Packing hand luggage for travel

Booking with a Travel Agent versus a DIY holiday

You’ve a fair idea what type of holiday you want, or where you want to go. You’ve got the dates decided, and your leave from work is booked. So, do you head straight for Expedia, or call a Travel Agent?

There’s no doubt that DIY holidays have been on the rise for some years now, aided by the internet and ready access to competitive hotel booking sites and airlines. Indeed, we provide a guide on how to find your own cheap flights. On my travels I’ve gone down both routes, so here are my pros and cons to building your break yourself, versus booking through an agent.

Experience & Time

One thing is certain, no one is going to know what kind of holiday you want as well as you do. This puts you in a great position to browse through hotels and destinations for your perfect break. When looking for great vegan-friendly places to stay there are resources out there, such as this great guide to vegan hotels by yumveganlunchideas. For many, this search is all part of the fun of planning a holiday.

The flip side is that an agent offers experience and time that can help you make that break both easier and possibly better. As Kindred Traveller operates in the vegan niche, we’ve researched vegan-friendly breaks all over the world, and over time we’ve cultivated contacts and partnerships that can offer the sort of experiences you may not have considered. Also, any good travel agent has likely travelled to a lot of the destinations you might be considering, so can offer some really useful insights on where to stay and eat, and what excursions to go on.

Elephants at a Sanctuary in Thailand

The right agent can add masses of value, and remove a lot of hazards

Wildlife holidays are a particularly good example of where an agent can be indispensable. Dividing the ethical from the unethical can be a real minefield, and choosing the right agent can cut through all of that. For instance, we have spent a crazy amount of time researching our travel partners and asking the right questions, to ensure we’re supporting the right experiences.

I founded Kindred Traveller after a long career in animal welfare charities, so bring real insight to an adventure that could otherwise be confusing to research alone. Other great examples where experience in a specialist area can be invaluable are LGBTQ+ holidays, or destination weddings.

Flexibility

Agents can build some very complex itineraries for you to meet your needs, with no stress for you. That said, if you want the kind of adventure where you have the freedom to stay an extra few days in a place that you fall in love with, then DIY is definitely the route for you. When I went backpacking through Vietnam and Cambodia, there were several occasions where I switched flights with just a few days notice, and stayed an extra week on a beach I loved – just because I could.

Man with backpack looking at mountains

Cost

If you’ve the time, and know exactly what you want, you can often find a way to do it cheaper with budget airlines and last minute hotel bookings. Agents, after all, do need to make a living.

Don’t dismiss them out of hand on the cost front though, as there are often deals that only travel agents have access to, such as extra night stays, bundle prices, or discounts that they access direct from their suppliers.

If things go wrong

For many, the deciding factor between DIY holidays and booking through an agent is security. When you book through an agent, you don’t just get someone that will advocate on your behalf if the hotel makes a mistake; you also get better financial protection.

It can be a complex area, but fundamentally there are only two things you need to check. Is my holiday protected, and if there’s a flight, is my flight protected? So let’s break down the two types of protection.

  • All package holidays booked through agents or tour operators should have the protection of either an organisation like ABTA, or use a Trust, such as Protected Trust Services (PTS)
  • Any package holidays that include flights should have ATOL protection

All tour operators that offer more than one service (i.e. tour and accommodation, or transfers and meals, etc.) are legally required to provide financial protection, and at Kindred Traveller all of our customers’ payments for our Solo Holidays are protected by PTS. This means that all payments are kept in a Trust, out of our reach, until your holiday is completed. Researching the best way to keep our customer’s money safe was of prime concern to us, and the reason why we took 2 years to launch – we wanted to get it right.

Thomas Cook Airplane awaiting take-off

But what about ATOL protection? Flights will likely cost you roughly the same whether you book them yourself or via an agent. However, booking them as a part of a package with a travel agent should mean that they’ll be ATOL protected, and booking them independently may mean that they won’t be.

There’s a lot of confusion around ATOL protection for flights and holidays, but the main thing to understand is this; if you book your whole holiday as a package with a travel agent, your holiday and flights should be ATOL protected. This means that if the airline goes bust while you’re away, your agent will make sure you can get home. If your holiday hasn’t started yet, the ATOL cover will ensure that you’ll either be offered a replacement, or you’ll get a refund for your whole holiday. Sometimes this ATOL cover is provided by the agent themselves, but many times it’s provided by the supplier that the agent has worked with (as all Kindred Traveller bespoke holidays are).

The problem for DIY bookings is that even if you book with an ATOL protected airline, if you’ve booked just the flight, you aren’t always afforded the same cover. According to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), you  are generally only ATOL protected if you don’t immediately receive a ticket, but do get an ATOL certificate. Booking with your credit card will likely afford you some protection, as your Credit Card company can reimburse you under Section 75 if you spend over £100. However, you may then find yourself hitting the internet to find a replacement flight at inflated prices – which could be particularly stressful if you’re mid-holiday.

Either way, if something does go wrong, your first port of call should be the CAA, who will be quick to list details of what to do on their website. If you’re with a travel agent, they will usually get in touch with you as soon as they can, and will help you to make alternative arrangements.

 

It depends on your travel style

Ultimately, which route is best for you depends on your travelling style and acceptable level of risk. If you’re looking to travel on a shoe-string budget or want flexibility on the go, then doing it yourself may well be for you. If you want someone to put the research in on your behalf, offer specialist insight, and provide financial protection, then you’re best off with a travel agent.

 

Airplane

How To Find Cheap Flights

How to find cheap flights

We don’t always book flights for our customers. There are two reasons for this:

•  Not everyone wants to fly. From an environmental perspective, frequent flying isn’t the best choice, and quite a lot of our destinations can be reached by rail within a day (which we can arrange).
•  The hardest part is sometimes getting from the airport to your accommodation, and however you reach your destination, we can still arrange your transfers.

    Here I’m going to show you how we at Kindred Traveller find our bargain flights when we go on our own holidays.

    Finding the cheapest flights that work for you is as simple as using a combination of two online tools: Google Flights and Skyscanner or Momondo. There are some pros and cons to these methods, so let’s take look.

    Google Flights:

    Great at:
    • Identifying the best travel dates
    • Quick, general searches
    • Great for filtering your search

    Less effective at:
    • Identifying error fares
    • Finding the cheapest price

    Skyscanner and Momondo:

    Great at:
    • Finding the cheapest prices
    • Picking up on error fares

    Less effective at:
    • Identifying the best travel dates
    • Filtering your search

    What is Google Flights?

    Google Flights is a flight aggregator and search tool which searches and displays flights and fares from all major airlines around the globe. It should be one of your primary ports of call in your search for a cheap flight.

    Why use Google Flights?

    The flights and fares on Google Flights come direct from the airlines, and so are usually very accurate. As it has the most useful search functionality and a really useful calendar tool, I start here when I want to trawl through months of flights and identify the best fares for my route.

    1. Go to Google Flights
    Select your departure and destination airports as required – but don’t click search yet, first look at the calendar to see what dates offer the lowest price. Click on the departure date box and prices will begin to load next to dates within moments. Note the option at the bottom of the calendar window, which allows you to adjust the length of trip – this will affect the prices, so alter accordingly.

    Using Google Flights

    This method will quickly show you what the cheapest dates are to fly – they’re coloured green.

    Once you’ve chosen your preferred departure date, the calendar will adjust to display the total journey cost based on your return date. Select your preferred return date and you’ll then be given a list of flights and fares and Google will suggest what it thinks are the ‘best’ options for you. However, their ‘best’ option may not be what works best for your needs. This is where the filter comes in.

    2. Filter your results
    You may want to exclude an airline that doesn’t provide vegan meals or has poor customer service, or simply avoid flights that aren’t direct.

    You can use filters to specify baggage, number of stops, airlines, price range, times for departure and return, and connecting routes. Look out for the ‘More’ button, which hides a flight duration filter – this enables you to see flights with stops, and weed out long layovers at airports.

    Once you’ve set your filters, click on the date boxes again to see your refreshed results.

    3. Select your flight
    When you select your departure flight a list of return flights, along with the total fare, will load.
    Once you select your preferred flight combination, Google will list the options to book through (e.g. Jet2, Expedia, etc.)

    Google Flights search results

    You can now go ahead and book at this point if you’re happy with the price. But if you’re still on the lookout for a potentially cheaper flight, then you’ll want to move onto Skyscanner or Momondo.

    Momondo tends to display more results as it covers more providers, so they’re usually my preferred option over Skyscanner. However, I often check both.

    Searching Momondo:

    So you’ve selected your best dates via Google Flights. Now go to www.momondo.co.uk

    Click ‘search’, and your results will come through, listing your best results along with a calendar bar showing best price dates, like this:

    How to use Momondo

    Searching Skyscanner:

    If you want to check Skyscanner, go to www.skyscanner.net and enter your flight dates from Google Flights. Click search, and make sure you wait for the green bar to finish loading to see your complete results.

    How to use Skyscanner

    Whichever site you choose to book through, it’s just a question of clicking on the deal to take you through to the relevant booking page.

    If you still have more questions, feel free to drop us an email at enquiries@kindredtraveller.co.uk  and we’ll be happy to help.

    Happy flying!

     

    At Kindred Traveller we offer a variety of vegan package holidays, specialising in Solo Holidays with our groups, but also building Bespoke Holidays tailored to your needs. You can find details of our solo destinations here, and if you want a custom solo, family holiday, cruise or yoga retreat, just give us a call on 01392 927701.