5 Reasons to Use a Travel Agent

Photo (cc) by henribergius

Last year, the business outlook for travel agents was so gloomy, even President Obama commented on it. In August, he talked about jobs while in Illinois and remarked, “When was the last time somebody went to a bank teller instead of using the ATM, or used a travel agent instead of just going online?”

With all due respect, Mr. President, I visited my bank teller around the corner last week – because I needed quarters, and the ATM doesn’t dispense those. There are some things machines aren’t designed to handle, or they do it so poorly that we still need people on the job. Travel agents can be a big help – and it seems the rest of the country is finally realizing that.

Last year, even struggling banks were faring better than travel agents – there were about 15,000 retail travel agencies last summer, as opposed to nearly 26,000 agencies in 2002, USA Today reported. But something changed recently. Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC), an airline-owned company, reported just last week…

Airline tickets sold by U.S.-based travel agencies increased 10.7 percent year-over-year in the first two months of 2012, compared to the same period in 2011, and 23 percent over the same period in 2010.

Why the turnaround when online self-serve travel options are only expanding? ARC doesn’t back up its numbers with any educated guesses, but I have one: Good travel agents can beat what flight search websites do, and they offer tips a computer can’t. Here are some of them…

  1. Know the ropes. While computers have made many once-complicated tasks easier for the average traveler, professionals will always possess insider information and expertise. Meanwhile, as travel-comparison sites continue to add more options, they become more complicated. Hidden fees, restrictions, expiring discount fares, and a limited selection of airlines – only ones that pay commissions show up on most travel sites – can all be frustrating factors in online booking. You can spend hours and still not be absolutely, positively certain you’ve gotten the best deal. Deal with a reputable travel agent, however, and you can be sure.
  2. Solve problems. Travel agents can keep on top of issues like lost luggage and delays. Because of their ties to the industry, they can typically talk to airline customer service reps more effectively (and calmly) than you can – they do it all the time. And if you’re stranded by bad weather with your fellow travelers, your travel agent might find you a way out faster.
  3. Book multiple things. Travel agencies don’t just handle flights. They can also help you get the best hotel, car rental, and travel insurance.
  4. Provide more information. Agents can tell you what documentation you need for international flights and where to get it, explain local laws and regulations at your destination, point out the can’t-miss hotspots, and inform you of discounts, and they’re a great all-around source for travel advice.
  5. Manage complex itineraries. If booking a nonstop domestic weekend trip for a family isn’t trouble enough, try doing it for a week-long international vacation that involves multiple destinations and modes of transportation. Now imagine having to tweak the itinerary later because someone gets sick or your schedule changes. Leaving that mess to an agent means you can enjoy your journey instead of stressing over it. Time, especially on vacation, is money.

Of course, agents aren’t always necessary, and they certainly aren’t free. The average fee according to the American Society of Travel Agents is $36 – but hopefully they can save you more than that. ASTA also points out that travel agents no longer make commission through airlines, although they still might through cruises and hotel packages.

This doesn’t directly affect what you pay, but if you find an agent unwilling to discuss their commission structure, you might want to get a second opinion – that may signal upselling, and it’s one of CNN’s 9 signs you’ve got a bad travel agent. To find a local agent recommended by ASTA, visit TravelSense.org and type in the first three digits of your ZIP code.

Of course, travel agents aren’t all equally skilled, motivated, experienced or smart. To find the best one, use the same method you’d use to pick any pro: Ask friends for referrals, talk to several and always ask about experience and credentials.

For more on the frustrations of online travel booking and the benefits of travel agents, see a post from Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson, 4 Reasons I’m Done Booking Online Flights.

And if you’re determined to manage your own travel, Stacy and I can help there too – check out 7 Steps to Cheaper Airfares.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
8 Products That Make It Easier to Get Fit
8 Products That Make It Easier to Get Fit

Amazon reviewers give high marks to these tools that can help you get in shape without a gym.

America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise
America’s Most Reliable Appliance Brand Is a Surprise

Have you heard of this appliance manufacturer?

8 Things I Always Buy at Target
8 Things I Always Buy at Target

I grew up shopping at the original Target store and am a lifelong fan. Here are my favorite purchases.

Should You Hire a Service to Negotiate Your Cable and Other Bills?
Should You Hire a Service to Negotiate Your Cable and Other Bills?

Services like BillCutterz and BillFixers will negotiate your cable, internet, phone and other monthly bills in exchange for a share of the savings. I tried it: Here’s what happened.

7 Steps to Keep Your Car Looking Like New
7 Steps to Keep Your Car Looking Like New

Take a few steps to preserve the beauty of your car, and you stand to get a lot more money at trade-in time.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
9 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Shopping on Amazon
9 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Shopping on Amazon

Are you losing money due to any of these missteps?

20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling
20 Things That Are Actually Worth Stockpiling

You don’t need a year’s supply of toilet paper to survive an outbreak, but consider stocking up on these items.

Can a Twice-Divorced Woman Claim Social Security Survivors Benefits?
Can a Twice-Divorced Woman Claim Social Security Survivors Benefits?

Understanding survivors benefits rules is the key to getting the most from your benefit.

Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?
Can a Divorced Widow Claim Her First Husband’s Social Security Benefits?

The rules are complicated when it comes to eligibility for survivors benefits.

9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again
9 Things You’ll Never See at Costco Again

The warehouse store offers an enormous selection, but these products aren’t coming back.

These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation
These Are the 10 Worst Cars for Depreciation

Two types of vehicles are especially likely to see steep plunges in value.

Never Buy These 10 Things With Your Credit Card
Never Buy These 10 Things With Your Credit Card

Credit cards offer many conveniences and protections, but sometimes it’s simply smarter to keep the plastic tucked away.

13 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases That We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s
10 Things I Always Buy at Trader Joe’s

From snacks to sweets to side dishes, stock your cart with these time-tested favorites on your next TJ’s run.

5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021
5 Ways Social Security Will Change in 2021

These adjustments will affect both workers and retirees in the new year.

11 ‘Disposable’ Items You Should Be Reusing
8 Things You Should Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores
8 Things You Should Buy at Restaurant Supply Stores

You don’t have to be a chef or a restaurant owner to shop here.

Stop Buying These 19 Things Online
Stop Buying These 19 Things Online

The internet has changed how we shop. But for some things, you’re still better off buying the old-fashioned way.

19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree
19 High-Paying Jobs You Can Get With a 2-Year Degree

There are easy high-paying majors available in the U.S. — and no bachelor’s degree is required. We’re here to help you find easy degrees that pay well.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early
Cut These 11 Expenses Now If You Hope to Retire Early

Like the idea of financial independence? Part of the FIRE equation is cutting costs.

7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply
7 Tips for Building an Emergency Food Supply

A pandemic or natural disaster could leave you reliant on your existing emergency food supply. Is your pantry well-prepared for emergencies? Knowing what to stock up on for emergencies can be a difficult task and we’re here to help.

These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020
These Are the 4 Best Medicare Advantage Plans for 2020

Medicare Advantage customers themselves rate these plans highest.

5 Secrets of Seniors Who Keep Their Minds ‘Young’
5 Secrets of Seniors Who Keep Their Minds ‘Young’

Here is why some seniors’ brains work as well as those of people who are decades younger.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.