Travelers tend to fall into two distinct categories: Those who always work with a travel agent and those who prefer to book their travel independently.
There are pros and cons to each approach.
As of 2023, there are over 400,000 people employed in the Travel Agencies industry in the US. The industry is forecast to grow by 7.1% throughout 2023, clearly demonstrating that demand for travel agents remains strong.
But travelers often ask, ‘Is it still worth working with a travel agent in 2023?’ The reality is that the answer to this question depends on your unique travel circumstances.
Some travelers will benefit highly from building and maintaining a relationship with a travel agent, while others may find that it is more fun, and more cost-effective to go it alone.
Here we will look at the advantages and disadvantages of working with a travel agent so that you can decide whether it is the right route for you this year.
Pro – Travel Agents Can Save You Time
Some travelers enjoy the planning stage of their trip as much as they enjoy their vacation.
They carve out time to create the perfect itinerary, individually book every element of their trip, and regularly search for the best flight deals available.
If you don’t have the time for this, then a travel agent can do it for you. Travel agents are often the first choice of the cash-rich and the time-poor. A good travel agent can plan your perfect vacation so that all you have to do is turn up at the airport.
The more complex your travel goals are, the more a travel agent can help you. This is particularly true if you don’t have any experience with the destination you are hoping to visit.
From visiting Japan to taking a safari, if you’re looking for a high-end or luxury travel experience without any effort, a travel agent may be best placed to arrange this for you.
Con – You May Have Less Itinerary Flexibility
If you’re planning a big trip, there are numerous advantages of using a travel agent, but spontaneity isn’t one of them.
Your travel agent can book every hotel, event and restaurant for you, curating the perfect vacation. They can use their expert knowledge to plan an itinerary best suited to your unique needs.
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This is ideal for many travelers but not for those that like to adjust their plans as they’re traveling.
If you want to jump on the next train and discover a new city, eat in a restaurant simply because the food smells good, or choose your hotels in each location as you arrive, then working with a travel agent may not be the right option for you.
This is because the costs incurred from making changes to your pre-planned itinerary and the inconvenience of working with your travel agent to make changes at the last minute means it’s simply not worth it.
For spontaneous travelers, or those taking lengthy trips where changes are more likely to occur, you will need to assess if the services of a travel agent are right for you.
Pro – Travel Agents Can Save You Money
Most people are interested in the bottom line, and how the decision they make will affect their wallet. And in many cases, working with a travel agent can actually save you money.
Everyone has to make a living, and many travel agents make theirs from commission. But the commissions they earn usually come from the hotels, airlines and travel companies they work with, rather than from their clients.
It is a myth that all travel agents earn commission directly from their clients when they make bookings.
What’s more, because travel agents are experts in their field, they can advise you on the right dates to book if you want to get the best prices. They can also find the best hotels within your budget, and hunt for the best deals on your behalf.
Working with a travel agent can eliminate any stress and frustration that arises when attempting to organize travel independently, without any financial ramifications.
Con – The Service Quality Offered Can Vary
Not all travel agents are created equal. The service offered by travel agents can vary greatly, and the internet is awash with anecdotal reports of individuals who have had very bad experiences with their travel agents.
While this is a clear drawback of working with the wrong kind of travel agent, it only highlights the great service you could receive once you find the right, reputable travel agent for you.
Once you have found a good travel agent that you feel able to build a relationship with, you will always have someone on your side when you are traveling.
If your flight is canceled or your hotel doesn’t have your reservation on arrival, this can feel stressful and overwhelming when you have arranged your travel independently. Especially if you are not an experienced traveler.
But if you have booked your trip with a travel agent, they have a responsibility to fix anything that goes wrong on your behalf, and many people feel more comfortable on vacation knowing that there is someone back home to support them, no matter what happens.
Pro – Travel Agents Specialize In Certain Types of Travel
For some types of travel, you may find that the pros of working with a travel agent far outweigh any cons.
If you are planning to take a luxury cruise, for example, then a specialist cruise travel agent will not only be able to advise on the best ship and route for you, but they will also be able to offer benefits such as onboard credits, cabin upgrades and special fares that you simply wouldn’t be able to access independently.
Finding a travel agent that specializes in the specific type of travel you are interested in can be the best way to secure insider deals and offers.
On the flip side of this, if you are interested in a flexible, budget trip, you may find that the best expert in exactly what you’re looking for is you.
Con – Shopping For A Travel Agent Can Be Hard Work
For the relationship between a traveler and a travel agent to work, you have to find the right travel agent for you. Shopping for a travel agent is like shopping for any kind of assistant: a very personal and individual-driven experience.
You should look for a travel agent who specializes in the type of travel you and/or your family are interested in.
You should take the time to check the references of your chosen travel agent and ensure that they make you feel comfortable. After all, you will be trusting them to support you if something goes wrong whilst you’re on the other side of the world.
This whole process can be very time-consuming, but it’s important to take that time to avoid being burnt by a travel agent that isn’t a good match for your needs.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com
Michael Z (Midtown NYC)
Wednesday 10th of May 2023
Good article and thanks for the info, Tor. I think you're right on the mark: "Most people are interested in the bottom line, and how the decision they make will affect their wallet. And in many cases, working with a travel agent can actually save you money. Everyone has to make a living, and many travel agents make theirs from commission. But the commissions they earn usually come from the hotels, airlines and travel companies they work with, rather than from their clients."
The problem is finding an excellent travel agent that cares and is concerned that your trip will be fun, relaxing and satisfying - - instead of trying to make a fast booking so they can move onward to their next client.