Travel agent vs DYI: 3 Scenarios to consider

2016-12-16 08:31 - Dorine Reinstein
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Have you ever wondered if booking through a travel agent is going to be more expensive than booking online? Well, weigh that against making the wrong travel decisions and how much it could potentially cost you.

If you want a haircut, you visit your hairdresser. Feeling ill? Your local GP is your first port of call. Blocked drain? Call Triple 4 40 40… You know the drill. We rely on the experts to solve our problem and we pay for their professional expertise so that we don’t have to pay more by doing it ourselves and probably making a terrible mistake.

Entrusting your travel plans in the hands of a travel agent, accredited as a member of the Association of Southern African Travel Agents (ASATA), you are assured of a level of professionalism, ethics and trustworthy behaviour that will ensure that you can Travel with Peace of Mind, not to mention the time you’ll save.

SEE: SA set for record-breaking summer as visitor numbers surge

And in the run-up to the busy festive season, we’ve put ASATA-accredited travel agents to the test and find out: 

1. A last-minute family trip during the December holidays

Scenario: A family of four would like to book a last-minute holiday for 7 days during the busy December/January holidays. Maximum budget: R50 000. Departure from Johannesburg.

The travel agent:

Jacqui Copeland from 360Travel really pulled out all the stops to assist. She presented various itineraries to Seychelles, Mauritius and Zanzibar. Despite being slightly over budget, she suggested opting for the R59 800 option at the 5* InterContinental Mauritius Resort, as it is an all-inclusive option. The hotel offers numerous activities for children, as well as a beautiful spa. 

Price: 360Travel quoted R59 800 for 2 adults and 2 children. Although this price was slightly over budget, she also sent options that were well within budget to Zanzibar.

Time Spent: 5 minutes


After spending over an hour on the Internet, my admiration for Jacqui increased tenfold if not thousand fold. I found it almost impossible to find any available accommodation or flights during this busy time.

I checked Mauritius, Zanzibar and Thailand and could not beat the travel agent’s price.

Price: Well over R70 000.

Time Spent: almost two hours

SEE: SA Insider Guide to the best summer events this December

2.   A romantic exotic holiday for two

Scenario: A couple would like to book a romantic escape to an exotic destination, where there are still some activities to keep them busy. The budget is about R40k for one week in February. Departure from Durban.

The Travel Agent:

Megan McCarthy from Sure Non-Stop Travel in Umhlanga provided me with no fewer than three different quotes for Bali, all well below our budget of R40k.

The most attractive option was Grand Aston Bali Beach Resort in Tanjung Benoa. Megan’s description tells us the resort is situated in the exclusive enclave of Nusa Dua, on one of the most stunning private beaches of Benoa Peninsula. Perfect for a romantic getaway. Activities include snorkelling and diving in the clear waters along Benoa Peninsular.

Price: R33 978 including flights, transfers as well as bed and breakfast.

Time Spent: 10 minutes


I spent an hour on the Internet trying to find the ideal destination for an exotic and romantic destination. I had never considered Bali, and welcomed Megan’s suggestions.

When trying to book Megan’s suggestions myself, I managed to match her price but not beat it. Booking independently, the transfer wasn’t included in this price either.

Price: R33 978 including flights and bed and breakfast.

Time Spent: One hour, but only thanks to the fact that Megan had suggested Bali already.

SEE: Top tips and ideas to have the best SA staycation

3.   An active solo holiday

Scenario: A female solo traveller would like to book an active adventure trip in February next year. She would like to be able to meet at least a few other solo travellers. Maximum budget: R20 000.

The travel agent:

Diana Pengelly from Harvey World Travel, Morningside suggested a number of trips, including detailed itineraries of tours to Thailand, Morocco, India and Finland. She highly recommended using a tour operator, as she explained that on average each group would be roughly 60% solo travellers.

The Morocco tour seemed to answer my requirements the best. This 15-day tour would take me to visit Marrakech, Meknes and Fez, as well as the mountain ranges to the south. The tour includes adventure activities such as a camel trek in the Sahara and a night at a Bedouin camp.

Price: R12 770 excluding flights but including all breakfasts and four dinners, all accommodation,?all transport and a great number of activities.

Time Spent: 10 minutes


I spend over two hours on the Internet looking for suitable solo trips for a single female travellers. Most trips have fixed dates, and I had a hard time identifying the trips that left in February.

Eventually, I found a trip that more or less suited my budget to Colombo for R19 880 for eight days. However, when I tried to book, it turned out there was a R9 750 single supplement. This would leave me way over my budget. The trip was also shorter with less activities planned.

I tried visiting the tour operator website myself, but had a hard time finding the right tour for me. All the itineraries were also priced in dollars and pounds. Eventually I found the trip and came to the same price as Diane had quoted me.

Price: R29 630 for a shorter trip that didn’t suit my requirements as well.

Time Spent: 2,5 hours.

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