When Matthew and I began looking into a working-holiday in Australia, we were only open to the idea of going because it was through an established company that promised to take care of us throughout our entire stay in Oz. While I wish I could say that's exactly what the travel company did, I can't. In fact, I've devoted an entire post on why you should AVOID travel companies.
To be clear, I would like to define the type of travel company I am talking about. I am referring to the dozens of backpacker travel companies out there that boast at arranging your place to stay, promising you a job and guaranteeing you have a fun time. While all those things are nice, they simply aren't true and aren't needed from a third party.
- Lack of support - The first reason you should avoid a travel company is often the first promise listed on their website. Support. We chose our company because they promised to give us 24 hour support, should an emergency arise. They also promised us a job. While we did have a job upon landing, the gig was not at all what had been advertised to us, the pay was severely under the Australia minimum wage, and when our “trial period” was up, we called the company to ask for a relocation and not only did the emergency hotline not work, but their response was an automated email that listed four websites that amounted to the Australian version of Craigslist. All of this went down within one month of our trip and from that point on we knew we were on our own in this game.
- False promises – Later in the trip I heard that the company was giving away “travel vouchers” in exchange for essays and photos of our trip. Being a blogger, I immediately applied to several of these contests, in hopes of making back some of the huge chunk of dough I had already wasted with this company. Fortunately, I won about five of these contests and earned over $900 in travel vouchers. I was ecstatic! How nice it would be to fly home on these vouchers once my trip was finished. I was relieved to know I had one less thing to worry about.
Unfortunately, when it came time to book my flight home, the company said the travel vouchers were only good for other trips abroad through this company. This was after I sent them an email which quoted my personal representative of the company. She had clearly explained that the vouchers were good for any trip or activity booked through the company. There was no mention about it having to be an overseas work and travel trip. While I did my best to argue, they simply didn't budge and not only did I have to scramble to find money for a flight home, but I also lost over $900 worth of earnings for my personal essays and photos that were now public property of this dreadful company I wanted no part of.
- You don't need them – The biggest reason you should avoid travel companies is simple. You don't need them. Honestly, I paid several thousand dollars worth of my hard-earned money on a peace of mind that didn't exist. Travel insurance was bought on my own. Flights around Australia were purchased and scheduled on my own (and for a much cheaper price). Every job except the first—which was the most awful-- was found either online or through a connection we made while on the trip. The company did absolutely nothing for me and as soon as I returned to the states, I reported them to the Better Business Bureau.
While all of this may seem like a rant, I assure it is not. While traveling I would say that 90% of the backpackers I met were doing it on their own and saved a bunch of money because of that decision. The other 10% who were with travel companies, all had the same complaints Matt and I did, and they were with different companies than ours.
It sounds nice to have an emergency hotline, a prearranged job and a place to stay, but I wouldn't fall for it. Be truly brave and do the extra work yourself. You can save thousands of dollars that you can put towards your trip and you'll even be twice as rewarded for it.