"" Writer's Wanderings: Travel Agent or DIY?

Monday, April 02, 2018

Travel Agent or DIY?

Our first big trip out of the country for leisure travel was to Australia. Our son was an exchange student there and of course our excuse was that we wanted to check up on him. He had a ten day holiday break in his time there and it was a perfect opportunity to see where he was going to school and to give him the chance to see a little more of the country while he was there.

My husband found a travel agent in California who specialized in trips to Australia and we began to lay out a plan for our time there. It worked out wonderfully for us since we had no idea of what to see and how much we could see in the short time we would have there. The agent made suggestions and gave us a list of things to chose from. We did our homework and got back to him listing the things that we were most interested in.

Within a few days, the itinerary was prepared and we made a down payment. The agent went about making all the travel arrangements including airfare, hotels and rental cars. We eventually added on a three day stay in Hawaii to lessen the effects of jet lag which we may have arranged ourselves.

Final payment made, bags packed and after our three day stay in Hawaii, we met our son at the Cairns airport and began our adventure. It went very smoothly until we had one of the proprietors of a place where we stayed suggest that we make sure our reservations for a stay on one of the outer islands off the east coast was solid. Because it was a school holiday for everyone not just college kids, there might be a problem.

Bob called ahead and found out that the reservation had indeed been messed up. We had no place to stay. With the difference in time zones, we had to wait a bit before we could contact the travel agency (okay, this was before the days of texting and smartphones). When we explained the problem, the agent said he would take care of it. We ended up with a change in itinerary that got us an upgrade to a more expensive resort at no extra charge. I don't know who ate the extra charges but we had a wonderful time and there was only a small hiccup in our travel. We had to take a "ferry" that was really just a power boat that we boarded by putting suitcases on our heads and wading out to it. Great memory!

So, my advice is if you are not used to making all your own travel arrangements you might want to consider a travel agent. They used to make all their money from commissions but now may charge you a fee for planning an itinerary. If you book your trip through them, often the planning fee is refunded. Do you homework though.

  • Check to see if they are listed with the American Society of Travel Agents. To be a member the agent must meet certain ethical standards. 
  • Meet them and/or speak with them to see if they seem to understand you and your interests in your travel destination.
  • Ask for references if you are planning to use them for all the planning and the reservations.
  • Be sure you know what you want the agent to handle and what you will do on your own.
  • Research the destination so you have some idea of what you are interested in before you make plans with an agent. Be open to suggestions. An agent may have some suggestions of things to do and see that you didn't find. 
If you would like to DIY it, you might want to ask an agent to make an itinerary for you to follow. There will probably be a charge for that as it would entail some planning time for the agent but you might find a more efficient outline of travel time by doing so.

Or, you could just DIY it all the way which requires a lot of time and planning on your part which is okay if you happen to be retired and have the time. Also, keep in mind that if something goes wrong, you are the only one responsible to fix it.

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