When I was planning only one or two trips per year I kind of forgot between each time, but now that I’ve been traveling for 7 months straight, it’s become very clear just how much time goes into planning a great trip.
Travel Planning Is A Time Suck
I’ve always said that I love travel planning, but in reality, what I love is THINKING about all the cool stuff I’m going to experience. But as soon as I have to make actual plans, once I have to nail down my dates, reading the reviews and fine print of 100 hotel listings, checking location and local transportation on Google Maps, checking the weather forecast – just to find out that the flight prices have gone up while I was going back and forth between my 5 potential itineraries so I have to start the process all over again… Then it’s not so fun anymore.
With the hundreds of tools for flight search, hotel booking sites, guidebooks and travel blogs created to make it EASY to find the BEST deal at any time, I should have access to everything I need to book my entire trip in just a few clicks, right? In theory yes, but my experience has been that it’s a big gap between theory and reality when it comes to travel planning tools.
A Fragmented Travel Tool Market
So why is it taking me so much time to do my travel planning? With the hundreds of tools for flight search, hotel booking sites, guidebooks and travel blogs created to make it EASY to find the BEST deal at any time, I should have access to everything I need to book my entire trip in just a few clicks, right? In theory yes, but my experience has been that it’s a big gap between theory and reality when it comes to travel planning tools.
A Trip Is A Series Of Events
If you’re just browsing for inspiration without any specific constraints, there are plenty of awesome sources for that. And if you just want to book a flight ticket from A to B or a hotel room for a certain date, surely it can be done in a click. But the thing is, most online travel tools are set up as if traveling is a single event. However, I’d argue a trip is a series of events. My trip is not a hotel room or a flight or a cooking class, is about everything that happens from when I leave home to when I get back. It’s a combination of both fixed elements and flexible ones. It’s a mix of absolute dealbreakers and “Surprise me”! Putting all the pieces of the puzzle seamlessly together to complete my trip, THAT’S what takes so much time.
The Travel Agent
Who could help you with your list of must-have’s and your want-to-have’s? A travel agent. I may be the last generation who’s had the experience of going to a physical travel agent, but that’s actually how I got help to go on my first backpacker trip in Asia when I was 20. I stopped by a travel agency, told them my budget, my dates and what I wanted to experience. I was then given some options, some I’d never think of myself. I got help weighing the pro’s and con’s of each option and the travel agent helped me find special deals for youth based on my age. I left the office with a round-trip flight ticket to Bangkok, hotel booking for the first 3 nights and 2 activity tours, ready to explore the world.
Future of Online Travel Agents
The problem today is that online travel agents are not really deserving their agent title. Other than where you enter the credit card info, to an end-user, OTAs are no different in the service they offer than a meta search engine, heck, most people don’t even know what the difference is and think Kayak and Expedia is the exactly same thing. My solution would be to bring the role of an agent back. A digital service that can suggest a personalized tailored itinerary of flights, hotels and activities that takes into account both your fixed and your flexible elements.