… by Alisha Miranda
Remember the days when planning a vacation involved sitting at a travel agency researching budget-friendly destinations months ahead of that precious two-week time off? Say goodbye to that, now travel planning is at your fingertips and easier than ever.
Enter: the Internet. Unfortunately for travel agencies, today the rise of social media has given way to more inspiring, informative, and independent platforms to help travelers get on the road the way they want, at any time, with any budget. We’ve come a long way from sitting in those chairs listening to typical tour packages like the Caribbean and Europe being thrown at us. Now, traveling the world is not only possible but also very much tangible and it’s all thanks to the World Wide Web.
As the barrier to entry gets lower, travel partners – which encompasses tourism boards and websites, guidebook companies, community and forum boards, and now travel bloggers – are leading the way in providing free travel tips, shared content, points of interests, and the ever-so-present deals for regular folks to book their own dream trips. Additionally, it seems anyone who has successfully traveled abroad and returned to share his or her stories can be considered a professional traveler. There are endless searches for personalized tips and itineraries to make one’s travel experience that more memorable as people seek out individual interests, preferences in lodging, and unique cultures. Another contributing factor online is niche travel groups, which has formed close-knit communities that foster a global exchange, such as the RTW travelers or ‘round the world travelers, backpackers (not just college students anymore!), career breakers, gap year students, and solo travelers. Easily found via Twitter chats and Facebook fan pages, these niches have grown to become the new “go to” reps for the latest in travel planning, advice, and promotions.
So how does one go about ditching their trusty travel agent and picking up a travel planning 101 guide? Well, for one, content is king. Stay away from the SEO noise, and go for the unique stories and articles that resonate with your desired trip. It takes some digging, but discovering reputable resources such as Matador Network, BootsnAll, and Lonely Planet will provide local insight and value to your research. Also, join a forum online like Twitter’s popularly used #TravelTuesday theme day to ask questions, connect with like-minded travelers, and find helpful articles. You can also find generic sites that discuss how to pack for a trip (whether it’s long term or short term), how to create a budget and stick to it, the best smartphone apps to accompany you on the road, and alternative cost-friendly lodging options such as hostels. The key to online travel is interaction: be an observer at first, then engage others.
To a large part of the world, this “do it yourself” movement may seem intimidating but the fact is we’re evolving, and at an alarming rate. It’s the incredible tool that is the Internet that is allowing us to travel the way we want, even carving the path for “digital nomads” or “location independent” workers. The power has shifted from the top-down, to bottom-up and its time to take advantage of this new era before being left behind.
Won’t you join us?
Alisha Miranda is a Freelance Writer and Social Media Manager based in New York City. Dubbed a proud Travel Geek, she has become known as an ambassador for young travelers, especially solo female travelers, and representing beloved travel communities through each journey. When she’s not settled in at home in Brooklyn, she’s daydreaming of her next trip abroad.
You still can’t replace the role of a travel agent for the custom aspect — there’s something about an added human touch that can make a difference between having a cookie cutter itinerary vs. having a travel menu catered to a specific traveler’s interests.
I agree that a human touch is definitely irreplaceable. one bonus about engaging in travel communities online is the opportunity to make connections offline. for example, every trip I’ve taken has led me to make contacts in those destinations, which have sparked friendships, and people who’ve welcomed me to stay with them during my visits. plus, the travel agent is only the middle man. I would hope as part of your goal with traveling, you want local insights and what better way to do that than to speak with locals themselves?
I do enjoy the freedom the internet provides when booking last minute getaways. If the destination is out of state or country, I still prefer a good travel agent who is an expert in my destinations. It’s great to have choices!! Thank you for the article.
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