Today, you can snag a flight on an e-travel site like Travelocity, Expedia, or Kayak with a few clicks. But you could be missing out on details and deals that make your trip more enjoyable and cheaper had you proceeded with the guidance of a travel agent. That’s why many travelers still use travel agents to plan their trips.
Here are 6 reasons travel agents are still necessary according to Professor Eldad Boker, EdD, an industry professional who has more than 30 years’ experience teaching travel and tourism at Johnson & Wales University.
1. Travel agents are skilled professionals.
Anyone with an Internet connection can search a travel Website, but travel agents are trained to plan vacations and excursions, consider weather and customs, and customize a trip for leisure or corporate travelers. Because of this, if your trip is costly or complicated, Professor Boker recommends that you let a pro handle the details.
2. Travel agents can often get you a better rate.
Travel agents have access to deals that the average person doesn’t. Because agents routinely work with cruise lines, airlines, hotels, resorts, and the like, they receive a special rate from these suppliers due to the volume in which they purchase travel. Spending less on reservations leaves more budget for souvenirs.
3. Travel agents have established connections and better access.
Related to the above point, agents could have access to another tier of tickets. Professor Boker gave concert tickets as an example: Venues reserve premium tickets for agencies—when the average user sees that an event is sold out, an agent could still get you in.
4. Travel agents could score you pricey perks . . . for free.
You could pay extra for the airport members’ club or better seats on the plane, or you could let a travel agent get you those VIP goodies as part of your package at no charge.
5. Travel agents have the inside scoop on your destination.
More than likely, your agent will have vast travel experience and likely has even been where you are traveling. They also are a repository for their customers’ experiences, so even if they don’t have first-hand experience with your trip, they likely have heard feedback from someone who does. This knowledge could save you from tourist traps and steer you towards the places that will make your trip truly memorable. True, you could get similar feedback from a review site, but Professor Boker cautions that online advice could be manipulated.
6. Travel agents are problem solvers.
Imagine that you are halfway around the world surrounded by strangers and you miss your connection, lose your itinerary, or have to cut your trip short due to an emergency. Professor Boker says that an often overlooked benefit of travel agents is that you have someone to reach out when there’s trouble in paradise.
Yes, travel agents do come at a cost—Professor Boker notes that it’s usually a percentage of your trip’s overall bottom line—but, in the end, “the pros outweigh the cons, in my opinion,” he says.
One tip before booking through an agent: Unless you are choosing an agency based on a trusted recommendation, check that they are bonded and certified by the state, “especially when there’s an exchange of money prior to your trip,” Professor Boker says.
Like Aesop’s Fables, the moral of this story is that while booking travel yourself may be quicker, you’ll likely finish ahead if you work with an agent.