Should I use a Travel Agent as a Solo Traveler? Part 1
Hi all, Susan here from www.BraveWomenTravel.com
I want to talk honestly about why it is so important to use a travel agent, whether you are a solo traveler or travelling with a buddy. For this article, we are going to talk about solo traveling, booking the travel yourself, and not joining in on a group tour.
I’ve mentioned this in other articles, but it’s worth repeating because I hear it a lot. Often gals say to me that they don’t like the ‘herd mentality of group travel’…okay, fair enough. But what does that really mean, ‘herd mentality’ To me that would mean following what everyone else is doing. And what does using a travel agent have to do with ‘herd mentality’
What everyone else is doing?
Let’s stop here and talk about that phrase. ‘following what everyone else is doing’ Really?? But when you get to the country you will do EXACTLY what everyone else is doing, it’s why you’re there, to do the things that tourists do, see the sights, smell the smells. Right? You might think that phrase is cliche, but it’s the cliche for a reason. People want to see the famous spots just like everyone else. So why not travel with a group, enjoy others company, make new friends. Sounds like a win/win to me!
Aww, I don’t want to pay someone
I think what that phrase actually means is ‘I don’t want to pay someone for their expertise’ as in a group tour.
People think they can create a trip that’s better than the pros and save $50. The problem is this. You don’t know where to go, you don’t know what to do. You can research it, you can spend a couple hundred hours delving into the culture and country and you can still miss great spots.
Also, it’s more expensive because you are paying for the hotel room yourself. A decent hotel room costs $100 per night. If there were two of you, you would be sharing that cost, then the room would cost $50 per night. So over 14 nights, the extra alone in a hotel would be $700. Taxi’s are the same thing. The fare price is set. Let’s say it’s $40. You pay half, your travel buddy pays half. If there are 3 of you, even better.
I want to save money and I’ll do it myself
Or maybe the phrase means, ‘I want to save money and I’ll do it myself’ I think it’s most likely a combination of both of those thoughts. I can do it better and in doing so, I’ll save some money! I can hear you saying “I can handle being a female solo traveller”.
Here’s the truth. I thought the same thing many years ago until my trip to the Dominican Republic. It was then that I decided to quit my job and go back to college and get a diploma in Travel & Tourism.
I realized how much hard work was involved and what a benefit it would be to have the knowledge of being taught the correct way to do things. Also, where to get the best travel deals and pay less. I can guarantee you that hotel you booked online, I can get cheaper.
If you think about it, as travel professionals, the hotels, resorts, airlines want to work with us. Hotels want to give us the best deals. They’re not going to give you the best deal, why would they. They rely on Travel Agents worldwide so they take good care of us, and then we pass along the good deals to our clients. Easy peasy!
So you think you’ll save money??
Let’s use that analogy for this article. You want to save money and plan the trip yourself. Got it! Maybe I should rename this article ‘YOU WANT TO SAVE MONEY AND PLAN THE TRIP YOURSELF’!! hahahaha…I’m sorry, I’m laughing hard because doing it yourself is really really expensive and really really hard. Trust me…I know! For many years I did my own travel, just like a lot of you.
I didn’t use a Travel Agent
I looked online, oh, that sounds like a really good price. I checked around, yup, a good price. One year we decided to go to The Dominican Republic. We checked online for a flight. It was $693. In my thinking, I figured the closer to the date, the cheaper the flight? Wrong..dead wrong. We waited and checked again, $743, then up and up and up. I couldn’t believe it. We were still convinced it would come down at the last minute and we would be the winner. Two days before we were supposed to leave the flight was $903.
I promise you that’s the truth. Crap. I just wasted over $200 because I thought I knew what I was doing. I then thought, maybe I should go and see a Travel Agent. We drove over to a gal I knew and trusted and found out that her price was about $40 less but still very high. She explained to me that the closer to the flight date, the more expensive the seat is. Okay, lesson learned.
She then sold us on insurance. Travel Insurance. What a good Travel Agent! I’m going to get into that in another article, as it’s a really important component of travelling. Shirley was able to explain what kind of insurance we needed, she asked the right questions and we bought. We bought a yearly plan because it made sense. I didn’t really understand it when I read it online, but because she was the expert and had been trained on what people need, she was able to explain it to us and I still remember the finer details.
Use a Travel Agent for goodness sake
Here’s another reason to use a Travel Agent. If I had called Shirley when we first decided to go to the Dominican Republic, she would have sold us an entire package. An all-inclusive with the best hotel, flight, and airport transfer. The package would have cost us about $1500 each for the week. $3000 for the two of us. Doing it ourselves the flights alone were $864, the hotel for a week was $900 plus we had to pay for all of our food and get ourselves to and from the airport and there was no one to take care of us had anything gone wrong. We overpaid for the week by at least $1500…just because we didn’t realize how easy it would be using a travel agent.
I realized then that doing the work yourself is not easy, it’s hard. Here’s another thing, why on earth would you want to spend 100 hours looking up stuff, researching, and hopefully finding the best deal when you can go and see your local travel agent, or visit www.bravewomentravel.com and book your holiday having someone else do all the work. Personally, had I really understood this years ago, I would have always gone to a travel expert.
And one more very important piece of this puzzle…when you book online with a company, you pay someone a commission, someone you don’t know, who lives in another city and possibly another country. On the other hand, you have a friend that is a Travel Agent, who relies on that commission. Why would you want to pay someone you don’t know rather than pay someone you do know.
And if you enjoy doing the research, go ahead and do it. When you’re done, call your Travel Agent friend and let them book the travel for you. He or she will be able to tell you if that’s a good deal or not, or see the hidden fees that you missed (which can add up very quickly when they are a daily fee). Your Travel Agent friend may have a better deal for you, or maybe the same resort at a better price. Who’s to say, but isn’t it worth a friendship. Again I say win/win.
Let’s get into what it is like travelling solo as a female and booking your own travel. This is pretty much how it goes, and these are the things you have to think about prior to leaving your home country.
We’ll start at the beginning of when you decided to take this vacation.
You start the research phase and first, you decide on a destination.
Then you figure out what time of year is best and what kind of clothing do you will need.
Are prices high or low where you are going?
What is the transportation like?
How do they treat women?
Do you need to bring special clothing for the temples or mosques?
What kind of food do they eat? Will you be able to handle eating that for 2 weeks? (or whatever the time frame you’re going for)
What is the currency and where should I exchange it?
The list is long and arduous and you’ve just put in 40 hours looking through all of the ‘FREE’ stuff online. (I’ll get back to that later, I promise)
Next, you start looking at what to do in destination and should you leave this city and go to another city?
And how will you get there?
Okay, now you’ve put in another 40 hours.
You still haven’t booked anything but you’re getting to know your destination. Good!
Now it’s time to book…you go online to the ‘FREE’ sites, and start comparing this airline with another airline.
You look at companies that offer hotel and excursion rates and now you’ve spent yet another (I know I sound repetitive) 40 hours.
OMG! I can hear you say ‘this is so confusing’
You want to make sure you’ve got the best price in the best area with the best excursions. But how do you really know? The pictures all look fantastic (they lie lie lie) They say they are on the beach (lie lie lie) then you read the reviews and 10 people say, it’s a 10 min car ride to the beach!
You take your chance and book with an airline you know and is in your city and flies to your destination (sounds simple right)
When you book your first 4 nights in the first city you are arriving in. Hopefully, 4 nights is not too long and you’ve got lots to do.
You’re sure everything will just fall into place and the 2 weeks will just flow and you’ll have the best time of your life. That’s what we all want, right!
The day comes for your flight. You arrive at your airport on time and everything goes smoothly. (It’s your country so you know the rules, you’ve obeyed them all your life and they’re easy)
You sit back on the aircraft and get to your final destination.
Let’s stop here and we’ll pick up the rest of the article ‘Why I should have used a Travel Agent as a Solo Traveller – Part 2’