I think now that everyone has the ability to plan their own vacation using online resources, everyone probably chooses to plan their own trips. I am certainly in this boat but it might have more of a control thing with me. I like to be able to plan my trip and tweak the itinerary as I go through the planning phase. That said, it obviously takes hours to do and with the more complex trips requiring multiple flights and hotels, the time really adds up. If you’re planning months in advance, this won’t be an issue but some don’t have the desire or the time to make all the flight reservations, lodging, transport, etc. plans on our own. That’s where I think a great travel agent is worth their weight in gold.
I’ve used travel agents before and I can personally say they’re not only a wealth of knowledge but can really help if you’re not used to the planning. Agents have access to fares that we may don’t see online, recommend hotels you may not have thought about, and organize everything so the only thing left for you to do is pay. But most importantly, agents are able to make changes and will babysit your reservation from start to finish. If something goes wrong, you can call your agent you can just sit back and watch the miracles happen.
Also, you might believe that it would cost more to go through an agency but that has never been my experience. I’m not sure how their commission structure is based, but my guess is that it’s on the back end of the deal.
So when do I go with an agent vs. DIY? Every now and then, I feel like I just need to leave…as in get on a flight to anywhere and go. If it’s been an unusually long week at the office, I’m not above taking a week off and disappearing. In those cases, my first visit is to my agent to basically take care of everything for me so the only thing I have to do is pack, pay and go.
Why don’t I use them all the time? Well there is the control issue. But also, I tend to be a little picky in the places I stay. Combine that with using points and miles and I’d rather just do it myself if I have the time. Also, there might be a specific routing I want to take or maybe fly a specific airline. I like to play around with the options and tweak as I go.
If you’re thinking about using an agent and you’re a AAA member, go to the AAA office that has a travel service. You’d be amazed at what they offer and for years, I had no idea they did anything other than give me a tow or change a flat. Otherwise you can interview your own agent. If you’ve never used a travel agent before and prefer to have someone do the legwork for you, I’d recommend it.