Is a travel agent worth it?
Sure, you don’t need one to book a vacation; but there are perks to having a professional plan a getaway.
Many travelers think travel agencies became extinct with the invention of the internet. However, much like record players and landline telephones, people of all generations are still using agencies despite digital alternatives.
So, is there any benefit to having someone else plan your vacation? Here are the best and worst times to use a travel agent.
Best: You’re booking a trip around the world
Travel agents can offer great advice about a complicated itinerary. Unless you’re a super-planner, you probably don’t enjoy spending hours researching a trip, comparing prices and deciphering a unique adventure from a scam. Plus, agents often score good deals on tours and entertainment options because of their connections.
Cruising the high seas? A travel agent will likely find the best product and service at the best value. Even if you book a cruise every year, agencies send cruise companies thousands in revenue, meaning their clout makes it easier to get room upgrades, extra credits and access to adventures that have wait lists.
If you find yourself in an emergency abroad, most airlines and hotel chains have preferred numbers for travel agencies, so they can get in touch quickly with someone who can best solve your situation.
Best: You’re an experienced business traveler
Corporate travel agencies bring a lot of benefits to road warriors. These agents move large volumes of travelers around the world, giving them a unique advantage on better rates and discount flights. They also might be able to score a dinner voucher to the most exclusive restaurant in town or arrange for A-list ground transportation.
Worst: You’re addicted to earning loyalty points
If loyalty points have you flying first class and sleeping on luxury linens, now’s not the time to hire a travel agent. They don’t make a profit on award bookings, so you’ll probably be charged an extra fee or required to save your points for another trip. If you need help using miles for flights, call the airline’s reservation center. Most airlines will charge a $10 booking fee, but that’s significantly less than a travel agent would charge for the same advice. You can always book your own flight and leave the activity planning to your travel agent.
Worst: You’re planting yourself on a beach for a week
For certain types of trips, everyone’s a travel aficionado these days. Just Google “best beach getaways,” and you’ll be met with dozens of blog posts about the best places for visiting, staying and dining. The internet makes it easy to plan and customize your perfect getaway. If you’re traveling to just one place and your plans are simple, you’re probably better off spending the time to plan the trip yourself.
Finding a travel agent
Choose one like you would any personal service. Ask friends or relatives for a recommendation. Sites like travelsense.org are great for finding certified agents. It’s important to make sure an agent is a Certified Travel Associate (CTA) and Certified Travel Counselor (CTC).
When it comes to cost, agents make most of their money on commissions paid to them by hotels, airlines, tour operators and cruise ships. Some charge fees up front as a security deposit; these can either be returned to you at the end of the planning process or applied to the cost of your trip.