Once upon a time life was easy. If you wanted to do something mundane like buy insurance, you’d get in touch with a broker. They’d be a youngish man in a cheap suit sitting in an office nearby. They might even come over to your house to talk over the options. You wouldn’t know if you had got a great deal, but the whole thing wouldn’t take very long and you could get back to doing something more interesting. The same guy would call you up when renewal time came round and would help you out if you needed to make a claim.
In the run up to the couple of exciting weeks in the year when you might go away on holiday, you would go to the travel agents in your local High Street. There, the travel agent, a person of surprising exoticism who gave the impression they had possibly even travelled to a few of the tantalising Mediterranean destinations you clutched in the shiny brochure you’d picked up while waiting, would go through what you wanted, stare intently at a flickering screen of green or even amber text and find you something that was not quite exactly different from what you had initially thought you wanted. But you’d be happy with it. Of course they weren’t infallible and it helped to go to someone who had been recommended. Retrospectivelly I’m still mildly annoyed at the travel agent who chortled at my mum inquiring about flights to Chicago in the mid 80s and said “why would anyone want to go there?”. She obviously hadn’t seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, or listened to my mum when she said we were planning on visiting relatives. We ended up on the holiday from hell in Tunisia that summer.
Then, along came the internet. Well, OK, there was a brief interlude well described by Peter Kay, when you might have watched the Teletext holiday bargains listing and scrambled to press STOP when something good came up.
The internet promised something new and amazing. No more lurking suspicion that the spotty youth at the travel agency had hardly done more than a week in Torremolinos with their mum and dad and was just telling you stuff from their manager’s last sales conference in Wigan. Now you could bypass all that tedious mucking around and just go direct to the airlines and hotels to make up exactly the holiday you wanted. You also couldn’t get ripped off because all the prices and other terms were transparent – no point in anyone making silly claims because it was the matter of a few moments clicking away in your lunch break and you’d find the real bargains. It was helpful that some sites, like Expedia and Lastminute.com brought together a lot of the information to save having your PC overheat at trying to keep a load of windows open. Aye son, we had none of that fancy dan tabbed browsing in my day. What’s more, it really worked. I booked a long weekend in New York with flights and (admittedly rather ropey) accommodation for barely over £250. We arranged complex multi-destination holidays travelling round the Rockies. I booked a 12 day Californian road trip with 3 great boutique hotels and a couple of nights in a Yosemite cabin for our honeymoon for less than a week in Sandals. How marvellous!