Travel Styles: How to Find What is Right for You

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Travel is not a one-size-fits-all kind of endeavor and there are many different travel styles. This is true for how people plan their trips as well as the type of trips people like to go on. This article will review the benefits and disadvantages of each to help you decide what is right for you.

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On a Trip in Colombia I Booked Myself

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Book-Your-Own Travel Styles

Some people prefer to book their own travel. This includes booking everything themselves from airfare to accommodation and transportation, and things you do while on your vacation right down to the last detail. Whether you want to leave some open time for spontaneity or book up every day, it doesn’t much matter. Either works.

Some reasons people may prefer this option of travel styles is due to their level of involvement. This gives the person planning the trip the ultimate control over the agenda. Including the timing for flights, the hotels or apartments booked, and the daily itinerary. You have complete control to do what you want when you book your own travel.

You also have control over the budget. So, you can select budget options, luxury options, or somewhere in between. And you can prioritize between them. For example, if you like to stay in nice hotels but you have a budget for the trip, you can select lower-cost flight options to keep within a certain budget.

When you book your own trip, you generally have more control over the trip. But, you also spend a lot more time booking it. It can take many hours and even weeks or months to plan a trip. This may depend on how long you’re traveling and how many places you are going.

I have planned a couple of trips where I visited 5-6 locations and it took me months with several hours a week to plan it. It’s a huge time investment. the advantage is that you get the trip you want that is designed to your specifications when you plan it yourself.

Backpacker Travel

The ultimate budget option with book-your-own travel styles is backpacker travel. Very often backpackers stay in hostels, do couch surfing, or find other means for inexpensive accommodation.

Some may prefer the mobility of a backpack and stay in hotels. Though you can travel for any length of time, backpacker trips are often longer than a typical one-to-two week vacation. This is probably the reason for the interest in managing the budget.

And it may go without saying, but you can also go on a budget trip without a backpack at all. The type of bag you use doesn’t really matter but this is more about the mentality. So, while I’m calling this backpacker travel, it could be any kind of budget travel.

Usually, if you’re trying to manage to a budget or to travel as inexpensively as possible, you’re doing the work booking and traveling on your own vs. with a group tour.

Saving money isn’t the only advantage of this type of travel. With backpacker travel, you may be able to see more. And you really get a feel for what it might be like to live in the places you see. Your chances are generally greater meeting more people while you’re traveling as well.

However, it can be tiring. You may be moving around a lot and possibly staying in places that can be less comfortable or sharing your space in a hostel.

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Cocora Valley, Colombia

My Perspective on Backpacker Travel Styles

I do a lot of budget travel, though I haven’t (yet) used a backpack exclusively. (I have used a roller bag that converts to a backpack, though).

And I have stayed in hostels, but only once in a dorm room with multiple people in the room. I am not the best sleeper and sharing a room with 7 of my new best friends coming and going at all hours of the night made for one very sick traveler!

So now, if I do stay at a hostel, I get a private room. It’s still often less than hotels and depending on where you’re staying, it may offer more options. Plus, staying at hostels is a really great way to meet people. I stayed at a wonderful hostel in Salento, Colombia called the Plantation House Hostel.

Given that the primary reason people visit Salento is to hike Cocora Valley, it’s a backpacker haven. There are hotels, of course. But, it’s great fun to stay in a hostel and there are many more to choose from.

It was an amazing experience. This hostel is family-owned and run and on my first night, the two daughters invited me to a bonfire. I met several guys staying at the hostel and we had a local drink called agua panela while getting to know each other. It was such a fantastic welcome to this small town.

The entire family made me feel so welcome. Kris, the mother, greeted me warmly every time I saw her. The girls were great and Tim and one of the girls actually did the coffee plantation tour on the grounds. It was an experience I’ll never forget and I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have been the same staying at a hotel.

Luxury Travel

When you book your own trip, you also have the option to splurge on a luxury vacation. You might want to stay in high-end hotels and book a first-class flight.

Also, you might consider higher-end restaurants while you’re traveling. When you book your own trip, you have complete control over the things you do and where you do them. Ultimately, you get to choose your budget and how you want to spend your money for the trip.

Another benefit of luxury travel is flexibility. When you’re less concerned with cost, you have more flexibility to travel where and when you want. Luxury trips tend to be at nicer hotels and resorts so people tend to do a bit less and enjoy the pampering. As a result, you feel more relaxed when you return from your vacation. And you don’t tend to need a vacation following it to rest.

A luxury trip may be a book-your-own adventure. Or, you may use other resources to help with your bookings like a travel agent or a tour group. It’s all really flexible and as you travel more, you learn what your preferences are.

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Ban Sainai Resort, Krabi Town, Thailand

My Perspective on Luxury Travel Styles

To be honest, I haven’t done a lot of luxury travel. My choice has always been to see more places with my budget than to go upscale on trips and see less. However, I have splurged on parts of trips I have gone on.

Things like hotel rooms, guides, fancy dinners, shows, and the things that have mattered to me. I tend to stay in a nicer hotel after a long day (or more) of travel to make sure I’ll sleep well. This is so I don’t start off the trip with getting sick. I don’t tend to sleep on flights, and for some reason, especially long ones. (Not a great thing, I know).

I think if you can afford it and if you prioritize it, luxury travel is a wonderful thing. Who doesn’t love to be pampered? But whether you can afford the Ritz or not, you can still make smaller splurges during trips to enjoy that feeling regardless of how you travel.

Travel Resources

The online resource you’ll use to book your own trip will vary some with the place(s) you are going to. It’s a good idea to start with aggregator sites that collect fares from multiple airlines, hotels, and rental car companies.

This way you can get an idea of the options available, and then you can go directly to the company sites if you choose to see if you can get better options or better costs. Here are some that I have used and recommend:

Kayak

Kayak is my go-to for flights, and I have used it for hotels and rental cars as well. It collects information from many different companies and though it doesn’t include all airlines or hotels, it provides a good spread.

I use it as a starting point to get an idea of costs, flight times, locations, etc. I have booked through Kayak, and often I will use it as a guide and will check if I can get a better deal going directly to the company I want to book.

Kayak has some cool features as well including travel alerts, fare analysis that suggests if you should book or hold based on rate trends, and a lot of great filter options.

Skyscanner

This helpful tool provides all airlines going in and out of an airport. I almost always check it as it provides easy-to-read views of the flights and is sometimes easier to read than the airline’s websites when I’m trying to find flight time options.

And Kayak doesn’t have all airlines so sometimes Skyscanner provides more, and better, information. It does also have hotel and rental car information, though I haven’t used it for those.

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Skyscanner

Aggregator Sites Like Orbitz, Expedia, Travelocity, etc.

These are all separate aggregator sites though I lump them together as I think they really provide the same service. Sometimes you can find a lower price on them than in other places so it’s worth checking.

I do check Booking. There are many others and some that tend to be great in a regional area, like Agoda, which is great in Asia.

However, you do need to consider the cancellation policies and be careful. I know a friend who lost thousands on a trip she had to cancel with Expedia. And I recently was only able to get a gift card for future travel with restrictions as to when I need to use it by for Agoda.

Other websites also offer the ability to book like Skyscanner. I often use this site to see what airlines fly through a certain airport but I have also booked fares through this site as well. There are a lot of them. So, look around to see what offers you the best user interface to book your trip as well as the best options and fares.

Use a Travel Agent Travel Styles

The travel industry has changed significantly since the rise of companies that offer travel services online directly to the consumer. When I started traveling 25 years ago, travel agents were prevalent. And in fact, my best friend was a travel agent. We got to go on quite a few free trips due to his company’s relationship with airlines, hotels, etc.

Times have changed though there are still travel agents. There are some that cover global travel, though these tend to be the large international companies, like American Express Travel. There are also companies that specialize in a certain region.

Some examples are Caribbean travel or European travel, or even within a country or a city. They can be anywhere around the world thanks to our global economy, or they may be in the geography you’re looking to travel to.

Benefits Working With a Travel Agent

When you work with a travel agency, you benefit from their insider knowledge, relationships, and guidance. Since they tend to be specialists in a geographical area, they have insight that you might not know. Even if the agent you work with doesn’t have a lot of experience for a certain location, chances are their company has resources that are available. So, you benefit from that knowledge.

Another benefit is that you don’t have to do the legwork. When you use a travel agent they book the airfare, hotel, and rental car (if needed). You don’t have to do anything but specify your needs. However, you also lose some control over decisions and are reliant on the agent’s recommendations.

A last benefit with many travel agencies is that you can get 24/7 support while on your trip. If your flight is cancelled, you have somewhere to call to get help with rebooking so you don’t have to figure it out yourself. If you arrive at the hotel and it’s oversold, they will help you make alternate arrangements. It can be a lifeline of sorts helping you when you’re out of your element and your laptop isn’t close.

Corporate Travel Agent

One of the primary advantages of working with a large corporate travel agency is their relationships and their trip support while you are traveling. Their staffing provides more reach and they tend to have a lot of relationships and negotiated costs with hotels, guides, etc.

Sometimes they can get airline discounts not offered elsewhere as well. It’s easier to book this trip, too. You’re not spending hours doing research but are relying on someone who can make recommendations, either from personal experience or shared by their company.

Individual Travel Agent

Individual travel agents, or small agencies, may not have the reach of a large travel agency, but they often offer superior customer service. In fact, they are known for it and this is one of the reasons to consider going with the “smaller guy.”

They will often do more legwork to try to put together your ideal itinerary and will push harder to find good discounts as they have a bit more flexibility than if they worked at a larger company.

Of course, these are generalizations and it’s important to shop around to find the right fit for you. You may find that since travel agents often specialize in a geographical area, that it’s to your benefit to alter your approach depending on where you’re going.

For some places, it may make sense to go with a small local agency that really specializes in the area. Other times, it may make more sense to go corporate.

My Perspective on Travel Agent Travel Styles

In addition to the trips I went on with my travel agent friend, I also went to Hawaii with another friend. She had a friend who was a travel agent, and she highly recommended her. I agreed and I was happy with the trip she planned.

I did do some research myself and had some ideas in terms of which islands I wanted to see and the general area I wanted to stay in. She helped to confirm what I found and that the locations were right for what I was looking for. She also helped us to find a hotel in a good area in our budget.

I did find the trip was a little cheaper than it would have been had I booked it due to her company’s relationships. Most travel agents don’t charge for their services directly but they are paid through commissions or a similar type of fee structure from the vendors they book with.

So, it does take some trust to feel confident that the agent isn’t just booking because of the commission they will get for the booking. However, it’s generally in their best interest to take care of their customers as they benefit from referrals and happy customers.

And we had the peace of mind to know that we had someone to call if there were any issues while we were away. We could call her during the business day and she gave us a 24/7 number during off-hours.

We got a little portfolio with our itinerary printed out, tickets, hotel information, car, and some sights to see in the areas. She also booked us tickets to a luau. It was a great experience and if you find someone you trust that will listen to you, it’s a great way to go.

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Maui, Hawaii, United States

Go on a Group Tour Travel Styles

The last travel style is where people travel on group tours. In this type of trip, everything is planned for you including the hotel and itinerary. Sometimes the flight is included and other times you have the option to book the flight or have the tour company do it.

You may have some inputs like day trips or activities though most are planned out for you. Voila! Your trip is done.

Cruises

I’d also consider putting cruises in with this type of travel style. When you go on a cruise, there is a set itinerary for the ship. Generally, you stop in a number of ports. You have the option to either go your own way during that time, or you can go on organized excursions.

You often have the option for the cruise line to handle your airline booking as well. And of course, you have to option to remain on the boat (though, why would you?)

I have been on a few cruises and didn’t love them. It is nice to get to see multiple places without coordinating travel. However, I generally felt a bit trapped on the boat and didn’t love the experience overall.

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Cruise Ship, photo credit: Matthew Barra, Pexels

Group Tours

I’ll be honest that this type of trip really held no appeal for me and I didn’t expect to go on a group tour. Personally, I didn’t want to feel trapped, both locked into an itinerary but also with a group of people I don’t know. At least, I thought that’s how I’d feel after my cruise experiences.

It wasn’t until I was visiting a country that I didn’t feel comfortable going on my own to (and with another female friend) that I considered going on a group tour. I loved it. Especially as I enjoyed not having to do all the planning and just being able to show up and be taken around. I didn’t have to plan in advance and I didn’t have to manage travel logistics during the trip.

My Perspective on Group Tour Travel Styles

I did go to Morocco with a group tour. When I did my research, I had read some varying tales of safety concerns of women traveling alone in the country. I had never been to a Muslim country before and I wasn’t sure what to expect.

So, I thought it would be a good idea to book a group tour. (Looking back now, I shouldn’t have been so concerned from a safety perspective. Though, it was very nice to not have to manage all of the logistics.)

I did a lot of research (which probably won’t surprise you, by now) and narrowed it down to a couple of companies. I chose G Adventures because the trip fit my friend and my needs best and had great reviews.

We had the option to book our own airfare or to have them book it. We also had the option to add on extra nights of hotel. The itinerary was set, but there were some optional excursions that we could choose to go on.

We booked the G Adventures Kasbahs and Desert Tour and it was a wonderful experience! We covered a lot of ground in a short period of time. It was exhausting, but I got to see most of what I wanted to in Morocco.

I did add on a day at the start of the trip and two days at the back to see more. Though there were some places I would have wanted to spend a little more time, there was only one place I didn’t get to see that I hoped to. It was nice to hand over the reins and to just enjoy the trip without worry about transportation between the different destinations.

Click here to read the details about the G Adventures Kasbahs and Desert Tour.

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My Morocco Tour Group with G Adventures

My Typical Travel Styles

Until recently, I have almost always researched and booked my own trips. Whether I travel with someone else or solo, I generally do the work researching hotels, transportation, and things to do. It’s a lot of work! I do get to go on the trip that I want to, though I spend a tremendous amount of time planning it. And since I do all the work, I may miss out on other suggestions because I’m not familiar with the area.

I suspect I’ll continue doing most of my own travel planning. But, I am a bit more open to group tours now, especially when going to certain areas where I may not feel comfortable traveling on my own. Thankfully, on my group tour, I really enjoyed all of the travelers, but of course, that may not always be the case.

Even though I included three primary travel styles, you could really break this down in so many different ways. Some people like adventure travel and others like slow travel. But to me, all of these travel styles roll up into how they are arranged in advance and organized when you get to your destination so that’s how I structured this article.

Have you tried all of these travel styles? What’s your favorite and why? And I’m so curious if like with my experience, it varied somewhat with where you were going. Thanks for sharing!

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