Summer is quickly approaching, and it is one of the busiest travel times of the year, because families with children travel when their children are not in school. So should you book your trip through a travel agent, or should you be your own travel agent?
Being your own travel agent will depend on the type of trip you are taking. About 20 years ago, my husband and I used a travel agent to book trips to places like Las Vegas or Reno. With a little research, I could actually get lower prices for the same services by doing it myself. I have not only booked trips for myself but for many friends and family also.
If I were traveling for business and time was of the essence, a travel agent’s service would be beneficial. If you are short of time or just do not want to do it yourself, a travel agent will take the burden off your shoulders. You may think a travel agent will prevent problem or issues on your trip-that is not necessarily true. I have had more issues when a travel agent made the arrangement than when I made them myself.
The only thing a travel agent may be able to save you money on is accommodations. They buy in bulk and sell to individuals. This means they get a group rate for the rooms, and mark up the price and are still able to sell to the consumer at a bit of a discount. Years ago utilizing the services of a travel agent was really the only way to get any type of discounts. However with the age of the internet, consumers can find the same deals through sites like Priceline, Expedia and many others. They purchase the same way travel agents do. A travel agent may use those sites, but they will not divulge this to you.
Travel agents can put a “package” together. What they do not tell you is, you will not be by yourself, you will be with a group of people excursions and tours. You may or may not save money in this manner, but I can tell you how you can.
I have been planning trips for over twenty years including short 3 or 4 day trips to 2 week road trips. I manage to schedule a lot more than a travel agent does and for an amazingly lower price. How do I do it? First and foremost I plan ahead. Do not do spur of the moment trips. If you do it will cost you a lot more. Decide where and when you want to go. Then I employ my travel agency to help me out, that would be my computer and the internet. With all of the information available on-line these days I can find any information I need on just about everything.
The first step in saving money on a first rate trip is by purchasing the Entertainment Book. If you are not familiar with Entertainment Books visit http://www.entertainment.com . This company has coupon books for around $20.00 each (sometimes less). They have them for every major city in the United States and Canada. They are available digitally (including for your phone). The coupons in this book include deep discounts on hotels, airfare, rental cars, food, events, shopping, dining and much more. I think this is a must for vacationers.
A few years ago my husband and I decided we wanted to go to Hawaii. Neither of us had been there before. Our target date was to leave Oklahoma at the end of May and we wanted to make it a 10 day trip.
The first order of business was to nail down an airline. The less expensive flights are those booked at least 21 days in advance, include a layover and are early morning flights.
The flight is booked now time to find a hotel and a rental vehicle. Call the hotel directly for information on things such as free WiFi, mandatory valet parking, regular parking fees, resort fees and other items which may not be included in the price of the room. I did not ask that question once on a trip to New Orleans and ended up with about $100.00 in fees for mandatory valet parking.
If you don’t know what activities or entertainment is available in the city you are going to, just a couple of clicks on the computer and you will have all the information you need. Most cities can be found by simply doing a search on that city. When the list pops up, choose the “official” website of that city. There will be a fairly comprehensive list of things to see and do while there.
Now, back to our trip to Hawaii. My husband and I did our entire 10 day trip for about $4,200.00. This included air-fare, rental car, hotel, activities and shopping. We hit all of the major attractions such as The Hawaiian Cultural Center, Pearl Harbor, Dole Pineapple Plantation, snorkeling at Hanama Bay, Waimea Falls, a Luau, a dinner cruise, two dinner shows, dinner at a 5 star restaurant (twice), all of our other meals, a submarine cruise, a trip to Sunset Beach and we also did all of our Christmas shopping for the entire family (16 people) as well as for ourselves. Pretty good don’t you think. How did I do it for such a low price-COUPONS AND DISCOUNTS!
There are other ways to save money with membership in A.A.R.P, AAA, military discounts and many others. So often people are naysayers when they hear people say they save so much money on this or that. It is possible if you spend just a little time and you do not mind using coupons and asking for discounts. In our current economy you may feel as if a vacation of any type just isn’t possible. It can be done. I have done it many times. If I can do it, so can you. Make your vacation a memorable one because of the things you got to do, not because of the money you spent doing it.