How to be your own travel agent

Planning an overseas holiday is one of the most exciting things you can do! Travel is so good for your mind, body and spirit and once you start it’s so hard to stop.

photographer-407068_1280I’ve got the travel bug big time and I think I always will! I love planning trips and dreaming up my next holiday. But travelling can also be pretty overwhelming and daunting especially making the travel arrangements, planning and organising. I prefer to bypass the travel agent and book everything myself. So I’ve put together a list of tips to help you go solo and be your own travel agent.

Most of my overseas trips have been booked well in advance because I need to be pretty organised when it comes to travel, managing finances, work schedules and having time off. I usually book the return ticket in advance and then work out the internal travel between then and when I depart. One day I will have the freedom to book spontaneous holidays but until then it’s all about planning.

My partner and I are off on a nine-week South America and Cuba adventure in July so I thought I’d share my top tips for planning your own overseas adventure:

1. Research, research and research. Seriously start researching as soon as you book your holiday. Actually starting researching NOW and when you find a place you want to visit continue to research. Borrow some travel books or pamphlets from friends and family, go crazy on google, check travel websites and news regularly and subscribe to some travel blogs. Make notes, save links, read and research!

2. Talk to others who have travelled to where you are going. You can learn so much from talking to people or reading travel blogs about people’s experiences. I love listening to how other people have done things and their thoughts and tips. It doesn’t mean I always take their advice because everyone has different tastes and ways of doing things. But talking to people gives you ideas, inspiration and insights that you might not have thought about before. Don’t forget to ask questions too. People love to talk about their travel stories and experiences so just ask or leave a comment on a blog post that interests you.

Sunset on Kata Beach, Phuket, Thailand, 2013.

Sunset on Kata Beach, Phuket, Thailand, 2013.

3. Tripadvisor – I love tripadvisor! It’s a really good way to find out different restaurants, accommodation and activities are available in the area you are travelling to. In saying that, give yourself some time to explore and stumble upon things when you arrive at your location. Being spontaneous, exploring and discovering places is usually half the fun and sometimes some of the best places aren’t online. It’s the local, dodgy looking places where you will usually have the most fun! Just don’t go down a dark alley by yourself to try and seek out adventure because you can find it without risking your life.

4. Read reviews. I don’t take all the reviews that I read on board because everyone has different preferences and expectations. You can often tell the negative Nancy types that will never be happy, even if they were on a tropical island, drinking cocktails with Ryan Gosling or Channing Tatum massaging their feet. But reading reviews is a really good way to get a general feel of a place and things to do and see.

Airbnb apartment that my sister and I stayed in when we were in NYC.

Airbnb apartment that my sister and I stayed in when we were in NYC.

5. Book your accommodation using websites like Airbnb and Hostelworld. I love Airbnb so much and haven’t had a bad experience using the service. My sister and I stayed in a really cool apartment in the Upper East Side, NYC. We felt like real New Yorkers and the price was great. Just do your research and trust your judgement. If something goes wrong then at least it’s a story to tell. I’ve recently used Hostelworld to book some of our accommodation for our upcoming South America adventure and I love it too. You can find some really, really cool places on Airbnb for really good prices and hostel world is easy to book cheap, decent hostels. We’ve also scored a really cool apartment in Buenos Aires using Airbnb. It looks pretty amazing and is in a really good location.

6. Make comparisons. Travelling is one of the few times when it’s good to compare. Collect prices, options and information from three or four different hotels or carrier airlines before making any decisions. Compare prices, pros, cons and reviews. You might find cheaper options on different websites and sales do come up so you’ll know what’s cheap and what’s expensive if you have something to compare it with. Once you’re happy with your decision go for it! The earlier you book the cheaper you’ll usually pay for flights and accommodation. Keep your eye out for early bird deals.

7. Make sure you have some free time. Don’t book every moment of your trip because you never know what you’ll discover on your adventure. You might find a place that you fall in love with and you want to stay an extra day or two. If you book everything back to back then there’s no way you will be able to do that and if you do you’ll probably lose some money. If it’s only a little then I’m sure you can live with that but it’s best just to allow yourself some flexibility. We’ve got one week on our trip where we haven’t made any plans at all. We’ll be in Peru and we just need to be in La Paz by a certain date to fly to Buenos Aires. We’ve also given ourselves a certain amount of time in different places but haven’t booked every details of what we’re doing. So many hotels and hostels offer tours and services to help you and there might be days where you just want to do nothing except hang out on the beach sipping cocktail and soaking up the sun. I’m sure I’ll be having a few of those days in Brazil very soon…

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Do you prefer to book with a travel agent or do you book your own holidays too? If you have any questions I’m happy to answer.

Muchos Gracias for reading beautiful people xx