Why you don’t need a travel agent for a perfect Maldives water villa holiday
With all due respect to offline travel agents and the hard work and expertise they can provide, those traveling to the Maldives for a private-island holiday don't really need them, and will almost certainly save money without one. If you've only ever booked luxury holidays with your friendly neighborhood travel agent, then you might as well carry on doing that. But if you don't have a travel agent and unsure of the value they bring, read this article and you'll discover that you are probably better off without them.
The main reason for this is that the Maldives is an incredibly well organized travel destination, and after your first visit you'll discover that everything is taken care of for you whether you got a discount price online or paid a higher price to your hometown travel agent.
1 – Travel agents are great at transfers and details, but in the Maldives it's all automatic
If you are booking a Phuket holiday or a trip to Boracay Island, for example, you will justifiably wonder how convenient the resort location is, and how you'll get from the airport to the resort, and several other logistical puzzles. It's true that getting to your resort in places like that can be complicated, but in the Maldives those questions are already answered upon booking.
In the Maldives:
- Each resort is on its own private island, so the “neighborhood” is irrelevant.
- Each resort has its own transportation, which is a speedboat, sea-plane, or both, and you'll automatically have that booked when you book your villa.
- Whether you book with a travel agent or save money booking online, the transfer process is exactly the same.
The procedure for getting from the Male International Airport to your resort can sound a bit mysterious and complicated before you do it the first time, but it's actually quick and straightforward.
Please watch this short video that shows exactly how it works:
Video of Male Airport landing and speedboat or sea-plane transfers
2 – How Maldives resort-booking works in an automatic way
Step 1: Check flights to the Maldives and decide upon travel dates
Step 2: Find the best resort at the best rate for your dates
Step 3: Book your flight and then your resort online
From here on out, it's exactly the same booking online or with an agent
Step 4: You will pay for your airport transfers to the resort at the same time you book your resort, at a fixed price that is the same for everyone
Step 5: Give your resort the details of your incoming and outgoing Maldives flights, and they will arrange your specific transfer times
Step 6: You'll receive clear and specific instructions for where to go once you get off your flight to the Maldives
Step 7: Fly to the Maldives and go to the counter or office that your resort instructs you to
Step 8: A resort representitive will greet you and escort you to your speedboat or to the sea-plane check-in counter, and you'll soon be at your resort
Step 9: You'll be greeted at your resort since they know exactly when you'll arrive, and they will check you in and take you and your bags to your villa
Step 10: When your island stay is over, the resort will put you on a speedboat or sea-plane to get you back to the airport shortly before your flight home
It's that easy. Each of these steps is simple and after the first 3, it works exactly the same whether you book with a travel agent or book an online deal yourself.
And of course, by doing Steps 1, 2, and 3 yourself, you can often save a small fortune and/or get an upgraded water villa compared to what your travel agent will present to you.
3 – Travel agents work with a small number of resorts, while online deals are available at almost all of them
Nearly all hard-working local travel agents have relationships with a small fraction of the 90 or so private-island Maldives water villa resorts. These relationships usually do mean that you can get a pretty decent deal at one of the resorts they work with, but it also means that your agent will never tell you about resorts they don't work with who might be offering better water villas for 20% less than the ones they suggest.
One wonderful thing about these Maldives water villa resorts is that nearly all of them are extremely nice and professionally run. Unlike almost anywhere else, these private-island resorts can't be built or run cheaply at all, so virtually all of them earn consistently good reviews from guests. As a result, your travel agent will suggest a resort that they work with, and it will be a wonderful place that you'll be very happy with.
However, with around 90 private-island resorts in the Maldives with water villas, this means that there are 70 or 80 wonderful resorts, and at any given time the best deals could be at almost any of them. You'll see when you scan the online listings for your ideal travel dates, that many of them are offering 50% or more off their normal rates, including some of the best resorts in the Maldives.
Even if you already work with a travel agent, you should compare their quote with not just the online price for that resort, but with the best deals at similar resorts. Chances are very high that an even higher rated resort is offering lower prices for your dates if you look closely.
4 – You might be able to afford a Jacuzzi or private-pool water villa with online promotions
While there are close to 90 Maldives resorts with water villas, only about a third of those offer private Jacuzzis or plunge pools as an option. At most resorts these features are available at an upgrade rate from the standard water villas, but with frequent online promotions, sometimes they are virtually the same price as the standard water villas.
Some Maldives resorts have only a small number of standard water villas, and far more Jacuzzi or pool units. If you scan ALL of the listings for your travel dates, you've got a good chance of finding a resort where most of their standard villas are almost booked, and they are offering discounts on the deluxe villas.
Again, if your travel agent only works with 8 or 10 resorts, the chances of stumbling into such a deal are limited. But if you are considering ALL of the 80+ resorts, your chances of finding an amazing promotional deal are far greater.
5 – In fairness, online bookers need to pay attention
While a savvy online shopper will usually end up with a better deal than someone who just asks for a quote from a travel agent, the online shopper has to be careful.
Resort prices are quoted per night, but often omit fees until the payment screen
Sadly, every major online hotel-booking site is at least partly guilty of showing pre-tax rates until you are about to type your credit card in. If you look closely you'll see that the room quote might exclude up to 17% in taxes and fees. As long as you are aware of this and comparing the final price to the full travel-agent quote, you'll still usually come out ahead online.
Airport to island transfers are expensive, so factor that in as well
The cheapest speedboat transfer from the Maldives Airport to a nearby island is about US$100 per person round-trip. The most expensive sea-plane flight is over US$600 per person round-trip, and there are no other ways of getting there. When you book online you have to include the transfer price into your final total in order to get the true final price to compare with your travel agent.
Travel agents are better able to handle the disabled or other special situations
Booking online yourself is generally cheaper because you basically do it yourself with no assistance available unless you call or email the resort directly. For the vast majority of us, the savings are worth it because it's all so straightforward as described above.
However, if you need wheelchair assistance or have some unusual dietary requirement that makes even large buffets challenging, then a travel agent is probably worth the extra money. An agent in your area can contact resorts and get specific answers for unusual situations, and make sure you end up at a resort that will work for you.
In conclusion, booking online is usually cheaper, but travel agents are useful
Again, this article isn't meant to try to trick people into abandoning their favorite local travel agent. If you have someone you like and trust, you are probably best off continuing to use them even for a straightforward Maldives holiday.
On the other hand, if you assume that you NEED to work with a travel agent to sort out the details and/or get the best deal, you should probably think about booking yourself online. Once you choose the resort you like most and that has the best deal on what you want, it's all very simple and automatic. You'll get a great deal that you chose yourself, and it will still be stress-free when you get there and until you are home again.