Planning to get away for the holidays or maybe take a trip this winter? If so, you could spend hours on the Internet searching for deals on airfare and accommodations, or you could use a travel agent who will definitely save you some time and might even save you some money.
“The Internet has been the best thing that ever happened to travel… to good travel agencies. The rotten ones are a dead and dying breed,” explained travel agent Kathy Duvall.
In fact, the number of travel agents has been cut in half over the last 15 years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, but those still standing are thriving. The American Society of Travel Agents says the country’s 64,000 agents account for 80 percent of all travel sold in the United States.
“Hiring an experienced travel agent can be a great idea if you’ve got a complicated trip or if you’re traveling internationally. They’ll be able to coordinate the hotels, the airfare, any tours you want to take, and they may have access to special packages that you couldn’t find on your own,” said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List.
“We have contacts and friends everywhere. Not only with the wholesalers that offer these resorts, but also with the on-the-ground transfer people, the general managers, the sales people, everybody,” Duvall added.
Worried about getting stranded at the airport? A good travel agent will track your progress and step in when things go wrong, like a connecting flight that gets canceled while you’re already in route.
“They text me. I say no worries, I’ll follow your plane. By the time they land and they’re late, their flight information has already been updated. I text them – here’s your next flight, go catch it, have a great time,” explained Duvall.
“If your vacation plans are more simple, for example a weekend away or a vacation you take every year, a travel agent may not be worth the investment. But if you’re thinking about a resort vacation or a cruise, tapping into the expertise of a travel agent may be a great idea,” said Hicks.
“Just because it floats doesn’t mean it’s a good cruise experience,” Duvall warned.
Hicks says many agents are paid by the hotels and other vendors they work with, so there may be no fee for you to use one. She says you need to feel comfortable with the agent you choose, like he or she is a trusted friend, so if you don’t build a quick rapport, you may need to find someone else.
Angie's List: The benefits of hiring a travel agent:
- Travel agents can reduce the amount of time spent planning a vacation. They handle every aspect of planning, allowing you to relax before your vacation even starts.
- Travel agents schedule everything, including plane, boat and train tickets. They can even purchase tickets in advance for you.
- If you find yourself in a sticky situation, a travel agent works with you to fix the problem, whether it's clearing up hotel reservations or booking a different flight. In the event of an emergency, travel agents provide assistance. Even the best-planned trips have the potential for trouble.
- Travel agents know people in important positions in the hospitality industry. They build relationships with service industry leaders around the world. You may reap some of the benefits of those relationships.
- Trying to find the best deal online can be overwhelming, which might negate some of the savings you may see on travel-booking websites.
- Most travel agencies don't charge traditional fees for their work. These agencies receive their pay from airlines and hotels for booking customers for them. So, typically you’ll just pay for the cost of your trip. The most common fee customers pay covers time spent researching and building an itinerary. The average cost of those research fees is typically between $100 and $200. Expect to pay more for longer, overseas trips.