I have the travel organizational skills it would take to be the least successful travel agent known to man. What that means is I can work out a way for myself to travel from A to B for a fraction of the price I'd get with most all-inclusive vacation packages.
Once you cut out the travel agency out of the process, it becomes slightly more complicated - like severing the middleman from a business - but much cheaper and it's the first step to becoming your own travel agent. That's why I say I'd be the least successful travel agent: if I were to share my tips for traveling on a smaller budget, or work for the travel industry, I'd make no money.
Good Thing I'm Not a Travel Agent
Travel can be expensive if you don't plan in advance. The internet is an incredible tool that can be used towards organizing vacations yourselves, but the travel agencies and the flight companies are onto these so-called hacks and are working to find ways around them.
With that taken into account, were I to actually get into the travel business, I'd make next to nothing and would never be able to have a good time myself. That said, what I can do is share some travel hacks and show you how to become a "terrible" travel agent so that you can see all of the places you want to see without having to buy your way into debt.
How To Become A Travel Agent?
Flipping through magazines is a cool way to waste your time while you're waiting on your DMV or doctor's appointment, but you should never pay attention to the cruises they offer on the back page for a few thousand bucks.
The asterisk next to the number signifies small print, and small print signifies that there's a catch and the catch is that the price advertised is per person - not the whole family. This is one of those things that travel agents are required to disclose when you visit them in person, but advertising is a strange business where the only catch that matters is how catchy the tagline is.
These cruises may seem like an exciting way to see the world, but the reality of it is you'll be on a boat for a large part of your time. And all these boats are gigantic, all-inclusive resorts where you'll only be able to see what you can see from the tour the navigator has taken time and time again.
Use the ads you see on TV and magazines as inspiration. Hit Google with statements like, "cheaper ways to see the world than a cruise" or my favorite, "accidents that have happened on cruise ships." There are many local services to your destination country that may work out as being much more culturally enthralling AND worth your money.
Look into it before you see a professional. If you do actually enjoy cruises, there will always be bargains online that they haven't told you about.
What Does A Travel Agent Do Anyway?
What do travel agents do or say? Tour agents might tell you that all-inclusive vacation packages are the way to go when it comes to traveling with your family, but that's not the case. It's true that a lot of the airlines that are partnered with agencies offer direct flights to the most central of airports, but it can often work out cheaper to fly with a budget airline to an airport a little further out and then cover the fare for your journey from there to wherever you're staying.
On top of all of this, some airlines will provide cheaper flights to your destination because they include several hour layovers at a completely foreign location. Sometimes, this can be fun to do. A famous example is the young travel agent who wanted to go home for the holidays but was able to fly to Amsterdam and then home for half the price of getting a direct train - and that was at Christmas!
Hostels are another place that have a bad reputation. There are many out there that do cater to the lone young backpackers whose idea of a good time is beer pong, but there are also establishments out there that can cost a quarter of the price of a hotel that offers similar amenities.
There aren't just 16-bed dorms in hostels. There are also family rooms or smaller rooms with fewer beds that are ideal for families who want to be a part of the city, which will shave travel time off your stay as well as money.
A personal anecdote I have involveds a family of 6 rolling into a hostel I volunteered for when I was younger. I worked the front desk and when I offered the father the price for each family member to have their own room, he responded with, "Excuse me?"
Trust me, they're often times quieter than big hotels.
A lot of the money people spend when they go traveling is from dining. They don't have to be expensive Michelin-star restaurants for the money to start adding up. One glass of wine can turn into a bottle and if you have three meals a day, that's going to take a lot out of your budget.
Markets (and supermarkets) and also local establishments tend to have more deals. While going to the supermarket to buy wine doesn't sound as romantic as sharing a bottle of wine on a barge on the banks of the Seine, it's not the sort of wine that's romantic.
The last time I went on holiday, we bought wine and sat by an old church for hours, talking about life or something like it. While every other tourist dined with us mere feet away, we had just as good a night for only 5 Euros.
Honestly, the main lesson to be learned here is that you don't have to relinquish control to someone whose job it is to tell you to buy from them in order for them to earn a commission.
Bending your expectations slightly can work out in the long run and you'll have a lot of stories to tell later.