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As someone that takes joy in planning trips, I don’t engage with the typical travel agent often. However, I think back to my rigorous work-travel years and I wouldn’t blink twice before calling my agent to book a 13 leg, 3 week trip. Now, as a leisure traveler I rarely seek out agents to book my trip. Below, I discuss factors that one should consider while deciding on need for a travel agent – Pros and Cons of using a travel agent.
Time and Convenience
Pros: Using the service of a travel agent can be a very hands-off experience. Simply provide the details, get on with your life and the travel agent takes care of your needs. For folks pressed for time or just couldn’t be bothered with scavenging for deals online, travel agents are both time saving and extremely convenient options. Work trip includes a complex travel itinerary? A good travel agent is your best friend. Planning a dream vacation with multiple destinations and experiences? Travel Agent is best.
Cons: It is extremely important to work with an agent you trust, one that understands your travel needs best. There is nothing more frustrating than a back and forth with a travel agent who is unable to ‘make things happen’. The time and convenience factor can erode quickly and transform into frustration if your expectations are not met. For a straight forward itinerary, the easiest and the most convenient option is to book online yourself.
Price Point and Expertise
Pros: Travel agents bring with them a wealth of experience and are subject matter experts, who can not only snag a great deal but also know best time to travel, recommend local experiences and build the best package possible. Travel agents leverage their industry connections, and can significantly enhance your travel experience with perks and upgrades (think Virtuoso).
Cons: Travel agents don’t always present the cheapest option. If you are price sensitive, the best option is to book online directly with the service provider. While agents can add perks and value add-ons, they don’t come cheap (think service fee and commission margins). Everyone’s definitions of luxury varies and a travel agent’s definition may vary wildly from your own. Ditto for definition of ‘cheap’.
Reliability and Travel hiccups
Pros: Travel agents help minimize unpleasant surprises through re-bookings, different routing/products, fee waivers etc. If you are stuck at an airport, agents can often be easier to get hold of, re-plan your itinerary as needed. Depending on needs, a travel agent is also best suited to recommend insurance plans based on your destination and personal profile. Think of any travel related hiccup and the need to speak with a human to get things sorted, travel agents are easiest to work with.
Cons: Availability of travel agents and 24/7 service model is hard to come by, and expensive when it does. Access to a travel agent outside their business hours is a serious barrier, especially during travel interruptions. Many travel agents stop working for you once their invoice is paid. “missed connection? Contact the airline” is not unheard of. In many cases DIY bookings are easy to alter, rather than wait for a travel agent.
You do you. There is always room for a good travel advisor and a good travel agent is one that builds clientele with word-of-mouth. Finding a right travel advisor for your needs is also an exercise on its own. Regardless of who does the planning/booking, make sure you travel with all necessary documentation and do your due diligence. So no matter which way you lean, its never a completely hand-off process 🙂
Have you used a travel agent before? Share your thoughts with a comment below!
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