You’re considering an upcoming vacation, and you haven’t booked with a travel agent before. Is it worth looking into, and can a travel agent actually save you money on your trip? A travel agent will usually earn commission on the vacations they plan, and therefore won’t usually charge anything to customers upfront (although a small percentage of travel agents might charge a flat fee). Although you might think you’ve got nothing to lose by booking with a travel agent, there are some pros and cons to consider:
The trip experience itself
Back in the day (as in, before-the-Internet days), planning a trip was much more difficult. Without a travel agent, it might entail trips to the library and bookstore, and hours of research. With just a little bit of web surfing these days, it’s easy for anyone to plan and book their own vacation, and a travel agent isn’t necessarily a much-needed part of that equation. However, you have to ask yourself just how good of a trip planner you are, how familiar you are with traveling in general, and how much you know about the destination you’re planning on visiting. If you’re an avid traveler and know exactly what you’re looking for, you can probably plan the best trip for yourself, and perhaps just enlist the help of a travel agent when it comes to finalizing hotel reservations. But if you’re completely lost and don’t know where to begin, you might not plan out the best trip for yourself and could potentially miss out on some of the destination’s highlights. In this case, you might want to reach out to a travel agent early on in the planning stages.
Many people turn to travel agents because they want the best deals possible. Even with the commissions that travel agents earn, it is certainly possible for travelers to take advantage of some of the lowest rates available. However, these aren’t necessarily the absolute best prices available, either. It depends and will vary, so if you have decided on something specific—an exact resort you want to stay at or a cruise you want to book—it certainly doesn’t hurt to get a quote from a travel agent, who may also be able to provide you with other perks and promotions for booking through them. But you’ll also want to shop around and see if you can get a better deal on another website, or by booking directly through the hotel, cruise line, or air carrier.
A quick weekend jaunt could be an easy trip to plan, but if you’re talking a long and extended vacation, there’s no denying that planning it all out can be a time-consuming process. Even if you are good at planning vacations and you’re not getting the best deal available, sometimes enlisting a travel agent’s help from start to finish can be well worth it because of all the time you save. After all, time is money, and if you just can’t put too much attention into your trip planning, a travel agent can be very valuable to you.
Destinations, resort choices, and airlines
If you do decide to book through a travel agent, you might want to decide on some of the details of your trip beforehand. Research different destination options and resorts, and even the different air carriers, to find out what could make the most sense for you based on your interests and budget. Travel agents sometimes push a certain resort or destination because of the commission incentives that are being offered to them, even if they are not necessarily the absolute best choices to their customers. There’s no saying you won’t have a great time and make wonderful memories, but it may not have been the best selection for you, either. If you can go in knowing exactly what you want, or at least have some idea, you’ll usually be much happier with the outcome.
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Nothing above is meant to provide financial, tax, or legal advice. You should meet with appropriate professionals for such services.