Why use a travel agent over a website?
Check out more travel agency tips here on Angie's List. (Photo courtesy of Joan A Elkinson)
Travel agents are experts when it comes to providing tourism related services to the public, but how do they compare to a website? Angie’s List spoke to several experienced agents across the country to find out how consulting with a travel agency can be better than surfing the Internet to book a vacation.
First, using a travel agent usually costs the same or slightly more than booking a trip on your own. Travel agents are typically paid on commission by hotel groups, tour operators, cruise lines and other travel suppliers for selling their products, which means there’s often little added cost for the consumer to book a trip.
Travel agents did note that although you can find the lowest fares via online travel websites for a simple point-A-to-point-B vacation, cheapest isn’t always best. “If you have a complex itinerary or you're traveling internationally, a travel agent can save you money, because we have several methods of finding the best fares,” says Marina Byrum of highly rated Travel by Marina in Austin, Texas. “We can customize your itinerary to fit any budget, large or small. We also have contacts around the world and can often get you VIP amenities and upgrades.”
Another downside to relying solely on the Internet when booking a trip: information overload. “These days, with thousands, to even millions of search listings coming up for different destinations, it’s nearly impossible to sort through all of the information you need to properly plan a vacation online,” says Jennifer Campbell of Explorations Ltd., an Atlanta-based travel agency. “The Internet cannot offer you the personal relationship and one-on-one advice from an expert that a travel advisor can. There is nothing worse than going through the cost and difficulty of travel, to only get to a destination and not be satisfied. This is time you won’t get back with your loved ones. Make it matter.”
Most travel agents are experienced travelers themselves, and often times travel to the same destinations their clients will visit. “They usually have been to the places and know what is good or not good,” says Cookie Carney of Travel Experts in Charlotte, N.C.
Once your trip is booked, travel agents or agencies may also offer better flexibility should you decide to change your plans. Canceling a transaction or altering your travel itinerary may be prohibitively expensive if you booked a trip on your own, but a travel agent may be able to exercise their established relationships with suppliers to adjust your itinerary or bookings at a reduced fee or at no cost.
That type of client representation can be especially important when dealing with missed flights or connections, or travel nightmares like losing a passport or having important belongings lost or stolen. Using a trusted travel agent means you will be represented at your destination, as well as having someone to call for additional needs. “As I tell potential clients - without a travel agent you are on your own,” Carney says.