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Are Travel Agents Worthless?

Updated on May 16, 2013

Why use a travel agent?

You would think that in today's internet driven world travelers would have long ago stopped using travel agents for their travel needs. Not so. Travel agents book 85% of all cruise vacations and 70% of all packages and tours.

My advice to travelers is always "Use the internet for looking and use a travel agent for booking." But why? What are the benefits of using a travel agent?

  • Saving time and money.
  • Expert advice and recommendations.
  • Travel agents work for you.
  • Connections and perks.

Save time and money.

Searching hours and hours for travel deals online can sometimes provide you with a great deal on that trip to Mexico and sometimes, it leads to nothing but frustration.

The truth is that travel agents do this for a living. This is their thing! They know where to look for deals and promotions and they know how to do it quickly!

They know the products they are selling, the destinations and the vendors they work with inside and out. Instead of doing a google search on all the hotels or areas you are considering going to - one quick phone call to your travel agent will get you more information then you could ever need.

Travel agents also have access to more promotions and discounts then the average traveler will come across online. Travel agents work directly with the vendors and they are constantly being kept up to date on special offers, promotions and discounts.

For example, when looking for a cruise on a website they will usually ask you what state you live in and your age. Residency promotions and senior promotions are a pretty big deal when it comes to cruise discounts but your travel agent also knows about all the other discounts you might apply for - such as military or interline rates.

The websites may offer you a discount or a promotional code to make you think you are getting a great deal but a travel agent will guarantee that you are getting the lowest rate available. A lot of people don't know this but most travel agents can and will beat those "low" online advertised rates.

Expert advice and recommendations.

I would always advise that when working with a travel agent go with someone who is a specialist in that area of travel. If you are looking for a cruise, speak to a cruise specialist. If you are looking for Central America, look for a company that focuses on that area - specifically. They will have more knowledge and be able to help you in a more focused way then some big company that handles every type of travel out there.

I repeat:

Don't book an African safari with a company who specializes in cruises!

Don't use an agent out of Kansas who has never been to Costa Rica!

Find someone who has not only been there, done that but someone who has also planned successful trips for their clients to the area you are looking to visit.

A lot of the knowledge and recommendations travel agents make are based not only on personal experience but also on feedback from their clients. Our clients come back from an amazing trip and they pass along their experiences with us so that we can then share it with other travelers.

Working directly with a travel agent also gives you someone to contact between the time you book your trip and the time you go. A hundred different questions can come up in the time in between and your travel agent has the answers. Most websites can not and do not offer that kind of personal one on one attention that you deserve.

Having a travel agent you can contact during your trip if something goes wrong is another huge benefit. If you show up in Aruba and your room is completely unacceptable or you miss your flight and don't know what to do next, having a trusted travel agent is worth it's weight in gold. Try to get that type of personalized service from a website, it will never happen.

Benefits of a travel agent.

Travel agents work for you.

Being a successful travel agent means working hard for your clients. Most of a travel agent's business is based on repeat business and referrals. This means that a travel agent is going to work hard to gain your trust and your business. Websites can not determine if you are choosing the right option for your vacation. They know nothing about you and the end goal for them is for you to book.

A travel agent is doing his or her job (yes, for money) however, they want to make sure that you are going to have a great experience. They know that if they book you in that cheap cabin in the lowest pits of hell on a cruise ship you will most likely be sick during your trip. This is a sure fire way to not get anymore of your business or your referrals. This guarantees that a travel agent will explain all the ins and outs to you about your choices and make sure that you will not only get a great value on your vacation but also thoroughly enjoy your trip!

One more thing to consider - booking directly online with one of these huge travel companies means more money in the pockets of the big guys. When you book with a travel agent, those big companies pay them a portion of those huge profits. Booking with a travel agent puts a little less money in the big guys pockets and puts it in the hands of the little guy (the travel agent). This is overall a better choice for the local economy. You can feel good knowing that you are helping support that travel agent and their family for all their help with turning your travel dreams in to a reality.

Sunset, Costa Rica
Sunset, Costa Rica | Source
Lake Arenal, Costa Rica
Lake Arenal, Costa Rica

Travel agent connections and perks.

Travel agencies are always being offered special "perks" by the vendors. These perks are not available to the typical consumer and they typically are not offered online.

They also "know people". Being in the travel business means you have a wide network and some of the best connections.

Most travel agents also do something special for their clients as a way of saying thank you for their business. This could mean a bottle of wine and chocolate covered strawberries waiting for a couple on a honeymoon or some kind of special added touch which will make your trip that much more memorable.

Perks of travel agents:

  • Upgrades on your room or flight.
  • Hard to get restaurant reservations.
  • Special tours or exhibits.
  • Connections (with hotel management, chefs, airlines, guides, etc.)
  • Special thank you gifts.

When planning your next trip make sure to call your local travel agent. Travel agents have a passion for travel and for their clients. Let them work for you!


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