I feel there is no simple answer to the question but more like helpful guide lines.
Have you travelled overseas before?
If you answered ‘no’ I would suggest for your first holiday you book through a travel agent. Your travel agent will be able to give you piece of mind and make sure you have everything organised in regards to transfers, travel insurance, visas if applicable, etc and any helpful hints about the countries you are travelling to.
Does the country you are travelling to require visas and have you obtained a visa before?
I had travelled through Thailand, Europe and the South Pacific before I was required to obtain a visa. Obviously I had done some travelling but I still didn’t know anything in regards to visas. Vietnam, Cambodia, finishing in Thailand was the trip I booked that required visas for Vietnam and Cambodia and due to the fact I thought I better go through an agent. Also I was travelling with a friend who had never been overseas before and I knew this would give her piece of mind too. I don’t regret this decision at all but in hindsight when travelling to the Cambodian border a visa could be purchased, which was cheaper than we paid in Australia. This was not the case for Vietnam. The exposure to the visa process through our travel agent was a great learning curve and something I now feel much more confident about doing myself.
Are you booking RTW (round the world) flights?
If you are contemplating booking RTW flights a travel agent may be able to give you a better deal. I was planning on booking our year long trip myself but the prices STA Travel could give me with the layby option won hands down. Our flights from Aus to Santiago to Lima, then NY via Iceland to London and finally Bali back to Aus were under $3000 AUD each. With the layby option we only paid $129 AUD, which locked in the prices of our flight and included an International Teacher Card, which helped keep our flights cheap I believe. Also included in our flights was a multiflex pass which has given us the option of changing flight dates at no extra cost. This was a huge selling point because booking your flights early keeps the prices down but going for a year it makes it hard to book all the flights when it could be months between and flights are only available nine months before hand. Now with all our flights booked close together we can easily push them back with our multiflex pass. There may be other (hidden) costs involved in doing so and I have no doubt I will blog about that too when it comes around.
Overall the price STA Travel could offer us was miles cheaper than anything I could find myself and hence we booked with them and my travel agent Sarah has been a god send.
Do you like to plan or would you prefer someone else to?
If you are anything like me I LOVE to plan and find a great bargain. Due to this slight obsession I can think of nothing better than planning a cheap holiday. For that reason many of my smaller holidays, close to Aus, such as Bali, Lombok and New Zealand I have booked myself. The occasional bigger holiday such as the one to Scandinavia I also booked myself with no issues what so ever.
To begin with I would always find the cheapest flights I could and a cheap place to stay through either Scoopon or at least a special from a hotel. I would then get in contact with a travel agent and supply them with the dates of my flights and the place I was looking to stay at. It never seemed to be any cheaper and quite often it was more expensive. This I believe was due to the fact often I would choose a different airline there and back depending who was offering the cheapest flight and travel agents don’t seem to do that they stick with the same airline for both legs.
To find the cheapest flights and a good hotel special it would often take hours, hours which I enjoyed, but I understand this is not the case for most people. If you hate the thought of searching the internet to find a cheap deal I suggest a travel agent is for you. If you are like me though and love the thought of getting the ultimate holiday i.e. Lombok for 7 nights in our own private villa, with our own pool, breakfast included for $800 AUD which includes flights, accommodation and travel insurance than doing it yourself is for you.
90% of my holidays have been cheaper when I have booked them myself. The exception to this rule seems to be with the RTW flights that STA Travel could provide. Therefore it really comes down to whether you can be bothered booking your own holiday and also investigating travel agent prices, to see what the best deal is, or whether you just want to let the agent do it.
Hope the info has helped and any comments are welcomed.
Thanks – LJO