Many people want to know what the benefits are using a travel agent versus booking travel on their own. There have been plenty of horror stories about going through travel agencies. So I want to help you decide which route is best for you!
So how do you decide between a travel agency or booking your travel on your own? It depends on what you’re looking for. Are you hands-on, and like to be involved in all the planning? Or do you want to let someone take it off your hands? Here is some helpful info that can guide you to make the best decision for you.
A travel agent works for a company that has a contracted agreement with airlines, hotels, tour companies, etc. They are the middle man. For example, United Airlines will offer a discounted rate to XXX company to help drive traffic. In most cases, a person will have to pay a nominal fee for their services. Keep in mind that not all agencies work the same. Some will have flat fees, while others will have an hourly rate. Overall, agencies make their money off of commission and how much money you spend on your tour. It is extremely important to be aware of selecting an agency. Obviously, you want someone who is reputable and trustworthy. an agent is not only working for you, but they are also working with third-party companies that want your business. If you don’t already have an agent and are looking to find one, NBC News has great tips on How to find the right Travel Agent.
Reasons to Use a Travel Agency
While travel agents are not used as much as they used to, they are still a great resource to have in your back pocket. Travel agents really are the experts. They can tell you every little detail about the city you’re looking to travel to, ranging from activities, places to eat, where to stay, how to get there. They offer a plethora of information. Kind of like the internet. Let the agent get to know you and put together a profile of your likes and dislikes. It is their job to help create the best vacation package for you. Below are some reasons why you should consider using an agent.
Save time. Comparing hotels and airfare prices can be extremely time-consuming, and let’s be honest, nobody has time for that. That’s when a travel agent steps in. Let them to do all the work and present options for you to choose from. Sometimes it’s easier to make a quick decision when you have it packaged for you.
Save money. Travel agencies partner with airlines, hotels, tour companies, and car rentals. As previously stated, agencies receive commissions based on bookings. So it provides an incentive. Since agencies receive discounted rates through the third-party companies that you probably won’t find on your own, that means you get to reap the benefits! It may not be a thousands of dollars in savings. But anything is better than nothing, right? Also, by going through an agent, you don’t always have to pay the full balance right then and there. Sometimes they only require a deposit, which helps lock in rates (airfare and hotels) that tend to fluctuate. Typically the balance is due 30-60 days before the departure date. The deposit amount can also vary. Sometimes it could be a few hundred dollars. Other times it could be the cost of the flight. Make sure to ask what your options are, because sometimes they won’t always tell you.
Security. Agencies can offer an insurance package for travelers. For example, if you plan on going to the Bahamas during hurricane season, an agent can offer a nice insurance package to make sure you can get your money back. Also, it’s always nice to have someone to call if something goes wrong. When you book your trip on your own, it’s all on you. No one can assist you. I always say it’s better to have someone do it for you, that way if something gets messed up, you have someone to blame, and can get your money back. Never do anything yourself that requires an extensive amount of time and a lot effort. It’s not worth it!!!
Reasons to Book Online
Travel agents can sometimes be pushy. The occasional agent might try to push you to take a certain airline at a certain that doesn’t work for you. It’s easier to select your preferences, without an extra voice in the background.
When using an agent, most cases are partners with all airlines. However, hotels are different. Not all agents are partners with larger corporations like Marriott, Hilton Worldwide, or Hyatt. You’ll see that they have smaller brands. Brands you’ve never heard of, especially when you’re traveling internationally. So you cannot get all the benefits that larger brands have to offer. And for some of you, that’s totally okay. I don’t mind staying at boutique hotels when going to Europe. I want to live how they live. But when I’m in the US, put me in a Ritz Carlton with a balcony view. Which leads me to my next point.
Points. If you’re lucky enough to have enough frequent flyer miles, or have hotel reward points. Use them! Points are everything, people! It makes your life so much easier. Don’t be crazy and spend money when you don’t have to. Having points can get you a couple of free hotel nights or even a free flight. You can also use points to help upgrade your flight, or put you in a nicer room. When booking through an agent, you’re restricted. You can’t use points for upgrades. Instead you have to pay a dollar amount and it has to go through to agent. You can’t call Delta and pay them directly. It’s something Andy and I just experienced and it’s frustrating to say the least. When a boutique hotel, you can’t claim points. Where as if I stayed at a Marriott, but didn’t have enough points for a free room, I can earn points and use them for my next trip. Think about it.
Internet. The internet is your best friend. With sites like hotels.com or Expedia, you can create a one-stop shop for yourself. You no longer need to have an outside party create a packaged deal for you. I like to see things upfront for myself.
Payment. In the world we live in, there are new ways to pay for everything. You can use PayPal or other Payment Centers to book your trip. Nowadays, you can split payments on to several different credit cards! Who knew?! You can also pay when you’re ready to pay. Not when someone tells you too because the deal is going to go away. No need to rush.
Customer Service Hours. When booking on your own, you won’t have to deal with business hours. The internet is always up and running.
I have mentioned in a previous post, that I like to go through Gate 1 Travel. While Gate 1 isn’t necessarily a travel agency, it is a travel package company. They have different offers such as cruises, tours, and international packages. I find that this is a good in between for me. Gate 1 can help pull flight options, and a list of hotels that I would probably never find on my own. Instead of working directly with an agent, I can build my reservation myself, and select multiple cities, and chose transportation between those cities. It really is a one stop shop, and has helped make my life easier. So far, I have had a great experience with them and highly recommend them to anyone.
To close this out. Do what is best for you. Research all your options because there are tons out there! I hope that you’ve found this helpful. Let me know if you have a preference between an agent or doing it yourself. I’d love to hear your thoughts! Until next time…Xoxo