Tue, February 5th, 2013 - By

When should you use a travel agent?

With so many “2013 trends” articles and white papers coming out, it’s a bit overwhelming.  I did notice one trend that seems to be peppering the travel news all over:  the resurgence of travel agents.  They didn’t go anywhere (well, maybe on an extended vacation somewhere nice – goes with the job, right?), but what I can relate to is the need for someone to help you with the overwhelming demand of information available online.

Some research done by Sunshine in 2011 showed that 63% of consumers don’t use travel agents, as 82% of them used online tools to make their holiday decisions.  I suspect the 63% has gone down, and that online number is surely closer to 99%!

These holiday brochures are now more like museum pieces than planning tools.

When does it make sense to use a travel agent?  I get asked that a lot, and my advice is pretty straightforward.  Most of the time you can do it on your own; a travel agent can always save you time, and in some cases, money.

Travel agents are especially useful in the following three circumstances:

  • Travelling somewhere potentially dangerous or otherwise rather “exotic?”   When I say exotic, I don’t mean “weird cocktails” but places where you’ll be very very much off the beaten path, like hiking in rural China, for example. An agent can make sure you get all your vaccinations, immunizations, insurance, and connect with reputable tour guides so you actually return home.
  • Are there 6 or more people travelling together?  If you’re planning a group trip, you have more to worry about than just personality conflicts. Agents are great for group bookings like this because they can handle all that stuff that’s difficult to do online – getting airline seats together, hotel rooms on the same floor, private tours, and negotiating all the discounts that can be had for groups. This is especially handy for multi-generational trips, where the planning process can leave you ready to leave someone behind on your way home.
  • Are you dealing with a lot of paperwork?  There are still lots of places that are difficult to travel to due to bureaucrats and paperwork – think about those pesky “invitations” you need to acquire to visit Russia, and you’re on your own if you’re an American travelling to Cuba!  Some countries make this process a little more difficult than it seems. An agent can take your passports and take over the process, and often expedite items on your behalf.

You can handle all of these situations on your own without an agent – with enough time and money, nothing is a problem.  But these are times when the extra support can be very handy.  And there are plenty of one-off scenarios where you might find a travel agent handy; when in doubt, and when Google and the Internet gets you beyond frustrated, give one a call. You might be surprised.

Photo by Ed Bierman

Andy Hayes

Andy Hayes is a travel journalist currently based in Seattle, Washington. When not soaking up the Pacific Northwest lifestyle or enjoying life on the road, he is spending time hanging out on his own travel lifestyle magazine, Sharing Travel Experiences.

Posted : Tuesday, February 5th, 2013 at 11:00
Category : Holiday Tips
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