If slow travel is your style, you should be your own travel agent.
I have nothing against travel agents. I have used them and I’m sure I will again.
They have their place. They particularly come into their own when planning & booking a very complex itinerary. They may also offer great deals that I can’t find on my own, but not always!
Now, you might be a little more experienced at the travel game than me, so take what you like & leave the rest of my advice. Granted my trip booking record is less than a handful at this point so you might have better tips. I really wanted to explore with you, the why more than the how to in this post. I’m adding ‘Travel’ as a category to my blog, not because of my expertise but because wanting to travel more is largely what is fueling my desire to simplify my lifestyle.
I’ve looked at stacks of guided tours. I researched them for each country we have visited…BUT…I never booked them.
Every time I look at doing a tour, my anxiety kicks into overdrive.
On the plus side tours take the organising out of it so you’d think that would counter my worry sufficiently, but no…every time I look at a tour brochure:
- I start to think about all the strangers that might be nice but I just struggle these days with groups of people I don’t know
- I start to notice the amount of flights, bus rides, train trips etc…lots of transfers between places when I suffer terribly from motion sickness makes me nervous just thinking about it
- I start to think about the fact that racing through lots of destinations in a short amount of time means lots of check ins and outs at different hotels
- I start to think about all the meals that I might not be able to eat. Travelling with food intolerances is less disastrous if I have more control of where, when & what we eat
- Most of all I think about how much we’ll miss out on seeing & experiencing at each destination. Just skimming the surface of a place before jetting off to the next.
Neurotic control freak? Just a little!
So, for the most part I plan and book our trips. Why?
- I enjoy the research
- I know us & what we like better than any travel agent will
- I can maximise length of time we have on leave, so if it is 13 days then I can use all 13. Tours are often set lengths, like 7, 10 days etc.
- I can allow 3 to 4 days or more per location instead of the common 24 to 48 hours. We’d both rather go to fewer places but for longer so we can dive deeper and get a more local feel
- I am much more likely to stick to our budget & not get swayed by extras
- I’ve found booking directly with hotels is often cheapest & they are most likely going to honour their own bookings over anything else
- I can book & pay for the trip over an extended amount of time, generally longer than the terms an agent can offer
- I can play several booking sites off against each other by looking at the same criteria. This may include lots of apps & more browser windows open than practicable!
- I can set alerts for search criteria and book each part of the trip when it’s at it’s best price
- I can mix & match hotels with airbnb or even house sitting (caveat: haven’t tried the latter but the possibility is easy)
- We can go just where we want and not anywhere that doesn’t sing to us
- We can alternate between busier days and chilled out days doing not a great deal and still take in the main sights
- We can choose transportation options that aren’t necessarily the fastest but may be more environmentally friendly and offer better scenery. (Next trip we are taking the train between Kuala Lumpur & Penang instead of flying like we did last time).
I may end up regretting my choice to eschew travel agents at some point if something goes wrong. I doubt it though, because our attitude is one of enjoying the experience no matter what happens. We always end up learning more about ourselves along the way.
In case you were wondering these are my current favourite planning & booking tools (heads up, it is a bit Aussie centric, but that’s all I can offer at this point). Most of this is available on Android. I’m an apple fan girl…don’t hold it against me. 🙂 Oh, and I do not get anything out of recommending these tools, I just like them and use them all the time.
- Google sheets (mainly for budgeting)
- Evernote (for collating my research)
- Pinterest (for drooling at destination photos)
- Rough Guides (reading up on destinations, great photos & suggested itineraries)
- Expedia (planning & booking is pretty easy with good rates)
- Qantas (Yay for frequent flyer points & this should come as no surprise, that the anxiety sufferer wants to fly with very safe airlines!)
- CityMaps2go from Ulmon (great offline maps with ability to bookmark sights)
- Tripit (keeping the booked intinerary together & sharing it with my fellow traveller)
- Smart Traveller (for the Aussies; travel advice, warnings & register your travel with Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade)
- Trip Advisor (pretty darn comprehensive information & lots of reviews from fellow travellers)
- XE currency (checking out the exchange rates & calculating what things cost in your own currency)
- uPackingList (this is my go to packing app, I use the checklist for a lot of the planning steps too)
The seasoned travellers & technologically inclined amongst my readers may not have learned anything new here but if you’ve only ever booked via a travel agent why not try planning it yourself.
I’m sure the more we travel we will continue to do it slowly. I’m looking forward to some longer trips where we can slow things even more. I do love the fact that is is possible to travel slowly even on shorter trips just by changing your approach.If you want to travel slow, be your own travel agent. Click To Tweet
If you’ve only ever rushed around a destination and prided yourself on ticking off every single attraction in the shortest amount of time, why not intentionally slow down on your next trip?
As a keen photographer I’m guilty of snapping lots of shots off quickly, knowing that I will have the photos to recall the scenes. I hereby challenge myself to really look at the sights, absorb them, so my mind can recall the pictures clearly later. I’ll let you know how I go!
Travel on your own terms.
Under your own steam.
Immerse yourself in a place.
Be changed forever by the people.
Are you already a slow travel convert? Do you prefer to organise and book all your own trips? I’d be keen to hear of your experiences.
From my heart to yours,