Are you planning a vacation but don’t know how to start? We will guide you step by step through the process of organizing and buying tours at a travel agency!
Holidays purchased at a travel agency are convenient. There is no doubt about it.
All formalities are dealt with by the employees, we are insured and are covered by the resident’s care on the spot. A travel agent is also an adviser on the choice of a dream vacation that will help you get through the jungle of hotel ads. So that the planned holiday would meet our expectations, and the money allocated for this purpose don’t go down the drain.
But looks can be deceiving 😉
As experienced and passionate travelers, we present you with practical advice on how to choose holidays with a travel agency and what to look for during a conversation and setting the conditions for holidays.
Let’s go through the entire process step by step!
Currently, big tourist companies are able to negotiate such prices of hotels and flights that the cost of our holidays with a travel agency is not higher than the one organized independently.
Let’s start from the beginning:
Who benefits the most from travelling with a travel agency?
Not everyone uses the services of tour operators.
Some people like to organize their holidays on their own. But even for real globetrotters, it’s still good to go on all-inclusive organized holidays.
Who, therefore, uses the services of travel agencies?
Holidays with a travel agency are primarily for people who do not have time to search for cheap flights and the cheapest possible accommodation. The travel agent option is for busy people who want to rest, even during the holidays, to relax and not have to worry about anything.
There are more benefits than downsides.
When choosing a trip with a travel agency you are aware that a travel agency will supervise everything, which will be the departure date, the exact departure time, the return date, and will take care of the documents. The price includes the transport to the hotel, allowing the tourists to avoid unpleasant misadventures.
For the whole family
Traveling with the travel agency most often interests families with children, invested in comfort and safety. In case of a problem, there is a resident in the place where you can report it to. In hotels there are often activities designed for children, playgrounds and other attractions. Every major travel agency has its own babysitters in resorts they operate in, taking care of children so that older family members can enjoy their free time.
The travel agency services are used not only by families with children.
Seniors and people who are going on a foreign trip for the first time gladly use the services of travel agencies. They can go on holiday without worries about foreign languages and local customs thanks to them. Even if you want to explore the area – by purchasing optional trips, you receive a guide who speaks your mother language. Everything is reported and settled at the travel agency and at the resident’s place.
If you want a travel agency to plan your holidays for you, let’s go step by step through the process of completing the formalities and buying a trip.
How to conduct a conversation at a travel agency?
Travel agents are not fortunetellers.
Yes, they are to advise the customer to choose the best and the most fulfilling offer. But asking for an “cheap and interesting place with mild weather” is too generic.
Each of us expects something different from the phrase good holidays.
It would be best to know exactly what you want.
It can help, for example, to state the direction you want to go, the country, the part of the coast, the island, whatever.
This narrows the search area.
It is good to specify more or less the date of departure and length of stay, and whether you are interested in stay at a resort or sightseeing.
By the way, see also how to choose a travel agency to be satisfied with your vacation trip.
Meals during holidays
Another issue is the choice of the type of food services – whether they should be included at all, whether you are only interested in breakfast or HB (breakfast and half board) or all-inclusive (three meals, snacks, drinks).
Choosing an accommodation during a trip with a travel agency
When it comes to the standard of accommodation, it is worth talking about your budget, which will allow you to select more or less the class of the hotel that you can afford.
This immediately selects the available directions, hotel class and also the food services. Last but not least is the determination of additional wishes that will be taken into account by the travel agent – whether the hotel is to be located by the beach, or has attractions in the form of a slide, playground or aquapark and how far will it befrom the entertainment center of the city, if you are planning to party all night long.
All this will help you choose the right offer.
What to look for when choosing a summer offer?
There are a few issues that we need to consider before signing a contract for a trip with a travel agency.
At the beginning:
First of all, you need to aim at a reliable travel agency. For Polish travel agencies, it needs to be inscribed on the list of the Polish Chamber of Tourism with a stable position on the market. This will help you avoid unpleasant situations that have occurred in the past.
The financial condition of these major tour operators is available online. It’s still not everything.
The date of travel
You have to determine when our holidays are to take place. The date of departure has a decisive impact on its price.
If you have small children and are willing to pay, it is best to avoid summer journeys (mid-June to mid-September). May and June (before the end of the school year) and September and October still have warm weather in the Mediterranean region.
We recommend the same for older people who cannot tolerate summer heat, best choice will be a trip before or after summer holidays. Temperatures in the south of Europe tend to be tiring for older people and children. Not everyone can take it and not everyone likes it.
Check if there are monsoons and hurricanes …
In the case of non-European destinations, you need to check if your destination experiences a hurricane or monsoon period – check where the storms are now!
Of course there are directions sold virtually all year round, like Egypt, the Canary Islands or Turkey, but you have to remember that swimming in the sea may pose a problem when it’s not summer, as there are fewer sunlight hours during the day.
And what about the arrival and departure?
It is also worth remembering that when you buy a week’s stay in a given place, you must deduct the first and last day of the trip. Charter flights take place during times when regular air traffic permits and departure times are usually not very convenient.
In practice, this means that on the first day we can fly out only in the late afternoon or evening and be on the spot even after midnight (longer flights – further destinations), and on the day of departure you have a plane in the morning. In every contract it is clearly said that the first day and the last of our trip are intended entirely for the journey. In addition, buying a vacation half a year ahead of time, keep in mind that the hours of departure are only approximate. They can change several times. The final departure time will be announced a few days before, of which you should be informed by the office employee.
And finally – no, the travel agent has no influence on all air traffic in the world and cannot move our departure times.
The location of the hotel
Location is important when you want to relax in peace and quiet, explore the area or attend parties.
Google Maps, Google Earth and Google Street View are helpful. It is thanks to them that you can check the distance to the beach and if the hotel happens to be located right next to a busy street or worse – a highway …
Travel agency won’t tell you this.
Distance from the hotel to the beach and other attractions
Maps clearly show you whether there’s a rubbish dump or similarly unapealing place nearby. It is worth to “walk” with Google Street View, even if only near your hotel. You can see then if there are restaurants, shops and other manifestations of urban life in the area. Only problem is that these pictures don’t show you clearly the slope of the terrain and sometimes it may turn out that our lodging room is located on quite a high hill.
Please note the location description
Pay attention to descriptions of the offer in style – a secluded, quiet neighborhood, because it sometimes means that our resort will be located in the middle of nothing …
It will be difficult to get out of there, unless you rent a car or there is any public transport. If not, you can only have romantic walks around the area. Then you will also be stuck with hotel restaurant and their prices. In turn, the location in the very center of a tourist resort can be associated with the nuisances of night life – rumbling discos with music playing until the morning and drunken company breaking at night.
The distance from the hotel to the airport
Another aspect may be the distance of our hotel from the airport. Especially for families with children and people who for some reason cannot travel by bus.
Transport to facilities, when buying a trip in the office is assured.
However, there are holiday places that have hotels spread over the whole area and a trip to the hotel can take up to several hours. All the more so as one bus has to take all the tourists back to the hotel. This in the case of families with children can be very bothersome. However, when you cannot get into a regular coach and need special transport (elderly and disabled people), then you will have to pay extra for it. Travel agency will add a fee for the service, but you will know the amount in advance. On the other hand, in case of taxi we never know how much we will pay.
It is important to discuss the price with a taxi driver before the course.
The hotel’s standard, how many stars is “luxury”?
When it comes to the standard of hotels, it varies…
Categorization in Arab countries is usually overstated. A 3-star facility in Poland is not the same conditions in Egypt or even Greece. Rather, it is a downward trend. So if you want comfort, you need to look for at least four stars.
Cleanliness in the Mediterranean countries is perceived a little differently than in Northern Europe and it is also necessary to remember about it. However, when you do not care about comfort and an indoor swimming pool, you can easily buy a seat in the hostel or no stars rooms – at the lowest possible price. However, size, equipment and their location may differ from regular rooms.
You also have to be prepared for the fact that for example the view from the window will be on the wall of the second building, or in extreme cases on the garbage …
Pay attention to the photos of hotel rooms
Secondly, the pictures shown in the catalogs and on the websites usually show the best rooms and suites. They almost never have a standard room on them, which may look a bit different from them. In addition, there is also the proverbial photoshopping and fine-tuning the colors of the pictures, so that the place seemed a real paradise on earth.
It is worth paying attention especially to pictures of bathrooms, if they are ok, then the rest of the room should also be fine. This part of our quarters is a great litmus test of the entire facility. Hotel photos are often made from a favorable angle and do not show everything, and the pool or garden at an appropriate angle extends forever. For the safe in the room you usually have to pay extra, and for pool towels and a minibar. The rest – fridge, tv, bathroom towels and air conditioning (off-season sometimes paid) are mostly free.
High class hotels
Four and five star facilities are usually equipped with swimming pools, gyms and other attractions, they also offer additional activities in the evening. The quality of those may vary, but you can always go see what is happening, especially if you have chosen a secluded location and it is not very easy to move around in the evenings. It’s worth taking a look at what exactly is included in the price of your stay, and for what will require extra pay.
Tennis and golf courts and SPA services are usually additionally payable.
Minigolf, ping-pong, volleyball, basketball and all aerobics and other entertainment activities are included in base price. The parking lot situation can differ, and wi-fi is usually free but either slow or only available in the lobby.
Check-in time – learn when it starts and ends
Visitors need to remember that the check-in starts at 12-13, sometimes 14-15, and check-out is at 10-11. However, for flights it is different. That is why you can sometimes extend the stay for an additional dozen euros or more. At check-out in some countries there is also a tourist tax (for example in Greece from 2018). The more stars your hotel has, the higher the rate.
Tourists are often interested in the all-inclusive package, for which you have to pay extra, but in return, in addition to three main meals, you also can try on snacks, sweets and ice cream without restrictions as well as drinks, including alcohol (mostly local).
At this point, however, you have to think hard – if you are going on holiday to lie on the beach or by the pool with a drink in hand or you do not intend to move from the resort, the all-inclusive option will be perfect. When you want to explore and, above all, try local delicacies, let’s choose the HB option or just breakfast only.
There is nothing charming in hotel kitchens and you rarely find something local in the canteen.
You just have to remember that when choosing a breakfast and half board – at the second meal drinks will be paid additionally.
It is also important to ask what the meals themselves look like, because breakfasts in the form of a rich buffet are a completely different story than continental breakfasts (jam plus croissant / muffin).
Opinions of other guests on a given hotel
It’s best to choose an accommodation our family or friends have used before. There are websites specializing in collecting opinions of hotel guests, but they are not completely reliable due to anonymity on the internet. Here everyone can pour out their bitter grievances as and when they want. You can therefore come across “hunters” of broken tiles by the pool, “researchers” of under the bed and other hole “explorers” throughout.
So they complain about the monotonous selection of dishes for breakfast or the lack of pork in an Egyptian restaurant. It is worth reading a bit about a given country, its culture and customs before visiting.
There will also be reliable opinions about hotels and these are worth your interest. Sometimes travelers really warn that, for example, there is an extremely annoying and noisy renovation next to the hotel, and it looks like it will not end quickly, because they even break concrete slabs that were on the ground. Complaints regarding cleanliness may worry if they repeat. Tourists usually also share opinions about nearby restaurants, the distance to the bus stop, the price of tickets or the cost of the taxi course to the airport. It is worth to look into them, but think for yourself and draw conclusions. A big advantage of this type of services is also the possibility of attaching real, amateur photos from the selected object. Then we can see how it looks like – without any “decorations”.
Insurance for a holiday trip
The basic accident insurance is always included in the price of a trip with a travel agency (ask about it!). Only the amount in the case of damage to health or death may be higher in the case of increasing the insurance premium. Luggage is also insured only for a symbolic amount in the basic set. So if you worry about our suitcases, or rather the equipment we packed into them, you can buy more expensive insurance. In the package itself, it is also sometimes included in the liability insurance and reimbursement costs. However, of all this, it is worth investing in an option covering a greater sum of treatment costs and possible transport back to the country, because it is usually terribly expensive afterwards.
Where to buy insurance for a holiday trip? We will return to the question soon.
Where to buy a trip? In a travel agency or on the internet?
A good question, and a response like a coin – with two sides.
On the internet, offers often have a lower price than if you bought them at your local office. This is related to the fact that you choose the offer yourself and there is no one to serve you. However, if you have any questions, or want a specific type of room, then you have to go to the office. Online reservations, as happens with the electronics, sometimes do not enter the system and then it turns out that you have paid but aren’t on the check-in list at the airport, or the hotel doesn’t know anything about your stay. Of course, these are extremely rare cases, but they do happen. The advantage of this type of booking is the speed of their finalization, and that you can do it from home.
Going to the office, not only can we talk with an advisor, but they will help us in case of problems. A person working in the office will make sure that our reservation is done, post, print or send travel documents and answer additional questions. The downside is a price slightly higher than online.
It’s all up to you.
How to plan and when to book holidays abroad?
The last minute fad died a few years ago. Promotions start week or two after the first sales end, even though the idea originally was to sell all places no matter what, even days before taking off, so that the agency would not have a plane with empty seats. Back then, two or three days before departure, at a bargain price, you could buy a nice trip. Though, to be fair, at lower or middle class hotels.
There is nothing for free.
In this option, you could choose neither town, hotel, room standard, length of stay, or of course the time limit. If you could just take a vacation in two days, you could pack and fly.
At a good price – but the unseen price is the comfort.
Currently, last minute offers are not that much cheaper and start appearing weeks if not months in advance.
So if you are determined for a specific hotel, know that in a given period you will take a vacation, a better option seems to book in advance. Start looking for holidays in December-January (see where to go on vacation in January) to fly out for a dream holiday in the summer. It’s saving time and money. The choice is usually the full offer of all hotels and different standards in the rooms. There are a lot of places, and attractive holidays are not yet being picked up and bought. In addition, the office often guarantees the lowest price, which gives us the assurance that if the cost of our holidays will go down, they will return the difference.
If you want to cheaply buy a trip to a chosen direction, or a selected hotel, then you should aim at springtime dates – it is always cheaper, before or after the summer. Winter exotic trips to warm countries are best bought in July – August, when their prices are still relatively low. In turn, if we dream of Africa or Asia in the summer, then similarly to the European directions of exploration, it is best to start at the end of the year or in January.