Traveling is so different than it once was; to book much of anything you really needed to use a travel agent. However, now that almost everything is online, you probably book a lot of travel yourself. So is there are reason to use a travel agent anymore? In reality, there are the pros and cons of using a travel agent—and also to booking online on your own:
Advice and Insight into the Industry
Pro: Agents often know the best days and times to travel, how early you should book to save the most, and which attractions and resorts are the most inviting. They are also more adept with warning you about advisories and risks, not to mention obscure must-sees that you otherwise might miss.
Con: Travel websites put most of their resources into accessing many different deals and travel options. For this reason you may be able to find all kinds of choices yourself just by searching effectively.
Price: The Travel Agent’s Cost
Pro: You often don’t pay any more for using an agent because most travel agents get referral fees or commissions for booking your trip.
Con: But sometimes you do pay more! Airlines, for example, don’t pay commissions so you might get charged a fee by a travel agent who books your flight. This factor can also influence which trips your travel agent recommends or which deals they show you.
Access to Better Deals
Pro: Speaking of great deals, travel agents have plenty of industry contacts and are likely to know about all of the deals and discounts. If you’re looking for a package vacation, an agent can save you a lot of money.
Con: Sometimes doing the searching for great deals is what gives you the most insight about possible places to stay and things to do.
Keep It Simple
Pro: Finding the best deal for every aspect of a complicated, multi-destination trip can be exhausting and time-consuming if you’re not a pro. If you want to simplify the process for yourself a travel agent is a must.
Con: Unless your trip is complicated a travel agent might be overkill. If you’re an experienced traveler, you may find the process simpler than you think. And when you rely on a travel agent you have to interact, wait for business hours, and otherwise deal with someone else’s schedule.
Pro: Travel agents can minimize the number of unpleasant surprises you get on your trip. This is because they know what a place is like in reality, not according to whatever stock photos are on the website.
Con: Your travel agent isn’t you; they may have intended to book you into a “luxury” resort, but you and your agent may have different ideas about luxury.
Pro: When something goes wrong on a vacation—like missed connections or lost documents—a travel agent can help you recover quickly. You’re also less likely to get “bumped” from a flight or otherwise shuffled around. And if you’ve ever tried to contact customer service on an online travel website, you already know that this isn’t their forte.
Con: In many cases a travel agent might only refer you to the service representatives of whatever airline, resort, or cruise operator you’re booked with.
Last Minute Changes
Pro: What happens when you check in only to discover you hate the room they’ve given you? Hint: the online websites can’t help you with this, but a travel agent may be able to. Your travel agent can also update you about changes to your flights and other connections.
Con: If you’re already in the middle of your trip and want to make a last second detour, booking online might save you from waiting for a travel agent. If you DIY you can instantly gratify your desire to deviate from the plan.
The Bottom Line
So, considering the pros and cons of using a travel agent, what’s the best choice? The most important factors are your personal preferences and the type of trip you’re interested in. Weigh the pros and cons in the context of you on your desired vacation and you’ll be more likely to choice wisely.