Have you asked yourself lately, “why use a travel agent?” Or how about this: It’s two in the morning and after a long day of work, a marathon with the kids, laundry and dishes that await you, you still haven’t booked that trip to Euro Disney. On your online search, you’ve gotten rinky-dink airline results, hour long layovers, inflated prices, the works. Seems like a good time to call or email the experts, wouldn’t you say? With our busy schedules and all that confusing information from travel booking websites, it has gotten to the point that many truly dread the moment they have to sit down at the computer to research their trips. The truth is often we feel booking online will score us hotel or airline deals that the agencies won’t, but this is no longer the case; You can actually get more value from your money booking when using a travel agent and get deals you weren’t able to find.
Though travel agencies had faded into the background due to the boom of online travel aggregators such as Travelocity, Expedia or simply the option of using an airline’s site like Delta.com, they’re making a comeback. In the dizzying internet age, travel agents can cut through those mountains of information and create customized itineraries for idiosyncratic travelers. For instance, tech savvy millennials could easily use online travel aggregators to book their trips, but many are turning to more conventional methods. According to MGY Global, a travel and hospitality marketing firm, in 2014, 28 percent of millennials used a traditional travel agent, compared to 15 percent of gen-xers (ages 36 to 49).
Why are they consulting travel agencies? According to MGY Global, millennials are more adventurous travelers and they want to go off the beaten path, but they’re also less sophisticated and less experienced travelers, so they want the help of a travel agent. Things can get tricky when traveling abroad, especially if you’re visiting a country with complicated visa or passport requirements. Not only can you save costs using a travel agent, but you also feel better about not getting stranded in a foreign country where you may not speak the language.
Ed Hewitt, an editor at The Independent Traveler, said he uses his travel agent on about 50 percent of all his trips that involve air. “Personally, I’ve found that the likelihood of using a travel agent increases in direct proportion to the abundance and complexity of travel options you can find on the Internet.” In Hewitt’s opinion, today’s travelers are now discovering that online travel sites aren’t what they used to be and have actually made it more confusing due to the explosion of more restrictions and fees, the absence of popular airlines from major booking engines, and the plain fact that big online travel sites got too smart for their own good.
Finding a seat on the airline of your choice and on the dates you want can be a challenge when booking online. Imagine when you’re traveling with a group? For group bookings that involve coordinating travel for multiple people, it’s always easier to use a travel agent. In fact, for Hewitt the number one reason to use a travel agent for booking flights is the reduction in flight capacity by the airlines has resulted in significantly more full flights on the routes he flies. At the same time, the booking sites have gotten only marginally better at offering seat choices and at seating companions together. “Just try to book your family on a multi-flight trip and you’ll see what I mean,” said Hewitt. “Travel agents can hack their way through all this stuff.”
Another perfect time to use a travel agent is when you’re planning a vacation to a theme park. Theme park vacations to places like Disney World are notoriously expensive due to park expenses, food, lodging, and peak season travel. A travel agent can provide you with those under-the-radar discounts, such as special family or group rates you can’t spot so easily online. They’ll also tell you which online deals are legit and which aren’t.
In sum, if you are asking yourself “why use a travel agent?” remember that they can be ultimate time saver if you have gone through a million different search possibilities and you’re still not getting what you want price wise, hotel wise and date wise. Agents search possibilities for every component of the trip and very often, it doesn’t cost you a thing (until you book the trip and there’s usually a reasonable fee around $40 for that). Don’t forget to work with an ASTA-accredited professional and most importantly…bon voyage!