A recent survey confirmed that 48% of Asia-Pacific consumers still prefer a travel agent for planning their vacation trips. By all means, one should use their services, provided they offer you value. Of course certain VIP / premium vacations are best planned by travel advisors or consultants of repute, simply because they have access to their “insider connections”.
Most of the time, however, I prefer and will advice everyone on going the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) travel route. This is based on my experience and the tons of reports and news I read on the travel industry and also interactions I have with friends working in travel & hospitality sectors.
So here are some of the reasons in favor of DIY travel:-
Best Bang for the Buck. Lets face it. The Internet has made everyone aware of the travel deals and it just takes a couple of searches to bag that airline deal to Europe or a nice stay & dine package at a 5-star hotel, all without breaking the bank. Your travel agent is a middleman and has factored in the overheads when he quotes you the rates. By researching online, you simply eliminate the middleman. Don’t forget that unscrupulous ones will even pass off a below-average hotel (if not downright seedy) just because he gets the best commission there.
Your Travel Agent Doesn’t Tell You Everything. Okay, you have done the research online for the best priced air ticket, hotel deal, and have added the cost of eating, transportation and entry tickets to attractions etc. You have come to a figure of X. Then you come across a full-page ad on a deal that offers you an “all-inclusive package” at a similar rate of X. Naturally, you are inclined to go with the seemingly easier / hassle-free option of travel agency. But, have you read the terms & conditions at the bottom (with asterisks and small fonts)? Is the itinerary similar to yours or better? What is the type of accommodation you will stay in and where is it located? What is the point of staying 30 kms away from the city centre in a 4 or 5 star hotel, if you need to take an expensive taxi ride to see all the attractions? Do they (the agency) charge you extra for say, visa fees, entry tickets to attractions you are not interested in, cancellation charge etc? If you add up all these costs, it no longer appears to be an “attractive deal”.
Customize Your Trip. This year we flew a full-fare airline to Europe and back. Within Europe, we traveled in the train and once in a low cost airline (LCC). At all the cities (we visited 6 of them in 3 countries), we stayed at or near the centre in hotels rated highly by fellow travelers so we could easily walk around to many of the attractions. This also allowed us to get a feel of the local life. Had we traveled everywhere in the agency coach, we would have missed all this exciting stuff.
What You Do is What You Like. We dined where the locals did whether it was at a fancy restaurant or for some delicious street food (the Gyros at Monastiraki Square in Athens is a must-eat). We shopped at places after asking around and got the non-touristy prices! Most importantly, we visited the attractions at our pace and time with no one telling us to hurry up in the Sistine Chapel where we stood awestruck taking in the art. We researched on TripAdvisor, Viator and other sites for excellent guides and booked with the guides that have small groups of 5 to 10 – this way we got the best tour of the attractions at best rates. The fact that I could not have given a better history and culture lesson to my 10-year old than with the guides that we booked online was really the best part.
DIY Travel is Not all Tedious or Boring. This is the single most quoted reason for not going the DIY travel way. But, let me assure you that once you get the hang of it by using the few websites that I mention and link to, you will begin to enjoy it. Moreover, since I keep searching for travel deals, I will curate and post those deals on this site for you. All you have to do is subscribe to my mailing list, read the posts and enjoy those travel deals.
If you have some more reasons in favor of DIY travel (or even otherwise), you are welcome to comment below.