Travel Tips

Travel Agencies – to get or not to get

A cousin of mine is preparing for their first trip to Hong Kong and has been asking for my help in preparing for the trip. First, she wanted to get a travel agency and pass the planning and all the little details of traveling to a third party. Then after doing a bit of computation, she decided to ditch the agency and do the trip on her own. So which is better? Get an agency? Or do it on your own?

First, a disclosure. I never bothered getting an agency in all my travels and I have a feeling that it’s someone whose services I won’t be needing for a long time.

Yes, I toyed with the idea of getting a travel agency way back 2008 when the siblings and I decided to go to Hong Kong on a last hurrah prior to me tying the knot. But after repeated negotiations, the initial small amount ballooned to a few more thousand bucks. Fed up, I terminated the agreement and decided to do the planning on my own.


Personally, I think getting a travel agency is a case-to-case basis.

If you plan on going to a country who doesn’t require much arrangement and is just a skip, a hop or a jump away from this great country of ours, do yourself a favor and dispense with the agency. You might be surprised of the things you’ll learn researching about the country and the trip itself. If you are going to Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia or even Bangkok — countries that are very easy to navigate (provided you have enough info and good research in your hands), surprise yourself and plan the trip yourself.

If the trip is not complicated, you have access to the internet and a keen sense of adventure, just do the itinerary and location-hunting on your own. Personally, it’s one of the best things when it comes to traveling. Getting lost, discovering hole-in-the-wall eatery and bonding with family and friends just getting a lost and having fun. I am a believer that while it’s fun to do research and plan a trip ahead — it should also be a balance of enjoying the sights at a leisurely pace. You wouldn’t want to feel like you are a contestant of The Amazing Race right? Shuffling from one place to another, barely enjoying the sights.

If you’re like me who’s perpetually on a budget, then better do away with the agency. Getting a travel agency does not come cheap and services usually come with a lot of caveat/exclusions save for the hotel, transfers and compulsory city tours that will bring you to jewelry centres, floating markets and other factories. Also note that you will have to pay for your travel guide’s gratuity, which is usually exempted from the usual fees you pay from the agency.

However, note that getting a travel agency has a lot of perks.

First, if your itinerary involves a cross-country crossing, or multiple countries in one trip, then get an agency. You will need the expertise and advice of a travel agent who will help you negotiate rates, find hotels and ensure that your crossing from one country to another is as seamless as possible.

Second, having an agency means that there’s someone who will look out for you – this includes having your insurance in order, having someone to take care of cancellations and changed dates and basically deal with all the nitty-gritty of travel.

Third, obviously having an agency saves you time. Time not spent researching for one place to another, or having transportation arranged for you as you try to navigate a country.

Which ever way you go, getting a travel agency really depends according to your comfort level, and of course, the money you have in the bank. If you’d rather not break a sweat and you have the moolah to burn, then go with having professional help as you travel.

Well, as for my cousin, she ended up DIYing the trip — with the big probability that I’ll be coaching her and one of her kids prior to their trip (same date as our Taipei trip). She already booked City Econo Guesthouse, the same hostel where my family and I stayed last October. When I brought her along during the Travel Expo, she almost signed with an agency but changed her mind (again) after the computation was presented to her.

Considering that she’s bringing six adult kids with her (yes, my cousin procreates really good), I think they can wing it in Hong Kong, a place known for organized transportation system and where all attractions are labeled accordingly. Presence of mind and a good sense of adventure is all the she needs to make it work and to make their trip memorable.