Should You Use a Travel Agent?
These days, the Internet has turned would-be vacationers into their own travel agents. Sites such as Kayak, Expedia, and a host of others allow travelers to book with ease. Travel agents — once a necessity to get to some far-off destination — are often overlooked. But, for those of you who don’t want to spend time planning your vacation, travel agents could be a valid option — it’ll just cost a little bit more. According to the American Society of Travel Agents, the average service fee for booking airline tickets in 2009 was around $20, while the fee for booking a cruise was $50, USA Today writes. So, to book through a travel agent or tobook online?
Travel agents are meant to be your vacation advocate. They’ll find you the best prices, and if by chance something bad happens, they’ll be there to clean up the mess, USA Today says. “Online booking will show you the prices of tickets at the moment, but prices may change daily.” What’s more, travel agents take all of the stress out of vacations. Imagine not having to worry about arranging travel, hotels, meals, and excursions.
Planning a trip really can be time consuming. In fact, about 20 percent of more than 2,000 travelers said it took more than five hours to search and book travel online, according to a survey by the I.B.M. Institute for Business Value. Travel agents, however, make a career out of easing your planning pain. They can take away the stress of vetting the countless options out there, and ensure you find the best one while saving money, US News Money writes. In fact, the US News Money article states that you can save anywhere from $500 to $1,000 on airfare if you have the right agent.
They can also offer insight that a website won’t be able to. “An agent can guide an inexperienced traveler through foreign travel or travel to exotic destinations. While the Internet may be bursting with websites and bookings in technologically advanced areas, agents may have more knowledge of travel in areas where tourism is less developed,” USA Today writes.
You need to be flexible to see some of the cost-saving benefits travel agents provide. “Being open about when you travel and where can slash your trip costs. But your savings mean less commission for some travel agents, so they may not suggest being flexible,” according to Woman’s Day. They also may be recommending hotels or cruises they’ve never used.
Furthermore, travel agents don’t offer the same cancellation policies as online engines. “In the not-so-distant past, online booking engines didn’t issue refunds, so travel agents were the way to go if you were concerned you’d have to cancel your trip. Now, online travel sites offer money back even if airfare drops through benefits like Orbitz.com’s Price Assurance program,” says Woman’s Day.
“Contrary to popular belief, a travel agent won’t always cost more. In fact, it’s possible you will pay less than booking a vacation yourself because agents might be aware of promotional offers and occasionally have access to exclusive deals,” according to the Chicago Tribune. Some agents do charge a per-hour fee when they’re planning a trip, and agents can earn commission on some of their bookings. But, you can typically expect a travel agent to cost around the same as if you’d booked it yourself. When you factor in the time it saves you, travel agents may be worth the cost.
What should you expect? Anticipate agents charging $25 to $30 to book a domestic flight, $50 to $80 to book a vacation to a single destination, and about $100 per hour for research and planning advice, according to Consumers’ Checkbook.