For decades, travel agents were considered the go-to way to book vacations. A travel agent would handle everything for you and theoretically get you the best deals in doing so. Then, the internet and travel booking sites came along. Now, you can book great package deals including hotels and attraction tickets in a matter of minutes.
You can also compare flights before you book anything and find deals on just about anything travel-related.
With the availability of online travel booking sites, is there currently any relevance or benefit of working with a travel agent?
COVID Restrictions and Guidelines
One reason that over the past 18 months, travel agents have once again become somewhat popular is that they can help you navigate COVID restrictions and guidelines. Every country and even different cities and municipalities have their own restrictions during the pandemic. This can include everything from mask-wearing rules to entry requirements.
A travel agent can navigate these requirements for you and ensure that you have everything you need to be prepared for your trip.
If you’re traveling domestically, this probably isn’t as much of an issue.
Travel agents also tend to have local contacts, so they can keep you aware of what’s going on on the ground at your destination as far as outbreaks and the enforcement of any guidelines.
If you need a particular document to show your COVID test results or vaccination status, for example, or it has to be in a particular format, your travel agent should be able to help you with all of this.
Reducing Common Hiccups
When you travel, inevitably, there will be hiccups along the way, some of which are more impactful than others. If you work with a travel agent they can help smooth some of these out so maybe you can avoid them.
For example, travel agents have technology access, so they’ll be able to see any potential weather delays that might happen.
Travel agents can also help you understand more about insurance policies and go over the fine print, so you choose the one that’s right for you.
If something does come up, like flight cancellation, when you’re working with a travel agent they can help re-arrange new flights on your behalf, taking some of the stress off you.
Even things like lost luggage or getting stuck in a location can be something a travel agent can help you with and serve as your advocate.
Travel Agents Might Find Deals
Sometimes travel agents do have access to great deals, but you can’t assume they will. It’s better to do some comparison shopping on your own before you work with an agent. That will give you an idea of what you might expect to pay without working with a travel agent.
There are situations where they can get great package deals, but again, if you go through a discount package site, you could very well find the same deal or one that’s even better.
You’re only going to know if you’ll get a better deal if you price your trip out on your own.
On the flip side of an agent finding you deals, they could rarely make things more expensive. For example, a travel agent might have partnerships with certain companies, which means they could steer you toward those. In doing so, you might be missing out on savings opportunities if you’d gone with other options.
Often, travel agents will also get a lot of their information from the booking sites we use on our own. That can be a good thing if they get access to it early, but irrelevant if not.
If you want someone to call hotels and other vacation and travel companies directly and try to scout deals that way, travel agents could be valuable.
Some people worry that using a travel agent and having to pay them will negate any savings you’d get on your bookings. Travel agents don’t typically charge you, however. Instead, they get their money as a commission from the companies you book with, but you want to confirm that before working with anyone.
Using a Travel Agent for Short-Notice Travel
We’ve named some times that working with a travel agent can be beneficial, and somewhere it might not be.
Another where it could be helpful is if you’re in a time crunch and you want to book a trip on short notice.
A travel agent might have access to bookings that aren’t listed online when otherwise, everything you look at online could be full.
Often agents and particularly ones that specialize in villa rentals, have networks on the ground. In addition to the short-term rental, if relevant to your trip they can also arrange things like stocking the home with groceries before you get there or booking a massage to come to your rental.
If you’re planning a group trip of any kind, or one that’s complex or maybe completely unfamiliar to you, a travel agent can be a good resource. Group trips can get tricky, so working with a travel agent can help you stay organized. They’ll also negotiate with service providers and deal with complications to more easily coordinate bookings across multiple parties.
They Probably Won’t Be Able to Find You Cheap Airfare
If you want help with finding cheap airfare, the internet is probably your best option here. A travel agent rarely has access to any special flight deals. It’s just as easy and cost-effective to book your own because there aren’t a lot of scenarios where travel agents can get discounted flights and they typically don’t try.
Whether or not a travel agent is worth it to you depends on where you’re traveling, your specific goals for your trip, and how much work you’re willing to put or not put into planning it. They do have benefits, but not universally in all situations, and sometimes hiring a high-quality travel agent can be more trouble than they’re worth.