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Should you plan a trip to Scotland yourself or use a travel agent?

Should you plan a trip to Scotland yourself or use a travel agent?

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Planning a trip to Scotland can feel overwhelming- for a small country, there is just so much to see, do and experience. There is also so much information out there to wade through- from guidebooks and the internet, to travel agents, travel bloggers, and strangers on the internet- everyone seems to have an idea about what the ideal Scotland vacation looks like. You know your travel style best- so is it just better to book the whole thing yourself?

A question I’m asked regularly is: ”Should I use a travel agent to book my trip to Scotland? Or should I do it myself?”

As a former travel agent, experienced world traveller, and now, a travel blogger and travel planner living in Scotland, I believe I’m qualified to answer this question!

As you may have guessed, there is no ‘one fits all’ solution for everyone- but I’m going to break down the pros and cons for each method of travel planning so you can decide which is best for you.

This is the third article in my Planning A Trip to Scotland series. To read the first article in the series, click here. To receive all the articles in this series by email, you can sign up here.

Booking through a travel agent

Pros

Someone else does everything for you

If you lack time to research and book your trip, going through a travel agent may be more convenient for you. Or if you’re technically challenged, booking through a travel agent can be a less stressful experience than doing it all yourself.

Travel agents may find cheaper deals for you

Sometimes travel agents can find you cheaper deals on flights, particularly if you’re having a stopover on the way to Scotland. It’s always a good idea to shop around whenever you get a price- some travel agents will insist the price they’re giving you is the cheapest, but as a former travel agent myself, you don’t have time to shop around and find the best price for your customers.

Cons

They may not be a Scotland travel expert

When I worked as a travel agent, I sold hundreds of holidays to places I’d never been before. It’s really hard to give advice about how to have an amazing trip to a destination you’ve not experienced before- but as a travel agent, you have to take every booking and act like the expert to every destination, when this is impossible!

It’s also important to note how many times your travel agent has been to Scotland. Just one visit doesn’t make you an expert on Scotland; I’ve been travelling Scotland extensively for 5 years and while I’ve visited 90% of the country, there are still places I’m yet to visit!

However, because I live in Scotland and travel on a regular basis, I keep up to speed with any changes in the tourism industry- and things change all the time. Unless you live here, it’s hard to keep up.

village of killin with loch tay in the background

It’s usually more expensive

As I mentioned before, I used to work as a travel agent, and from my experience- it’s usually more expensive to book through a travel agent than it is to book your own holiday.

Travel agents often charge hidden fees- they have the ability to edit prices on their quoting software, and the company I worked for actively encouraged us to add a secret 10% (on average) service fee. Some travel agents added more- we actually could choose how much to secretly charge! When a customer would ask if we charge a fee, we were told to lie and say we earned commission from the bookings.

This was one of the reasons I left my job as a travel agent, because I didn’t agree with this method and believed service fees should be transparent. Not all travel agents operate in this way, but if you do decide to use a travel agent, do a quick search online to see what the prices are if you were to book yourself.

You have less control over your trip

Because all your bookings are via a third party, if you need to make any changes, travel agents may charge a fee for doing so. It makes sense- they’re doing the work for you, but if you’re on a budget this may not suit you.

Any changes to your booking also have to go through your travel agent, which can take longer than if you were to do it yourself.

village of portnahaven on islay in scotland

Travel agents can only book experiences for you with companies they have an affiliation with

Travel agents tend to only have partnerships with bigger tour and accommodation providers, and many of the smaller tour companies in Scotland will not have a partnership with travel agencies. This means you may miss out on some pretty unique experiences (and supporting the local economy in Scotland).

Some of the best experiences in Scotland are with local tour guides, bed and breakfast owners, and other local tourism providers. If you book your own trip, you will have a bigger variety of places the choose from.

Planning your own trip to Scotland

autumn breaks in scotland in perthshire

Pros

You can plan the trip you want

If you want something done right, do it yourself: you know yourself best, and you know what you want for your experience!

It can work out cheaper

Traditionally booking your own trip will be cheaper than going through a travel agent, because they often charge a fee to plan your holiday (which is often hidden).

You can use flight price comparison software such as Skyscanner to find the best deals on flights, and search various websites such as Booking.com, Expedia, or Hotels.com to find the best price for the accommodation you want to book. Generally, it will be cheaper to book your holiday this way.

taking a selfie on the isle of skye in scotland

You can book through any provider

You’re not limited to booking tours, accommodations and experiences that travel agents have an affiliation with- you can book through any provider in Scotland!

This means you can book any of the local tour guides, bed and breakfasts, and experiences you like. In my opinion, booking more local experiences is the way to go when visiting Scotland- there really isn’t anything else quite like Scottish hospitality!

There are some really unique experiences you can try in Scotland- from visiting a Highland Cattle farm to staying in a castle, or going on a private tour with a local.

Did you know that we provide private driving tours in Scotland? We can organise a bespoke day trip or multi-day tour departing from Edinburgh for you. Visit our website Kiwi and Haggis Tours for more information.

Planning a holiday is fun

I don’t know about you, but I love dreaming and planning my holidays- it’s sometimes more fun than going on the trip itself!

yvette and craig enjoying mulled wine at the edinburgh christmas markets

Cons

It takes time to research and plan your trip

Planning and booking your own trip does take quite a bit of time- it can also be stressful planning a trip to Scotland if you’ve never visited before! Answers to questions such as the best airline to book, how to find accommodation, where to go and what to see can be tricky to find for even the savviest traveller.

Trying to sort through the information given by various guidebooks and on the internet is time-consuming, plus, the information you’re accessing may be outdated or unreliable.

This is why I created Planning A Trip To Scotland course, where I walk you through planning your trip to Scotland step-by-step. I’ve poured over five years of experience travelling Scotland into this workshop, and it covers everything from creating your itinerary to the best places to book every aspect of your Scotland trip!

The best way to plan your Scotland trip

staffa puffins scotland

While booking your holiday through a travel agent may be more convenient, I think planning your own trip to Scotland is the way to go. This way you can plan the perfect trip for you. No one knows your travel style better than you, and there are lots of tools you can use to help you plan.

Below I’ve listed some free and paid resources I’ve created to help you plan the perfect trip to Scotland.

Resources for planning your Scotland trip

Birnam, a village in Perthshire, Scotland

I highly recommend you go through and read all of the blog posts I’ve recommended below. This will give you an excellent overview of how to plan a trip to Scotland as well as some inspiration to help you get started:

More helpful posts:

The Ultimate Scotland Travel Planning Bundle

I created the Ultimate Scotland Travel Planning Bundle as a shortcut to planning your Scotland trip; it provides you with lots of helpful information, including the best places to book different aspects of your trip, a planner that walks you through planning your trip, and cheat sheets that include restaurant recommendations, food and drink recommendations, and much more.

The Ultimate Scotland Travel Planning Bundle includes:

  • The Beginners Guide to Planning A Trip To Scotland eBook
  • 70+ page Ultimate Scotland Travel Planner
  • Scotland Must-See Travel Planners

Planning A Trip To Scotland course

planning a trip to scotland course

The Planning A Trip To Scotland course contains pretty much everything I know about visiting Scotland.

I created it with Lonely Planet Scotland author and travel blogger Kay from The Chaotic Scot; together there’s nothing we don’t know about planning a trip to Scotland!

This course is perfect if you want to plan your own trip. The course features 70+ videos covering every aspect of creating your itinerary and booking your trip. I personally love our step-by-step tutorials, where we show you exactly where and how to book your Scotland trip.

This is the third article in my Planning A Trip to Scotland series. Be sure to read the next article in the series, A Guide To Scotland’s Weather, or sign up here to have the whole series emailed to you.

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