To avoid the hassle, and feel secure in thier purchase, consumers are turning back to travel agents.
Faced with countless choices for flights, hotels, car rental, and tours, some consumers are dumping the DIY approach. "There are simply too many travel products in the market today for individuals to decipher on their own," says James Shillinglaw, editor-in-chief of Travalliancemedia, a media network for travel agencies. "You need a guide to help you cut through all the different things out there that are available."
"There's a difference between price and value," adds Arnie Weissmann, editor-in-chief of Travel Weekly, a newspaper that covers the travel industry. The more travelers realize that, he says, the more they're opting to use a travel agent. Here are six reasons to consider booking your next vacation with a travel agent:
Save time. An agent can save you time by vetting thousands of flight and hotel options to find the right fare at the lowest rate. "There's just a glut of information, and you need someone to make sense of it all," says John Peters of Tripology.com.
Save money. Most agents do charge some additional fees (for example, a $35 fee to issue an airline ticket), or a planning fee for an intricate day by day itinerary, but most make their commission through the travel suppliers they represent. Agents have thier pulse on the best value (not neccesarily the "cheapest deals"), available. "You're going to get more value and a better experience for your money by booking with a travel agent," Peters says.
Get the experience that you really want! "Very often, people don't really know what kind of trip they want," Shillinglaw says. It's the travel agent's job to provide you with a number of options they think you'd enjoy. Not only will they help you book a trip, they'll help you build the experience.
Connections. Don't underestimate a travel agent's extensive Rolodex! Agents may have people on the ground who you can connect with, such as a local tour guide, as well as people you can reach out to if you encounter any problems. "Having access to a travel agent's insiders makes it just an overall better customer service experience than going at it alone," Peters says.
Authenticity. The right travel agent will enlighten you about trip options you may not be able to find online. "It's about knowing what the real local find is, whether that be a great dinner at a small café or tickets to a private show," Peters says. "When people travel, they don't want to travel like a tourist. So it's about the travel specialist being able to help people find unique life experiences that they'll remember."
Knowledge. Flawless travel plans lie in the details, and travel agents are experts when it comes to handling those details. "It could be a pretty picture online, but what if there's construction going on? What if it's in a bad neighborhood?" says Meyer. "Agents have that kind of background knowledge." "In the future, I would take all of their advice, rather than just picking and choosing to save some money."
Troubleshooting. Despite extensive travel planning, you might encounter some bumps on your trip. Having a travel agent handle them for you can make your travel experience a lot less stressful. "In almost any rough situation, you need a travel agent," Meyer says. "If you encounter problems along the way or if the cruise, tour or hotel room doesn't match your expectations and you don't have a travel agent... you're on your own!"