Is It Better To Use a Travel Agent or Plan Your Own Vacation?
Depending on how you approach travel, putting together the pieces of a trip can be exciting, or exhausting. Some people love the thrill of finding the best deals on airfare, hotels and destinations, while others want nothing more than to hand it over to a travel agent to do it for them. The question is, do you save more money one way over the other? In order to find out what might work best for you, we talked to experts about the pros and cons of booking a vacation by yourself or working with a travel agent to help you do it.
Travel Agents Have Expertise
One reason to consider working with a travel agent is for their wealth of information and resources, said Mitch Krayton, owner of Krayton Travel. “Travel professionals have experienced what we promote. We train constantly and have contacts and resources you will never find publicly. We curate all the information so that a traveler can make sound plans and not be overwhelmed.”
Travel Agents Can Get You the Best Value for Your Buck
Travel agents also have experience in shopping for the best value for your travel dollar, said Stephanie Turner of Brentwood Travel. “Just remember–the cheapest price is usually not the best deal. It’s just the cheapest price and you may end up actually spending a lot more to get what you want.”
Travel Agents Can Save You Time
Booking a trip, with all its working parts, can take hours, especially if you’re researching and comparing the best deals, said Avery Harris of Viking Travel. A travel agent will take much less time to help you find what you’re looking for, Harris said. “We also know seasonal trends, price fluctuations, popularity cycles, and… and how the booking websites’ algorithm models fare changes.”
Letting someone else book your trip for you frees you up to focus on packing and imagining the great time you’ll have.
Travel Agents Can Get You Perks/Amenities
Travel agents often have relationships with partners who provide them with pre-negotiated rates that are better than what you’d get on your own, said Diana Hechler, president of D Tours Travel.”These include amenities such as complimentary breakfast, upgrades when available, and early check-in/late check-out.”
Booking Yourself Puts Your Own Spin on It
While there are some benefits to using a travel agent, Kelli, owner of the travel blog, Vanabond Tales, said, “planning your own trip makes the trip more your own.”
“Easy ways to save money when planning your own trip is to be flexible on your days of travel, travel during the shoulder season, and use a flight aggregator to find the best deals on flights. These few tips will help you get the best deals when booking.”
She also recommends local coupon-based companies such as Groupon for discounts on things such as museum tickets and other activities. Many places also offer discounts when visited on certain days or at certain times which can be found on the specific company website.
Booking Yourself Saves You Money
Deanna Ford, owner of The Detailed Traveler website, points out that travel agents “are for convenience, not cost saving. They receive kick backs, commissions and perks from brands they are partnered with, so you won’t really be getting budget recommendations.”
Thanks to the ease of online booking and searching, Ruby Escalona, who runs the travel blogs A Journey We Love and Voyage Florida, suggests that it is both easier and more affordable to plan your own vacation. You can use “travel hacks” such as credit card points and miles to save on hotels, flights and other attractions. Staying in Airbnbs can cut the cost of hotels, and you may be able to buy discounted gift cards or use referral credits to book your stay.
Booking Yourself Saves on Service Fees
Anh Le, travel blogger at Luxury under Budget, also finds that booking trips yourself is more likely to save you money if you have the time to put in. “Travel agents have access to the same rates and they don’t get commissions on flights, so they often add an extra booking fee.” Le recommends setting up Google flight alerts to snatch up deals on flights when prices go down. “I have always been able to get flight deals even on big holidays…with this tactic.”
Emily Cuneo, of the travel blog Emily Embarks, agrees that by cutting out the travel agent, “you completely omit the hundreds of dollars in service fees.”
She recommends looking up accommodations through providers such as Expedia, then booking directly with the hotel once you’ve made your selection. “Second, using Skyscanner or Google Flights is a great way to compare prices based on airlines, dates, and layovers.”
Lastly, by avoiding expensive tour groups, travelers can save thousands of dollars by creating their very own walking tour of a city or a road trip around a country, she said.
While there is no right or wrong way to book a trip, knowing how much work you want to put in, and what your goals are, will help you decide.