it was all going horribly wrong!
To begin with, the day before she left Australia to travel to South America, she had asked her travel agent where her first night accommodation in Peru was. As it turns out, she didn’t have any and it was less than 48 hours until her arrival! She was lucky enough to squeeze into a hostel in Lima. From Peru she was flying up to Mexico, where she met us. Her flight had been booked for a later time, which is why she had missed the first day of the tour.
As we went further into our trip, she came across various other problems with her itinerary.
Her flight leaving Mexico was booked for the day before our Mexico tour ended – meaning that she would miss out on our optional activities day (one of the best days on the tour) as well as our last night out together as a group in Cancun. Our tour was only six days long and she was missing out on three of those days! Furthermore, she would be arriving for her next tour through Brazil and Argentina late again, and would have to find her own way to meet her tour group at the next town. Her itinerary was taking her all over the place – from South America up to North America, back down to South America…where next?! It was a complete mess.
But who is at fault here?
Was it the travel agent’s fault for putting together an itinerary that took her on a ridiculous route, where each tour overlapped with another? Or was it the girl’s fault for not reading over and making changes to the document properly and just going with whatever came her way?
I guess it was bad luck for her, as she had gone through a travel agent so that she did not have to worry about organising every detail of her holiday. Yet, it had definitely backfired for her!
So this leads me to the question…
Can you really trust your travel agent?
For the most part, I believe that travel agents work with you to give you the best holiday they can. Personally, I have never had any problems when booking though travel agents – I tend to book certain parts of my trip through them (especially flights) and other parts myself (accommodation).
To ensure that you don’t have the same experiences as the girl mentioned above, here are 6 tips to get your dream holiday when booking through a travel agent!
1. CHOOSE YOUR TRAVEL AGENT WISELY
Look up companies online and read reviews on how well they perform, or go through recommendations from friends. It’s good to choose an agent who has actually travelled to the region that you are going to – that way they have firsthand experience with the country. It is important to choose your travel agent wisely. After all, you’re likely to be spending big bucks on your holiday – so go through someone you can trust and is capable of doing a great job.
2. DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH
With the incredible amount of travel blogs, websites, forums and travel guides out there – it’s hard NOT to research where you want to travel to. Research, research, research your destination so you know where you want to go, how long to stay for and what you want to see. Look up the average prices for flights, tours, hotels, cruises etc.
3. GET THE BEST DEAL
After you’ve done your research, you should have a pretty good idea of what your budget is, so it’s time to get the best deals. Although travel agents may advertise that they have the best deals, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t find it cheaper elsewhere. Compare prices with competitors. When booking our flight home from Rio to Melbourne (via Dubai and KL) we were quoted about $1700 for the one way flight, however after a quick look online we found it through a competitor for only $1100 – it makes a huge difference! Most travel agents have a price match guarantee, it’s a competitive business – embrace it! For more news on discounts and special deals coming up, subscribe to the travel agents newsletter.
4. CHOP AND CHANGE IT
So you’ve got an itinerary set out, but this doesn’t mean that it’s 100% complete. Just because something has been put onto the document, it doesn’t mean that you have to go with it. Remember that most travel agents are getting paid commission for what they are selling you – so they may want to try to up sell you whatever they can. Feel free to chop and change whatever you like, and don’t be forced into anything that you don’t want to do. After all, it is YOUR trip – so never settle for anything less than perfect!
5. DOUBLE, TRIPLE, QUADRUPLE CHECK IT
Now your dream trip is coming along great, however it’s time to check over every little detail on that document, and I mean everything! Check all of the finer details from the dates, flight destinations, accommodation, visa requirements, reciprocity fees, even the terms and conditions…I know, yuck! It’s one of those tedious and time-consuming tasks but this stage is incredibly important, as evidenced by the story above.
6. GET TRAVEL INSURANCE
This is your back-up plan. I know many travellers choose not to go with travel insurance, but let’s face it – shit happens sometimes! Things can go wrong no matter how thorough and thought out your itinerary and plans are. From flight cancellations, lost luggage, medical emergencies, political unrest and so on – it’s better to protect yourself just in case something happens so you’re not left there stranded and out-of-pocket. Also note; if you have a problem overseas, you can call your travel agent back home and they can organize emergency flights, accommodation and travel plans for you. Most agencies have a 24-hour emergency assist hotline.
These tips may seem simple and obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people make these mistakes and end up having problems overseas – don’t be one of them!
So what’s your opinion? Do you prefer booking through travel agents or by yourself? Have your trips been successful or have you had some horror stories?
Share your thoughts and stories in the comment section below!