Should you plan a trip to Scotland yourself or use a travel agent? This is a common question asked by first-time visitors to Scotland.
As a former travel agent, solo world traveller, and now, a travel blogger 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.
Booking through a travel agent
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.
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!
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 80% 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- of which there are many!
It’s usually more expensive
As I mentioned before, I used to work as a travel agent for a global travel agency, 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 direct.
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.
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.
Planning your own trip to Scotland
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.
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.
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!
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 can be time-consuming, plus, the information you’re accessing may be outdated or unreliable.
This is why I created the 5-Day Itinerary Planning Workshop, where we walk you through planning your trip to Scotland step-by-step. I’ve poured over 5 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
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
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:
- The Ultimate Guide To Planning A Trip To Scotland – start with this blog post
- When is the best time to visit Scotland? – I give a month-by-month analysis on what you can expect when visiting, as well as tips for my favourite times to visit
- Where to visit in Scotland – the regions in Scotland you can visit and the things you can do there
- Packing for a trip to Scotland – I cover what to pack for each season and my personal favourite clothing and travel gadgets
- 50 Scotland Travel Tips – a super handy blog post that will save you lots of time and research!
- A guide to driving in Scotland for the first time – my husband wrote this hilarious guide to driving in Scotland- it’s definitely one of the least boring articles on driving out there!
- 10 must-sees in Scotland – the experiences that you shouldn’t miss when visiting Scotland
- A guide to the weather in Scotland – another important article, where I debunk a few Scottish weather myths and tell you what you can really expect from the weather.
More helpful posts:
- Prettiest villages in Scotland – if you’re looking for inspiration on cute, traditional Scottish villages to visit, I’ve created a list of my favourites!
- The best pubs in Scotland – these are my personal favourite pubs in Scotland, including some hidden gems you won’t find in guidebooks!
- 20 secret places in Scotland – a roundup of my favourite places in Scotland that are off the beaten path
- Common questions about visiting Scotland answered – many questions you have about planning your trip will be answered here!
- Books about Scotland to read before you visit – a mix of my favourite fiction, history, and guidebooks about Scotland.
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
5-Day Scotland Itinerary Planning Workshop
I started running the 5-Day Scotland Itinerary Planning Workshop with my friend and fellow travel blogger Kay from The Chaotic Scot in 2022.
This comprehensive workshop includes four live 1-hour Masterclasses followed by a Q&A where we answer your Scotland travel questions.
It’s super in-depth and contains practically everything we know about planning a trip to Scotland!