One of the best aspects of traveling is stepping out of your comfort zone, seeing and experiencing new things, and venturing outside your day-to-day life.
That means something different for everyone, whether you want to visit all the museums in a city or try parasailing. Sometimes, however, travel isn’t the instagrammable week in paradise you want it to be. Mistakes happen. Missed flights, misscheduled group tours, miscommunications—they’re all part of travel, too.
From forgetting important paperwork to staying put in the tourist zone, there are many ways to bungle a trip—all of which you can avoid if you work with a travel agent.
Here are nine of the most common travel mistakes travelers make, and how agents can help you avoid them.
Not Looking Up Visa Information
Imagine booking a flight for your dream vacation months in advance and waiting eagerly. When the day finally arrives, you hop on your flight, and when you disembark, customs asks for your visa.
“My what?” you ask.
Your visa, the piece of paper that gives you permission to enter the country.
“I don’t have one,” you say. “I booked the flight and it said nothing about a visa.”
Sorry, but if you don’t have a visa, you have to turn right back around and go home.
This happens more often than you might think, by and large because online booking engines don’t require visa confirmation or include visa information when you buy tickets.
If you work with an agent, however, they will tell you exactly what you need in order to, you know, enter the country you’re buying a ticket to. Visas, passports, whatever else you need—your agent will let you know before you purchase a single thing.
Overpaying for Your Trip
When a booking engine says they guarantee you the lowest prices, they mean the lowest prices on the web. (And even that isn't necessarily true.) If you work with travel agents, however, they have the power and resources to unlock exclusive deals available through vendors—deals only available thanks to their network connections.
These deals aren't available to the public, which means if you don't work with an agent, you could be overpaying for flights, lodging, activities, and more.
Not Reading the Fine Print
When a deal seems too good to be true, it generally is. There are certain underlying terms and conditions that come with bargain basement internet prices that consumers don't know to look for, and that can end up costing you in hefty fees and complicated requirements. For example, certain campsites that also run whitewater rafting tours sometimes require guests to book one of their expensive tours in order to unlock lower campsite rates—meaning you actually have to spend more than you budgeted for, even if it looks cheaper at first.
Working with an agent means you get exactly what you book and pay for.
Overstretching Yourself by Overbooking Your Itinerary
One common mistake travelers make is trying to fit too much into their itineraries. Yes, you only have so much time to explore your destination, and that means trying to maximize every moment. But that doesn’t mean you have to do everything. If you try to, you’ll end up exhausted and miserable.
The best trips allow for flexibility. Say you arrive at your destination, make new friends, and find out that they’re going to a swimming hole they heard about from some locals. You’d love to go, but you have a guided tour booked for that morning, so you have to miss out.
Our agents are experts at developing itineraries that are fun but not overloaded, meaning you’ll return home actually rested and relaxed. Plus, they can help you reschedule excursions, in case any fun new opportunities pop up.
Relying Too Heavily on Guide Books
Relying solely on a guide book will limit your experiences to the recommendations of the person who researched your destination, and the pricing and scheduling information and restaurants/bars available at the time the book was printed.
Travel agents build contacts all over the world, meaning they have access to activities and information you won’t find in a guide book. New restaurant openings, tour groups that aren’t listed in your guide book, newer hotels (and perhaps a discount or two) are all in the cards when you work with an agent.
Staying in the Tourist Zone
Tourist zones exist for a reason: There’s lots to do there. But too many travelers fall into the trap of staying in their destination’s tourist zone, which means missing out on great food, drinks, and adventure. (And frankly, peace and quiet.) Agents can tell you what neighborhoods locals hang out in, where to find the best off-the-beaten-path food, drinks, and activities, and even cool day trips if you’re interested in leaving your homebase all together.
Exchanging Currency at the Airport
This is the kind of thing that gets overlooked when you’re booking on your own, but when you have an expert to advise you, they’ll remind you of all the little ways to save money, including money exchange. Agents can find the best exchange rates in your destination city or even advise you on local banks in your area that will do low-cost exchanges in the currency you need.
Not Researching the Local Culture & Climate
What should you wear? What rules are there? What is the etiquette when it comes to dining, drinking—heck, even just walking around? What is the busiest time of year to visit? Is it the same as the best time of year to visit? And what will the weather be like when you get there?
These are all questions that far too many people forget to ask themselves before going somewhere new, and they’re exactly the kinds of inquiries travel agents can answer.
Booking Complicated Flights to Save Money & Wasting Time Instead
Time is money. At least, that’s how the old adage goes. Which is why it’s important to spend a little bit more money if it means more time to enjoy your trip. The budget flight plan might save you $100, but it also has two stopovers with a five-hour layover; the slightly more expensive flight takes you directly to your destination, giving you an entire extra day to enjoy yourself.
Travel agents can explore all logistical options to make sure you minimize your transit time and maximize your exploring time without blowing your budget.