Is this a good travel deal? How to decide, lucky you still have a travel agent to help you through the minefield of choices.
A bargain basement deal on a beach vacation may not be such a good price if you like activities or sightseeing.
It all depends on what you like to do, don’t just go with rock-bottom prices, use a travel agent’s vast experience and resources.
1. Do a bit of in-depth thinking (both personal and trip-oriented) before planning to visit the travel agent and book your vacation, it will save both you and the agent a huge amount of time if you have a good idea of what you want before the booking process begins.
2. How active of a vacation do you want to have? Are you the type who wants to just tan on a beach, or do you want to enjoy a variety of different activities such as sightseeing, mixing with the locals or some sort of happy medium of the two?
3. Who is going with you? Consider you’re traveling companions. What are their interests, preferences, and energy levels? Do their vacation expectations match up with yours?
4. How much do you want to spend? In what areas do you want to splash out, and which areas are you willing to cut back on?
5. Will you be spending most of your time outdoors? How important is it to you to have perfect weather for sunbathing or doesn’t the weather matter since you will be pre occupied exploring museums and art galleries inside?
6. How long do you want to be away? Are you able to tailor your budget and interests to fit your time requirement?
Once you have answers to these questions, you should have a good idea of what type of vacation you’re planning, from which accommodations type is right for you to how lazy or active your itinerary should be. Let your answers inform how you plan the rest of your trip, particularly in determining the best value for each travel component.
7. Airfare is the most rigid travel area, as far as measuring value goes. You’ll be subject to factors beyond your control, such as seasonality, supply and demand, and airline fees; but there are a few areas your travel agent can tweak to get the best value for your travel dollars. The best advice is to start early to get the best sense of prices, number of daily flights, and airlines that offer routes to your destination. If your travel dates aren’t set in stone, you may take advantage of the many flexible-date search tools travel agents have to see when prices are lowest. You can decide if you want a direct flight (if available) or are willing to connect. Oftentimes connecting flights are cheaper, although you will add more time to your journey and risk the chance of getting waylaid if there are any delays or cancellations. There are other factors a travel agent will help in the decision process by calculating all applicable baggage, meal, and other fees that airlines charge to figure out what your final ticket cost will be, as well as compare true costs across competitor airlines to find the best value for your trip.
8. Accommodation choices, there are so many choices here—all-inclusive resorts, no-frills motels, multi-star hotel properties, bed and breakfasts, inns, vacation rentals, home exchanges—which is right for you? Accommodations tend to take up a big chunk of your budget, so your travel agent will focus first on the style of property you’d like. If you like solitude, you may gravitate more toward hotels or vacation rentals. If you like a social atmosphere, an all-inclusive resort (particularly those with group activities and entertainment options) or a B&B might be a good fit.
Once you’ve narrowed down your accommodation type and started researching properties, the per-night price can be calculated and what exactly is included. Does the property have daily breakfast, parking, and Internet paid for with the nightly rate? Does it have amenities you’ll take advantage of, such as a pool, a fitness center, laundry facilities, and the like? Is it located close to the action (e.g., a downtown city hotel) or is it more secluded? Do the check-in and check-out times work with your schedule? Don’t necessarily jump at the lowest price—for just a few dollars more, there may be something that includes a host of extras that match your tastes.
9. Rental cars, like airfares, are a bit more rigid. Your price will be subject to which models of cars are available, the demand for the model you want to book, and local taxes and fees.
When renting a car, consideration is dependent on whether it makes more sense to rent from an airport or off-airport location. Oftentimes you can snag a better price by going off-airport, but what you save in dollars may get spent in time, by foregoing the convenience of the airport pickup and drop-off. Factors such as fuel efficiency, vehicle inside space and add-on possibilities (e.g., GPS devices, roadside assistance services, and more).
10. Vacation packages, similar benchmarks can be used to those suggested in the airfare and hotel sections when researching vacation package bundles. Airfare-and-hotel packages can be a great way to save, but your travel agent will always make sure the properties included fit what you’re looking for. They will do a cost-analysis breakdown, checking the vacation package price and offerings to the same components (airfare, hotel, car, etc.) a la carte to see if you’ll get a better deal by bundling or by purchasing each trip item separately.
11. Cruising even for the veteran cruiser or the newbie contemplating taking a cruise for the first time, means there’s a lot to consider before booking your next vacation. Beyond price, there are the ports of call, trip duration, cabin styles, on-ship atmosphere, food options, and more to think about. This is an area where an experienced travel agent will advise you on best cruise line for your personality and budget.