Laura's quick tips on DIY trip planning
Updated: Apr 5
Travel agents provide a valuable service for many people, but what if a travel agent just isn't able to help build a trip of value for you? They will be transparent and honest in letting you know if their services can help you. This usually happens when either you are going on a very short domestic trip, or need only a hotel or flight recommendation. Or maybe you just want to do it all yourself. When that happens I like to offer my tips on how to build your own trip.
There is a LOT involved in trip planning which is why I value my job as a travel agent, trip designer, and experience curator. This is not an exhaustive list but it may help you get started.
#1 Decide where you want to go and begin researching by either checking for the destination of the cheapest flights, looking at the airlines with which you have points, or chasing the climate you desire. Wherever you decide to go, begin to create a list of things you want to do, see, eat, and areas you want to stay. Google is a great resource.
#2 Use Google Flights and Google Flight Tracker if you have time to wait and monitor prices. Google flight tracker will send you email updates every time the desired flight you enter changes.
#3 Always book a fully refundable ticket with the airline you will fly and consider purchasing trip insurance if you are spending a decent amount of money on hotels or booking a group trip. Travel agents work with reputable trip insurance companies with which they have relationships which is a benefit of using an agent.
#4 Plan your transfer from the airport to your accommodation. Will you Uber, taxi, or pre-arrange a ride with a transfer service?
#5 Choose your accommodations. Will you use VRBO? A hotel? Once you decide it's time to buckle down and pull up Google Maps. Enter your location and select "hotels" Become familiar with what is in the area. Click on prices in your price range and begin checking stars and reviews. (This is very important to check those reviews!)
It's often helpful to use Google streetview to get a realistic idea of the area. Once you narrow it down check other sites like TripAdvisor or Expedia for their reviews. Lots of cross-referencing!
# Warning about booking through third parties. I have heard Expedia is getting better about changing and refunding reservations. However, my rule of thumb is to book directly with the hotel. And again, check the refund policy.
#7 Choose your transportation for while you are there. Will you rent a car? Use public transportation? What kind is available to you? Pick some activities ahead of time. Don't arrive without a skeleton of a plan and keep it loose so you can change plans if something else comes up.
#8 Sometimes it's helpful to use a tour company to purchase a day tour. If you are traveling internationally I highly recommend a travel agent, but if you choose to book on your own you may want to check on any special passes that can help with museum entry or transportation such as the Swiss Pass in Switzerland or the Firenze Card in Florence. A travel agent can assist with international trips on transfers to the hotel, booking a hotel that has been vetted by the company, making excursion reservations, and more.
#9 Will you be traveling to several locations on your trip? Make sure to use google maps to determine distances, and areas where you want to be.
#10 International travel involves more planning. Make sure your passport is valid up to 6 months BEFORE you travel. Some countries will not let you in if your passport is too close to expiring. To be honest, using a travel agent or traveling with a group that has a dedicated leader is truly the best way to cover all of your bases when traveling internationally. Things to consider:
*what to pack
*tips for long-haul flights
*how to maneuver the airport internationally
I hope this was helpful! Here is a quote from the Travel Unrivaled website which explains much of why I joined them! "To us, life is not measured by the breaths we take, but rather by the number of stamps in our passports, and stories we have to tell of adventures gone by. Anything less than living life to the fullest and traveling the farthest seems to be a waste of the wonders we’ve been given in this world. After all, travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer."
Experience curator, Trip designer, Tour manager, Travel agent