For many years, holiday planning was inadvertently tied to travel agencies in the UK.
From booking flights to choosing the right accommodation, every step of the process required going to a travel agency’s physical office and sitting down with the agent until you found something that matched your idea of your dream holiday – or until you got up and left to check the rates of another agency, because the ones you received were just too high.
In spite of their bespoke services, travel agencies have started to slowly lose their popularity in Britain, where many families and individual travellers chose the alternative DIY way. Price is the main factor behind the transition, because British families begin planning their holidays up to six months in advance and take their time to find the best offers.
How are these websites catching up with travel agents?
The Internet has revolutionised all fields, travel included. Sites like Booking.com and Trip Advisor gave birth to a new generation of travellers, who value price more than loyalty and know how to use the Web to take advance of the best offers.
Although they do not book flights and accommodation for their users, DIY travel websites offer two key benefits:
First of all, they are aggregators of flight and hotel booking options, so users no longer have to visit multiple sites separately. All they have to do is enter their origin and destination and the website displays all available flights, with or without connections, and the user is then simply redirected to the airline’s website to book the tickets.
Secondly, DIY travel bookings really are a sure-fire way to save money. Because they allow users with flexible booking rates to look at prices for every day of the month, these online platforms have made low-cost vacations more accessible than ever before. In fact, travellers who do not have a specific destination or day in mind can simply look at offers and grab a flight deal that can be as low as £5, return ticket included. Compared to the extra fees that travel agencies are known to apply, DIY travel websites are more affordable, not to mention that they streamline the booking process.
What do DIY travel booking sites offer?
The possibility of finding cheap flight and hotel tickets are the main benefits of DIY travel booking sites, but they are not the only reason why travellers would rather use them instead of going to a travel agent. In fact, their convenience expands in other areas as well:
Personalised newsletters and price alerts
Modern day Internet is all about Big Data, understanding user behaviour and delivering a bespoke experience. On travel websites, users can sign up for personalised newsletters and receive price alerts whenever the price drops for flights to a location of their choice. This way, they no longer need to come back to the same website every day. Also, after browsing for flights several times, the website “learns” user preferences and can send bespoke newsletters with offers that match their preferences.
It’s never pleasant to find a cheap hotel room after you’ve booked it at a higher rate somewhere else, which is why many DIY travel websites also include the feature of comparing prices, either from accommodation providers or from airlines.
Specialised travel services
British travel preferences are known to be on the safe, conservative side, with destinations such as France, Spain and Germany leading the way, but the new generation of millennials is slowly shifting gears. Year after year, more and more British travellers opt for specialised services that many travel agencies have not included in their packages yet.
However, we have sites dedicated to tours, city breaks, responsible travel, beach vacations, last minute deals, luxury retreats or yoga retreats. In other words, while travel agencies are struggling to keep up with the diversity of travellers, DIY-type websites are becoming more and more niche, allowing users to receive cheap, highly targeted, relevant offers.
A Northampton success story
One of the local DIY travel websites that have reported an increasing number of users was founded by Northampton-born travel blogger Gareth O’Sullivan. His website, Orbis Explorer, works like a search engine that queries hundreds of airlines and travel sites directly to find the cheapest prices for flights and hotels without adding any additional fees.
This search engine helped Gareth, and many other British travel enthusiasts, explore the world at prices that were never possible before the advent of DIY vacations: 2p for Vienna, Copenhagen for £15, Barcelona for £32 and Iceland for £72 – return ticket included.
But cheap plane tickets aren’t just about saving money, as he emphasises so many times in his blog posts, but also about learning to become a better traveller, understanding the world and boosting self-confidence.
When price is no longer an impediment, goals like “30 by 30” become more tangible, getting out of your comfort zone is no longer as hard, and you slowly start replacing traditional destinations like Paris or Barcelona with Indonesia or the Australian Outback.