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How do you Get The Best Travel Deal? Check Out These 5 Tips if You Have Not Yet:

(Originally published in 2023. Revised January 2024.)

  1. Be clear and honest…

This goes for both being honest to yourself and for communicating with those you choose to hire, especially regarding important factors like your budget.  The lowest number is NOT always the best deal.  It is reasonable to admit your actual maximum budget, including discretionary cash, to your travel planner.  A professional should expect that you would like a cushion for that impulse-buy pastry every couple of mornings, to visit an unplanned museum, to purchase souvenirs, and/or to sample local cuisine. The goal is to create a strong client relationship, and they truly wish to plan that once-in-a-lifetime trip, that you will rave about to all of your friends!

As they are hoping to earn your loyalty as a long-term customer, they are unlikely to offer you anything far outside of your stated budget, regardless of the overall bargain that may be available.  Wanting to provide the best experience possible, they are unlikely to risk seeming pushy, by offering packages that are higher than your declared price range. 

For example:  Maybe your stated budget is $5k for your group, but you really have $10k set aside for the entirety of the trip.  With this information, a seasoned professional may show you the $5k package, as well as the $8k one with much more to offer, providing you with better overall options!  Placing your restrictions at $5k, however, you may miss out on multiple affordable excursions that could be included. 

The other thing to be honest about are your preferences. 

  • Happier sampling local cuisine at small restaurants than staying at all-inclusive resorts? 
  • One person is into fishing, and the rest are more pleased just enjoying a nice boat trip? 
  • You love shopping, two people in your group are foodies, and only one is an avid hiker? 
  • Does anyone have allergies or other medical considerations? 

Remember the example above? Perhaps the $8k package includes excursions you already wanted to experience. After adding these individually, your $5k package may have cost more than the bigger bundle. Your package may even be customizable to ensure the best trip for everyone!  Let your planner know what you need, so that they may search for the right amenities for your whole group. By being clear and honest, you equip your agent to research the best options for your group and their preferences.

Only with understanding of your needs can they all be met!

2. Hire a professional.

  • Where’s the best local restaurant near your reserved lodging? 
  • When is the best time of day to see the local wildlife? 
  • Which time of year is best for swimming? 
  • What locations offer the best beaches in your budget? 
  • You may be filled with questions, but did you know there are specialists for everything? 

Planning that one big trip for the year?  Visiting a new country for the first time? Full of questions? Time to hire a pro!  What will you get? 

  • Knowledge and expertise (Always nice to be in the best places at the best times!) 
  • Options you cannot find on a booking platform (Many travel suppliers offer packages exclusively through travel agents.) 
  • Peace of Mind (You can trust that your best interests have been considered!)
  • An advocate against the unexpected (Problem with a reservation?  Last-minute, emergency change?  You call the expert and relax while they work out the details for you!) 

I get it… Why do we promote and provide links to booking sites from NotYetTravel.com, while recommending hiring a travel professional for most trips? In my opinion, there are times when each may shine. While I cannot urge you strongly enough to hire an experienced professional for all International trips, it may not be worth their time for a weekend trip within your own country. Additionally, there may be limits to what your travel advisor can do on short notice, or they may not have an agreement with certain suppliers. (Please remember that the only way to know is by asking.) If you have a travel consultant you have appreciated working with previously, consult them first before looking for other options. Typically, they will provide the greatest value! Primarily, I use the booking platforms for last minute decisions and those that would not yield enough commission to be worth employing a pro.

Note:  If you hire a friend who is new to the industry, rather than a seasoned expert, then you may need to be patient.  It is great to support friends’ small businesses! Just remember to be understanding with someone in the early training stages.  That said, even many brand new agents receive plentiful support from their host agencies, mentors, colleagues, and suppliers’ representatives, to ensure they can provide your “dreams come true!”

Trip planning can be overwhelming. Don’t do it alone. Hire an expert!

3. Ask questions. 

This involves overlap with item 1, “be honest.”  For example, if you have a medical condition that involves special equipment, then it is important to be clear with your travel agent and ensure that you have space to plug it all in. Instead of just asking for the same tropical destination your friend just visited, perhaps you should ask about the best beach for your budget and in your timeline? 

Questions are important when choosing who to hire in item 2 also.  You will want to ask about training and experience with the location.  Many travel sellers are specialists.  No one can know everything about every destination in the world! There is so much to learn, that most focus on a location or trip type that brings them the greatest joy and become experts on it.  A cruise specialist is not likely to plan your best Safari, nor visa versa. 

It is also wise to ask about any unusual regulations or requirements, recommended tours, favorite local businesses and more. An unknown keeping you up at night? Ask your travel agent. Have an extra tour you would like to add? Ask if it’s available with your package? Don’t know what to pack? Some of the best advice results from emailing your travel agent.

Don’t stress. Ask a professional for help!

4. Trust your agent.

You asked questions.  You checked references and reviews.  You made a confident decision.  Do not second-guess the expertise.  If you hear a rumor about something that may affect your trip, then ask your agent.  Chances are… they are already aware and collecting information to reveal to you about the matter.  If they are not, they may have excellent access to the most updated details to report back to you.  If changes are needed, your agent is best equipped to provide advice and make adjustments. Do not make assumptions, just ask your expert! 

Remember that professionals build long-term customer relationships and strive to know the best recommendations for you.  They regularly train and upgrade their knowledge to be sure of the best options. As they learn your preferences, their ability to curate the optimal vacation increases.

While the above may seem to be common sense, I often hear tales of disappointed travelers, who cannot understand why they had such a miserable time, on a trip highly praised by someone else. Imagine an example where your aunt and uncle return from a cruise, raving about the fantastic experience. You book an upcoming voyage on the same ship. When you board, you realize that your group is much younger than everyone on board, the activities are not really your style, and none of the food is to your taste either. A brief conversation with your travel agent could have helped you plan around your own unique tastes to have an incredible time at sea. This may seem simple, but the problem is all too frequent.

You carefully selected a travel professional to help you plan a better vacation. Be confident in your choice and in their knowledge!

5.  Be flexible.

(Look at number 1 again.)

Are you able to travel during any month next fall?  Provide your full range of dates in your initial interview with your travel planner, so you can book when demand and prices are lowest, when the wildflowers are most colorful, or during the (unknown to you) local festival.  Happy anywhere with a temperature above or below a certain number?  Need a nice beach anywhere? Maybe all-inclusives are a requirement, but being on the beach is not? Talking with your travel planner about any “wiggle room” you can offer may expand your options and open you up to great deals too! 

Not set on a specific date or location? You may save a lot by expressing this to your travel planner.

*All images in this article created using Canva by NotYetTravel.com, LLC 2023.

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