When You Should Hire a Travel Agent (and when you shouldn’t!)

When You Should Hire a Travel Agent (and when you shouldn’t!)

In today’s era of online research and comparison shopping, travel agents may seem like a relic from the days of PanAm flights and smoking in the office. But that’s very much not the case! Modern travel agents are still a terrific resource for travelers, and their added cost is often worth it. Except when it isn’t.

Here’s our take on the pros and cons of hiring a travel agent.

Pro: Travel agents can save you time

From our experience, one of the biggest benefits is that working with a professional takes a lot of the hassle out of the process. The average flight shopper spends about five hours hunting for flights. Working with a travel agent can cut that down significantly.

Pro: Travel agents have insider knowledge

Because agents work with sophisticated systems and have a network of connections at different destinations, they can get you tons of perks, last minute add-ins, and upgrades. A good travel agent brings more than just their technical skills to the table, they bring mutually beneficial relationships that sometimes end up saving you money.

When You Should Hire a Travel Agent

Con: You can probably do it cheaper yourself

Look, we’re not going to say that you should hire a travel agent all the time. Modern flight comparison tools have made buying flights faster and cheaper than ever before, and with a little time and patience, you can get your flight and travel details booked without an agent. We wouldn’t suggest booking any direct flights or routine, domestic flights through a travel agent, for example, unless…

When You Should Hire a Travel Agent

Pro: Travel agents can simplify planning large group travel

If you’re booking flights and hotels for a group of people, travel agents can save you a boatload of time and effort. Planning flights for more than two or three people is like herding cats in a hurricane, and a travel agent will do it for you. And probably do it better.

Con: You need to be sure you’re working with a good agent

Novice agents, part-time agents, and lazy agents won’t give you the expertise and peace of mind that a seasoned one will, so if you’re prepared to spend some money working with a pro, don’t cheap out or go with an agent who doesn’t come well-recommended.

Pro: Peace of mind

When the unthinkable happens (cancelled flight, natural disaster, airline strike), who would you rather be talking to: a travel agent you know and trust or an airline representative halfway across the planet? From travel insurance to insider connections, travel agents will take care of any trip crises that you might end up facing. For a lot of people, that security is well worth working with a professional.

When You Should Hire a Travel Agent

The bottom line:

Travel agents can save you time, stress, and sometimes even money. They bring an expertise to the table that can open doors and make your trip more fun and less risky, but you’ll need to be sure you’re working with a legitimate agent, and be prepared to pay them for their expertise and time.

How To Avoid Crowds and Lines While Traveling to Europe

How To Avoid Crowds and Lines While Traveling to Europe

Europe is one of our favorite destinations. What’s not to love? Good food, great wine, rich in culture, and…long lines. C’est la vie, unfortunately, but just because there are crowds at popular tourist attractions, doesn’t mean you necessarily have to wait in them.

For those of you who love culture but don’t want to wait around, there are a few steps you can take to reduce the amount of time you spend in line. In some cases, you can even eliminate the wait all together!


Get up early…

Getting up and out between 6 and 9 am is ideal for sightseeing. Earlier times mean less wait and more experience with actual locals, giving you a calmer impression of the city or location you’re visiting. There will also likely be less kids around, which can sometimes be a disruptive element in places like museums or art galleries.   

Get Up Early


…and stay out late

Check to see if any of your destination’s attractions have a late night option! There’s typically a night of the week where museums are open later than average, allowing you to experience an attraction with less of a crowd.


This is especially true for very popular destinations

Avoid bus tour groups. Big name destinations get crowded with tour groups, so getting to a site right as it opens (or even a little before) can mean the difference between waiting for five minutes and waiting an hour, or more.


Use those self-service kiosks whenever possible

We’re always surprised by how few people seem to take advantage of the self-serve ticket kiosks. This is likely due to the fact that it’s a fairly new addition to most venues and they are often located in strange, out-of-the way places, however you can usually reduce your wait time by using a self-serve system. It pays to do a little research ahead of time as to whether or not your destination has one of these helpful digital ticket dispensers.



Skip the front door

This is another example of a little research coming in handy. If you’re going to a tourist destination, see if there’s a side entrance that can save you some time. The Louvre is a great example. While that famous glass pyramid is pretty, there’s actually a side entrance called the Portes des Lions which is far quicker than the main one.


Ignore elevators

Elevators can reduce some leg work, but taking the stairs instead of waiting for elevators, shuttles, or trams can actually be much faster. The line for the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tour is famously long, but if you take the stairs you’ll reach the top much quicker, even if slightly more out of breath.

Taking the stairs


Book a skip-the-line tour

If you’re experiencing a city with a tour guide, they can often do the leg work for you. Small group tours that work with specific locations move much quicker due to the guide’s advance planning, plus you can skip the lines and have an expert there to tell you all about it. This is much preferable to standing around waiting to buy a ticket.



7 Journals to Suit Your Personality

7 Journals to Suit Your Personality

Travel journaling is mindful scrapbooking on the fly; It’s the act of taking the time to experience your journey in a different way. This method of recording your trip can be highly successful if you tailor your tools to the journaling style that suits you.

You may choose to try different methods or even use your travel journal as practice for a skill you are working on. For example, I love the look of sketches in my journals but I cannot draw. On my last trip, I used zentangle borders and flowers to make my journal come alive!

While you can create a travel journal after your trip, the real benefit comes from its use while on location.Taking the time to practice mindfulness while at your destination will help you to express it better through your creative medium.

But how do you decide what journaling style suits you? Below are 7 ways to capture your travel memories to help you get started.

1. The Artist

Recording the world around you through lines and colours is your forte. Whether you prefer to sketch or draw, you will need a book that is slightly larger than most travel journals so that you can freely move across the page.


A small pencil case is a necessity to keep your pencils protected. Otherwise, you can get a pencil roll.

Note: Please be aware that if you wish to visit museums, there are some art tools that are forbidden including charcoal and pen.

2. The Photographer

You adore snapping photos of your surroundings to capture the memories of your travel experiences and this is the perfect way to remember your trip. Travel journals that include a lot of photos are not photo albums. Instead, you’re using photography as a medium to bring yourself back into your shoes while you were traveling. This is the perfect opportunity to take tons of selfies and not feel guilty about it.

  • It is best to use an unlined journal, slightly larger to fit your photos and write ups. Can be flexible or hardcover.
  • If you take a photograph, write down a reminder of where you are/what you’re doing in the journal and make sure to mention that you snapped a great photo!
  • All you need is a simple clicky pen to jot things down. No pencils, because pencils break. Why fiddle when that perfect shot is coming up! Alternatively, you can take quick notes on your cell phone.

Photography is an incredible skill to rely on for your travel journal, but remember that it’s more about remembering your experiences than how many beautiful pictures can I take? Quality over quantity is key here.

3. The Wordsmith

The written word is delightful to you, so much so that you find it easiest to record your daily experiences on the page. You may already keep a daily journal, but I urge you to create a separate one just for when you travel. After all, traveling often make the best stories!

A beautiful pen that is easy to care for while enjoying the scenic route or while on the train platform will help you to jot down your thoughts or spark the poet in your soul.

  • A hardcover journal will help you to keep your writing neat while balancing it on your knee en-route.
  • Avoid blank pages. Lines or grids will work well here to keep things organized
  • Invest in a good pen, it is your main instrument after all.

4. Fast and Furious

You find that you’re most creative when you are in the moment and perhaps travel journaling sounds a bit overwhelming. That requires planning and supplies…well, not anymore.

A simple pen and a small lined journal will help you to remember those lists, plans, and also jot down what you had for lunch and how great it was.

A family member visited Scotland and greatly enjoyed this style of travel journaling. She would write a couple sentences at the end of each day to explain where she went and how she felt about it.

  • A lined or grid journal is perfect for keeping things organized and neat.
  • An envelope on the back of the journal is essential for stashing things away quickly.
  • A smaller book fits in most travel packs and purses
  • Semi-soft cover helps you to carry your journal and all your travel essentials


5. The Collector

Tickets, pay stubs, receipts, guides, coasters…all of these and more are stashed away in the bottom of your suitcase as memories of the places you’ve visited. With a refillable (thus, expandable) travel journal, you have enough room to store all your bits and bobs that you’ve gathered along your journey.

If you want to go with a traditional book, be aware that you will have to remove pages to make room for your inserts and tip-ins; all that extra paper makes the journal a little thick.


Want to know what a tip-in is? Watch this great video!


Things to help you organize your travel memories:

  • You don’t need to spend a lot on a writing utensil since the memories are more in the pieces you’ve gathered on your travels
  • A Journal with removable inserts will allow you endless space to store your collection

6. Jack-of-all-Trades

You take photos, collect meaningful tidbits, write poetry, try your best to sketch, and always have time for a coffee on the patio to collect your thoughts. A jack-of-all-trades doesn’t adhere to a single artistic medium while recording their travels. This method is more akin to scrapbooking and may require some pasting and re-organizing upon reaching home.

Be aware, this is not scrapbooking but a mindful method of experiencing and processing your travels; you’re merely enhancing it with your photos, words, and tidbits.

An envelope on the back of the journal is a wonderful addition, but not essential; the journal should be able to handle the few items you decide to keep. Grids or blank pages will work best here due to the mixed mediums.

7. The Socially Savvy

Ever connected and ready to go? This travel journaling style has some etiquette attached to it but it makes for an easy way to share your trip with your loved ones.

With the ability to keep a profile private, you can keep an online journal with in-the-moment editing and recording. This also allows you to create a video journal if you prefer.

You are now ready to begin your very own travel journal! There is something inherently classical about keeping a physical journal of your experiences while you travel. Just remember: Journaling is a personal experience; worry less about making it worth reading and more about keeping memories of a wonderful trip.


Have you ever used a travel journal before? Do you have another method that works for you?

Houseboat Haven: Floating Your Way to a Holiday

Houseboat Haven: Floating Your Way to a Holiday

What allows you to settle into just one place for your holiday, but at the same time visit multiple destinations?

A houseboat, of course!

From hotel riverboats to barges, to yachts, to houseboats small and large, luxury to basic, and everything in between, a floating holiday might just be the right thing for you!

It’s one of the best kept secrets of European vacations – for those who are already in the know. With a quick lesson and no special license required, the options are endless. You can rent your own houseboat and begin your adventure on the vast water landscape.

“Living on the water took away the boundaries created by land and custom and introversion. Without fences and driveways, the water provided a constant thread of connection and dependency.”

Lily Graham, The Cornish Escape

So, what are your options?

In the following parts of Europe, Canalboats are available: Belgium, England, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, Spain & the UK. (This is not an exhaustive list.)

You can choose every style and size from fully catered luxury, to small group tours, to do it yourself- all depending on your preferences.

You’ll be surprised at how many choices there are. How about chartering your own cruise or joining a tour – small groups of people on a floating hotel, with everything built in for you to enjoy!

Renting your own houseboat is one option and one that gives you endless possibilities in terms of what you can do. This includes stopping at local villages, markets, shops, bakeries and patisseries. What better way to get a taste of a culture than to immerse yourself in these daily go-to places? For those interested in taking a bike ride through these towns, bikes are typically available to rent – just take them with you on the boat! Bikes are also a great way to visit local sites and vineyards.


Let us know in the comments: Have you ever been on a houseboat?

Marvel as you travel slowly along waterways that have served for hundreds of years to transport people and goods – so clearly the roads of a bygone era.

Are you looking for a more luxurious experience on the water? How about a full staff – running both the boat and the kitchen on your behalf? Personal chef, anyone? Local fare and delicious wines for dinner?

If all of this sounds like a dream, it isn’t! The good news is that we’re here to tell you it’s easier than ever and very affordable. It wins on so many counts, as the best way to see some countryside with views that only a canal or other waterway can show you. A vantage point that is truly unique.

Are you ready for how great this is?

Do you want to just relax, enjoy spectacular views, and create memories of a lifetime?

With just a few tips, you’ll be ready to navigate the canals, river-ways and locks. Then, it’s time to just admire the view, enjoy the most delectable local foods and wines, and visit some of the great sites along the way. No car or bus, no unpacking and repacking – just settle in for the duration of a magical life-enhancing experience.

Follow us as we bring you different suggestions for tours and itineraries for 2018. We will work with a selection of operators and owners to bring you some really great ideas, so stay tuned!

How To Pack Lightly For Your Next Vacation

How To Pack Lightly For Your Next Vacation

Saving space in your luggage is a good idea for a few key reasons: it’s cheaper, faster, and easier on your back. But despite this, most experienced travelers have made the mistake of lugging along a bulky suitcase only to find it impossible to navigate public transport or take souvenirs home.

If you’re looking to cut down on your packing for your next trip, here are a few steps to lighten your luggage and mind!

Have A Plan

Start eliminating before you’ve even packed anything at all.

Consider how many days you’ll be traveling and the types of events and activities you’ll be doing. Either on paper or in your head, jot down the type and number of pieces you think you’re going to need.

Having a plan will stop you from throwing everything into your suitcase on a whim as you stand in front of your closet.


Start eliminating before you’ve even packed anything at all!


Stick To Neutral Colors

Black, brown, tan, white, and other neutrals harmonize well with each other and (except for white) hide stains and dirt well.

Packing only clothes that fall into one color family makes sure that each piece you pack pulls its weight by coordinating with multiple outfits. You will need fewer outfits if all of your pieces go together, and you’ll look neutral and unassuming in most places you visit.

Reduce Bulk

Unless you’re going somewhere extremely cold, consider leaving the bulky sweaters and outerwear at home.

Packing with the goal of layering in mind increases the number of pieces you can bring, therefore increasing your options for outfits. A t-shirt, sweater, and undershirt can keep you just as warm as one thick sweater, but the multiple pieces can be used in a few different ways.

Plan To Do Laundry On Longer Trips

Don’t bring more than 7 days worth of clothes on any trip.

After a week, you can just run to a laundromat or use the facilities in your rental to clean your clothes. Whatever your travel destination, almost everywhere has a place where you can get your things washed.

Laundry washing is typically cheap and will save you a lot of hassle from lugging 14 days of clothes around.

Don’t bring more than 7 days worth of clothes on any trip

Don’t Worry About What-ifs

When you decide on a packing list, it can be easy to throw in some “emergency pieces.”

What if there’s an unexpected snowstorm? Or an unseasonable heat streak? These kinds of questions can lead you to packing items you don’t actually need in anticipation of a situation that is, let’s face it, often very unlikely.

If there’s unexpected conditions, trust that you can get anything you need to face it while you’re there. Leave the snow pants at home.

Don’t Overthink It

Clothes are just clothes! Pack what you think you need, then take out one thing more.

Trust that they have shops where you’re going, and that you can buy what you need for anything unexpected that comes up. Pack light and enjoy the adventure!

What is your trick to packing lighter?

Share your thoughts on our social media!

Our Top 8 Travel Must Haves

Our Top 8 Travel Must Haves

At Loftus Guides, we believe the best trips don’t require a lot of frills to be meaningful and memorable, but we also know that the right tools make travel a lot easier. So we’ve compiled a list of our essentials for your next trip that will preserve your sanity and organize your life without breaking the bank.

1. Leakproof Silicone Travel Containers

If you want to travel light, one of the easiest things you can eliminate is bulky packaging and heavy liquids like shampoo and conditioner. These silicone travel containers make decanting your products easy, and they won’t leak all over your suitcase!

2. Travalo Excel Refillable Fragrance Atomizer

Even if you’re a perfume addict, you probably don’t want to bring a heavy bottle of perfume with you. This travel atomizer has a clever mechanism that allows you to take a sample amount of your perfume with you on your trip, perfect for freshening up before a night out or eliminating the odor from that hairy guy who stood too close to you on the metro.

3. Portable Charger

If you don’t have a portable charger, you are missing out! It’s so irritating to hunt through an airport for the handful of outlets available to charge your phone with only to find one occupied by some jerk who brought his entire media arsenal with him. Portable chargers make travel less stressful and keep your phone handy for photos and navigation during the trip, and these are so useful outside of traveling as well.

4. Neck Pillow

These are fantastic to have on an airplane for sleeping, but they’re also terrific for lower back support on long train or airplane rides. In a pinch, they can also be used as regular pillows if your accommodations don’t provide them.

5. Compression socks

Unless you like deep vein thrombosis, compression socks are a must-have for any long haul flight.

6. Gear Ties

These handy cords organize loose cables, preventing damage and maintaining order in your technology while you travel. These things are basically glorified twist-ties, but they’re super durable and easy to use.

7. Packing Cubes

If there’s one thing that can save you hassle and time, it’s packing cubes. These things can save you a ton of room in your suitcase, contain dirty clothes from the clean ones, reduce the overall bulk of your items, and help maintain your sanity as you pack and unpack.

8. Travel Adapter

This list wouldn’t be complete without this classic and essential item! International adapters can save your devices from getting electrically fried, and you never have to buy a new device or charger to use once you get there.