Online trip booking
Booking Vacations Through an Agent vs. Online Booking
When planning a trip, you must choose wheither to hire an agent or book your tickets on your own. (Photo: travel image by Anton Gvozdikov from Fotolia.com )
If you believe the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the travel agent industry is in decline, with a projected 9 percent loss of jobs from 2016 to 2026. And in an online world where it’s easier than ever to book a whole vacation yourself, that’s hardly a surprise. But the industry is far from dead: In a research study sponsored by the American Society of Travel Agents, the third-party survey firm Lodestar Advisory Partners found that 92 percent of travelers who used a travel agent expected to consult one again. So, should you book everything yourself?
The Benefits of DIY Travel
First, the obvious benefits of booking your own travel: Today’s online portals give you instant access to everything from airline flights and rental cars to hotels, including some staggering last-minute bargains. So if you’re traveling on a last-minute whim, there’s no need to wait for a travel agent to be open for business or work up an itinerary; you just go. Likewise, if price is your bottom line and you can muster the time, you’ll probably save money by doing it yourself – when Business Insider asked a handful of travel agents to quote them prices for the same itinerary, all but one of the agents quoted more expensive prices than what the authors found on their own.
Reasons to Use a Travel Agent
With that said, there are several overriding reasons people still turn to travel agents. First, they save you the time and trouble of searching through the many options out there, creating a personalized itinerary that suits your travel preferences, and it’s their job to be on top of special promotions and fine print about things like cancellation fees. They become a one-stop shop for not only paying your fares, but also for communication – an invaluable perk if you’re planning for a big group. And finally, if something goes wrong during your trip, your travel agent can help you get the trouble ironed out.
Travel Agents Offer Insider Access
If you’re trying to get tickets for a coveted event or attraction that’s already booked up, a travel agent may be your best way in. They often have insider access, especially if you consult someone who’s a specialist in the location or event you’re traveling to. That can translate to agent-only discounts and, better yet, blocks of seating that are set aside only for members of the travel industry – which you’d never find if you tried to book on your own.
Ask About Fees Up Front
You do pay a fee for using a travel agent’s services – but exactly where that fee comes from depends on your travel agent’s company policies. According to the American Society of Travel Agents, their agents charge an average service fee of $36 for the most common service of all, booking airline tickets. Other agents may charge an up-front fee for trip research or planning, while others make their wage from commissions earned on their bookings. Don’t be shy – ask your travel agent about fees up front. Also, if they charge a deposit or trip planning fee, ask if this can be refunded once the reservations are made and paid for, or if it can be applied to the cost of the trip.