Those of us who have spent most of our post-internet time booking our own flights and hotels online tend to be kind of smug about it. “Why pay some agency to plan my trip when I’ve got access to the same info they have?” the logic goes. Why, when I can do it all from my comfy sofa on a tablet, do I need to put my vacation in someone else’s hands?
To a point, that’s correct. But there are three cases where that argument breaks down: 1) when there’s hidden pricing at play you don’t normally see; 2) when you want to go beyond normal; 3) when the itinerary is complicated. Then it can be best to let an expert arrange your travels.
Opaque Pricing and Package Deals
Sometimes you can search a site like Trivago and think you’re seeing all the best deals out there from every hotel. After all, they’re pulling prices from 30 or more sites at a time, so they must show the best deal, right? Not necessarily. You already know about opaque pricing if you’ve booked with Hotwire, LuxuryLink, or Jetsetter, but that’s just the consumer-facing side. Those sites are selling unsold inventory. Before any of that happens, however, big tour companies and travel agencies are making side deals for their customers, booking blocks of rooms at a negotiated rate to resell in a package.
That means if you pull up a Cancun 5-star resort, you may see a rate of $400 per night for two. But then if you look up a package deal somewhere and subtract out the lowest airfare you can find, the room cost will be more like $250 per night for two. In many cases this basically makes the airfare free. This is especially true if you’re coming from the UK and are booking a package holiday from there. When I pulled up the options for three weeks from now, this one was £1310 per person for a one-week all-inclusive vacation at a Riu resort with flights from London Gatwick. No wonder you hear so many Brits in Cancun! That includes transfers and all the food and drink you can consume in a week’s time. They also fly from nine other UK airports.
There are similar deals from other countries throughout Europe and of course from many cities in the USA as well. Sometimes the flights are on some charter airline you’ve never heard of, but it’s a direct flight instead of going through a hub. If you pull up a calculator app and do the math, it’s almost impossible to duplicate the prices they’re offering by booking it yourself. They’ve bought in bulk to get a much better deal. Plus if something goes wrong or you didn’t get the kind of room you were promised, you’ve got a company to call for help.
Going for a Special Experience
If you are trying to really set up a special experience rather than an average one, often you need a true expert to make that happen. Or to arrange that shaman ceremony in the mountains or an after-hours visit to Chichen Itza. If you’re booking with the right specialist, that person or company can make it happen. If you’re trying to surprise a loved one or create an experience you haven’t already seen on your friends’ Facebook feeds 50 times, getting an expert’s help is the way to go. Besides, they already know what it’s going to take you 20 hours of research to find out. What’s your time worth?
Help With a Complicated Itinerary
As we mentioned in this post about visiting multiple countries in South America, it can get a bit tricky to navigate connections, border crossings, and visas for a batch of different places. Multiply the personal dynamics that play into one of those “multi-generational vacations” we keep hearing about and it can be a recipe for a family feud instead of family bliss.
Let a third party make all the arrangements and things will almost surely go much more smoothly, with a contact to make things right if they don’t. A specialist can find the perfect villa or hotel in each spot, get the fridges stocked, arrange the best guides, and cater to any special needs—with every possible transfer set up in advance. If you’re facing the daunting task of getting Machu Picchu tickets, Peru Rail tickets, and all transfers for a group of people—and that’s just one day of the trip—wouldn’t it take a big weight off your shoulders to let someone else mind the details? Sure, you can do it all online yourself, but that doesn’t mean you should…