Hey guys! Hope everything has been going wonderfully, for you all! We have been down in Florida for almost a month now! I can’t even believe it, it feels like we just got here. . . and yet, at the same time it feels like we have always been here (I know, what an odd thing to say, but it does). For those of you who don’t know, we packed up our bags, quit our jobs and just moved halfway across the country. You can check out that full story here.

Now that we both work from home, or can work anywhere that we want to, we have been talking about planning some trips! While we were talking about where we should go and what we should do, I thought that it would be fun to share with you guys how we find the best deals for us: whether we are going to use travel agents or not, if we will do an all inclusive, or if we book hotels and flights separately. To be quite honest we’re open to them all but for different reasons. Let’s check out those reasons, now:

Travel Agents: Use or Don’t?

Travel agents have their advantages and disadvantages, just like anything else. Although, the only thing that I would really say is a disadvantage, is that if you’re not careful, you may not actually be getting the best deal, and honestly you can do all of the same things that the travel agent is doing for cheaper.

You’re probably wondering, “why am I not getting the best deal? Isn’t that their job, to find me the best deal?” The answer is yes, it is their job. However, they don’t always do it. Now, not to knock travel agents down completely, they do a lot for you so that you don’t have to. For example: they can book your excursions, get your travel insurance organized, make sure that you’re luggage is taken care of and so on. In other words, they can get everything done in one place and take the hassle away from you. But this is IF you get a travel agent that you don’t have to stay on top of to make sure that everything gets done.

If you don’t know what to do and you just want it taken care of, then by all means, YES go with a travel agent. But, if you do so, I want to make sure that you get the best deal possible. When booking with a travel agent, find a place that you like, and take it to them, let them tell you how much it’s going to cost per person and then get on Expedia and look up the same hotel or all inclusive for your same dates and see what the price is. If it’s lower, which it very well may be, then let your travel agent know, if they’re good and honorable they will honor that price and match it, if they’re not then either book it on your own or find a new travel agent.

I used to love travel agents, and honestly if I have a friend or family member who becomes a travel agent, then I will gladly use them. But, let me just tell you about our experience the only time I have used a travel agent.

PSA: This is only my experience, and this does not effect my view of other travel agents at all, it was one experience and I very well may use one again in the future. They make sure that everything is done in one place and taken care of and I LOVE that aspect.

When we were booking our trip to Punta Cana, we decided to use a travel agent, let’s just say it’s a friend of a friend and so on. Well, I had been doing research on where we should go, you know, the best quality place for the least amount of money (I like to be sure that I’m getting the best but at the best price). We told the travel agent where we wanted to go, she looked it up and told us the price. The price that she gave us was one or two hundred dollars more, per person, than what I saw online and for the same dates. But, that was still okay, we told her what we found online, showed her that it was the same dates and she worked with us to get the price that we saw.

You’re probably thinking, well, this isn’t all that bad. It’s just a pricing issue, you’re right this was completely fine and completely normal. The issue came when we realized that we had to go in and book our own seats and book our own luggage. None of that was taken care of for us. So, the only thing that she actually did was book the hotel and flight that I had already found and that we told her that we wanted. This may not be a big issue to you, and that’s completely okay, and if travel agents aren’t supposed to do that stuff, then I apologize and please let me know.

But, again this was just one bad experience and I will try and use a travel agent again some time in the future, I’m sure! Oh, and if you know of any excellent agents out there, let me know about them!

To recap: Use a travel agent if you want everything done for you, the convenience is amazing. However, do your research and make sure that you use someone that you know is going to help you out in every way! That’s their job. Take advantage of the fact that they are there to help you get the most out of your vacation. Also, don’t take my story as a horror story and never use a travel agent again, that’s not what I’m saying at all. I only told you this story so that you know to do your research and pick a good travel agent. That’s it.

All Inclusive: Go or Don’t Go?

My answer to this one is always YES! But I do have some suggestions. Try using Apple Vacations, we do like to use them because everything is all in one place for you. But, you can also use places like Expedia, they do the same things.

The best advice that I can give you about an all inclusive, is to make sure that you do your research. Even if you’re using a travel agent, do your RESEARCH. I cannot stress this enough. Look up the place that you want to stay, look at the rating, read people’s comments, look at pictures and compare this place to other places.

Now, you do not need to stay at the five star hotel. Just because it has the name that is known the most, doesn’t mean that you have to be there. We picked an all inclusive that was not a 5/5 hotel, but I read the comments, looked at pictures and we decided to go with it. When we got there we were so happy that didn’t choose another hotel. This place was cheaper, a blast, unique and beautiful. We had the best service, we were so spoiled for such a great cost.

The last thing that I will suggest is to compare prices to different times, when we were looking at Punta Cana, I compared the prices for the weeks before and following, it was literally a couple hundred dollars cheaper to go a couple days later than originally planned, and we still stayed for 7 days! Which brings us to the ending point: Just because you stay a shorter amount of time, doesn’t mean that it’s going to be cheaper. Actually, I’ve noticed that it’s a cheaper price to stay longer! When we were booking, we were originally looking at staying five days, but it ended up being cheaper, or the same exact price for us to stay for 7 days

Recap: Go with an all inclusive, they are the best! However, make sure the research the place, compare pricing and check dates. And, please make sure that you get your moneys worth, check to see if it’s cheaper to stay longer!

Hotels and Flights: Book Separately or Together?

To be quite honest whether or not you want to book a flight and hotel together or separate depends on the situation. If you are booking a trip in a country that doesn’t offer all inclusive vacations, then you may want be trying to decide whether to do a bundle deal and book your hotel and flight together or if it’s cheaper to book them at different times.

Here’s the thing, it depends on where you want to go and what time of the year that you want to go. Either way though, you need to do the research on both aspects. Expedia is always offering deals where you can book your hotel and get your flight for free. But, pay attention to the pricing and compare! You’re probably tired of reading the words ‘research’ and ‘compare’, but it’s the truth, and you will get the best vacation on a budget if you just take the time to research and compare.

Now, here is the place that I want you to compare at, Skyscanner. Seriously, go there and put in where you want to depart from. The best thing about this place is that if you don’t want to pick a location, you don’t have to! It will show you the cheapest flights to anywhere in the world, then you can pick based on that. But, if you already know a location it will show you the cheapest flights for that, as well. Another great thing, if you are flexible on dates, you can select for the whole month and it will show you the cheapest times of the month to go. Pretty awesome, right? Well, even better. . . you can do the same things with hotels! Check it out and take advantage of this

Recap: It depends on the situation, but always, ALWAYS do your research! This is how you will get the best deals.

If you have made it all the way to the end, thank you so much for staying tuned. I truly want you all to have the best vacation for the best price, as you can! And, trust me, you can, just put in a little bit of work and you will find that you can go to some pretty amazing places for a really decent price.

Now go book a vacation, so that you can sit you’re butt on a beach somewhere with a nice tropical drink in your hand.

Any recommendations on where we should travel to next? We would love to hear your thoughts! Leave suggestions in the comments below.

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P.S. If you haven’t already, head on over to Sam’s finance blog and check out what he has to say about retiring, saving your money and all of that fun stuff! An Urchins Finance