Sometimes sitting down and planning out a three-week holiday blow by blow is the last thing you want to do. In this situation, it can be a good idea to seek professional advice to assist with your planning.
In some cases, like a family holiday to Phuket, the easiest way to approach this is simply to go to a bricks and mortar travel agent. They may not suit you up with the most imaginative package, but they’ll arrange flights and accommodation. In many cases this is the easiest, though often not the cheapest, approach.
All travel agents are not born equal, and a good agent is worth their weight in gold. In particular, as they will be working on a commission basis (from the hotels, airlines and so on), ask if they’ve ever been to the destination they’re advising you on. An advantage of using a real versus online agent (see below) is that you’re dealing with a person rather than a website, so you’ll have a lot more flexibility. Want to stay in a certain hotel and have the afternoon sailing activity swapped for a massage? Ask for it. You can’t ask and negotiate so easily with a website.
A second approach is to book your holiday over the internet yourself. This is essentially the same process as going to a travel agent, but you’ll (probably) save some money and have a wider choice of options as a bricks and mortar travel agent may only work with a limited range of providers. What you lose for the ease on your wallet is some flexibility and the above-mentioned ability to negotiate a better deal for yourself. If you don’t need the flexibility and know exactly what you want, this can be a very smart approach for a simple holiday. As with the travel agent, websites (including Travelfish) may work on a commission basis with many suppliers, so keep that in mind.
For more in-depth planning and detailed questions and answers, engaging professional travel planning services can be a third option. The upside of this is you’ll generally be getting a more experienced level of advice than a normal travel agent, but a downside is that there is generally still a bit of effort required from you. Why? A good planner should have plenty of questions for you to answer to help them advise you on a trip that will be a good fit for you.
If you’re paying for advice, be sure to grill the provider regarding their experience in and knowledge of the region, along with any financial arrangements they have with suppliers. Are they making a commission on places they’re suggesting to you? If so, this should be disclosed.
A second downside is that this is the most upfront expensive means of planning a trip—we charge A$100 per hour for this, for example, though others charge considerably more. Good advice will, in the scheme of things, more than save you an equal amount, but this style of planning is not for everyone. Also, don’t hesitate to ask hard questions of the planner to determine if they are the right planner for you.
Planning well is an integral part of getting the most out of your trip. Be it picking the right backpack, the right vaccinations or the right country, the simple decisions are often the most important.