November 11, 2018

DIY Trip Planning vs. Using A Travel Agent

DIY Trip Planning vs. Using A Travel Agent

Once upon a time, about 20 years ago, you needed to use a travel agent to book a trip. Your travel agency would book your flights, give you a stack of maps and brochures, and they might even highlight the roads to take on the highway map if you were driving to your destination. Then, the Internet came around. In the world of Google Flights, and better travel rewards credit cards, and the many different flight booking sites, do people still use travel agencies?  If you’re like many budget travelers, you probably started booking your own trips yourself online in the early 2000s and thought travel agents went extinct. That’s actually the farthest thing from the truth. Sure, travel agents and agencies are not as common as they once were, but, they are still in demand. In fact, 34% of Millenials used an offline travel agent in 2017 (and many others with some crazy travel requests)! You know, the same generation that can send you a text message or tweet but won’t have a face-to-face conversation with you. I’m surprised that many know what a travel agency is.

How to find a reputable travel agent?

You can perform a quick Google search for “travel agents near me” and you will most likely find at least one private office. Or, you can always look for your local AAA location as well.

Why would anybody use a travel agency when you book the same flight or hotel room as the agent and maybe even save a few dollars in the process?

There are a few reasons actually. Let’s break those reason down below.

By finding a travel agent who is an expert on the region you want to visit, they can book the best flights, hotels, and even make top-notch recommendations of where to eat and sight-see. If you have never been to another continent, what looks appealing on the Internet doesn’t always work out so well once you arrive and begin to play tourist. Since the agent has already “been there, done that,” they can immediately tell you where to go so you can maximize every minute of the trip.

Not every travel agent is going to know everything about every corner of the globe. Travel Leaders can help you find an agent who specializes in the area you want to visit. For example, you can find an agent that specializes in beach weddings, Riviera Mexico, or Hawaii.

Travel Agents Aren’t That Much More Expensive
The Internet has driven the cost down for many items and services, travel agents included. To remain competitive, travel agents cannot charge the same fees they did before anyone could book their own dream vacation themselves. Travel agents do receive a small commission from the airlines and hotels when they book your trip, but, this helps keep your travel costs down.

Some agents might not charge any additional fees, but, you can expect to pay anywhere from $30 to $50 per person to book your trip for you. If you can afford the convenience or simply do not have the time to research your own flights, hotels, and sightseeing itinerary this can be money well-spent.

If you own one of the best travel rewards cards like the Capital One Venture or a Chase Sapphire Preferred, you have complimentary access to the Amex or Chase travel concierge. You tell them where you want to travel or even what special event you want to attend in your hometown and they will make it happen for no additional fee.

You Have a Complex Trip
Many great free, online tools exist that make booking a complex trip look extremely easy. Any DIY traveler needs to use Google Flights, Momondo, or Skiplagged (hidden city fares) to research a one-way, roundtrip, or multi-city fare. But, buying your plane tickets is only one side of the equation.

If you don’t have the time to research or simply can’t seem to put all the pieces to the travel puzzle together, don’t be afraid to call a travel agent. After all, it’s their job to book these complex fares so that you can have the trip of a lifetime. How often would you regret not going on a complex trip because you were afraid to ask for help?

Why People No Longer Use a Travel Agency
There will always be a demand for travel agents. That doesn’t mean you will use one to book most of your trips though. Here are several reasons why you won’t use a travel agency.

You Want Rewards Flights and Nights
One reason why you might book your own travel is so you can redeem your credit card rewards points. For example, there you can transfer and redeem Chase Ultimate Rewards points that you earn from your Chase credit cards to book award flights on just about any airline and you don’t have to pay a dime (okay, maybe fees and taxes) to fly or stay at a quality hotel. Travel rewards card benefits have improved so much, you can even buy your own ticket to the Emmys and other exclusive events just for owning an elite travel credit card.

When you use a travel agency, your only payment method will most likely be cash. That means you will have more rewards points to use next time, but, that doesn’t necessarily help you now.

If you need help booking an award flight, you can call the airline when you transfer your points or the credit card travel concierge when you try to redeem your points through their travel portal (i.e. AmexTravel.com or the Chase Ultimate Rewards Portal).

Plenty of Free Travel Advice Online
Not only can you book your travel directly from the airline or hotel, you can also research everything there is to do and even find the best flights from online travel blogs (like Johnny Jet!). Whether you want to research the best travel rewards card, things to do in Ireland (or anywhere else), and also the best award travel options, you can find all that information online.

Travel agents might know about the best places to stay and the must-see tourist sites, but, their job is to book a travel reservation that you pay for. If you want to book award travel or simply relish DIY travel, you can access all these resources online for free from travel aficionados that have witnessed the same sights and sounds that you will soon experience yourself!

Summary on Travel Agencies
People of all generations till use travel agencies. The Internet has made it easier than ever for you to book your own travel, and in a lot of cases, you may never need a travel agent. But, booking travel is the sole profession for travel agents and the good agents can be extremely helpful when you have complex routes or simply don’t have the time to research and book the travel yourself.

For more travel tips, click here.

 

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