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Are Travel Agencies Still Worth A Visit?

Wed Apr 14, 2010 3:59 am

So it's that time of year, when I begin shaping plans for the Christmas holidays for the family. I usually find rates and stuff by going to online travel sites, and they have worked fine in the past. This year however, my plans are a bit more ambitious, and a bit more complex, something I don't think the online travel sites can bundle under a single package (this is flights, hotels, multiple cities, and a car rental in certain cities). I've looked, usually in the "Vacation" or "Packages" section, but they usually only have Flight+Hotel[+Car] option, not offering that with a multi-stop itinerary. Not to mention, for some reason I cannot (to the point of giving up on some destinations) find ANYTHING for the Christmas dates to SXM, or anywhere in the Virgin Islands! (this being on Kayak) ????

Anyways, long story short, I've considered going to a travel agency and have them worry about it. It's kinda nice thinking of walking into an office, telling someone what you want, and have them sort out the rest. I understand booking fees in travel websites are really low (some even claim "no booking fees"), so are the services provided in a travel agency much costlier than online? Are there fare types or special discounts only traditional travel agents have access to? Should I, for future travels, ditch the Kayaks, the Expedias, and Orbitzeses and stick to old school?

What are your experiences with today's travel agents? I look forward to any insight and happy travels!

Alba gu bràth
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Joined: Sun Nov 05, 2006 9:38 pm

RE: Are Travel Agencies Still Worth A Visit?

Wed Apr 14, 2010 9:31 am

Yes they are...in certain circumstances.

I always purchase from an agent here, but only because they have a price guarantee to beat any other fare quote. I simply do my own internet search and find the lowest quote for my desired trip. I then take this quote with me when I go to the travel agent and ask them for their best quote (usually anything from $20-100 more than my best internet quote). I then produce my quote and get them to undercut it.

I also find agents helpful (and usually cheaper) with complex multi-carrier, multi-destination bookings.
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RE: Are Travel Agencies Still Worth A Visit?

Wed Apr 14, 2010 10:05 am

Based on my extracurricular part-time job in this business, I'd say there is no clear answer - It's just another preference topic.

The mainstream travel agency crowd in many countries is more into "palms & beaches", where package holidays - at times - come cheaper than organizing the whole trip yourself. If, however, you're more into multicities, miles, or whatever that is off the general path and perhaps economically (not only in terms of prices) better, I'd say no. Combined w/ Hotel / Airline offers, (M&M, Gold Passport etc. ), you are way better off than having the whole trip organized by agents.
(again, this might be true if the whole market consists of summer holiday travel agencies, but plain wrong if there're specialized ones...)

You could write pages w/ pros and cons on this one - As for me, checking fares on airline carrier websites & third party sites (kayak, amadeus (not quite 3rd party)) is def. a must.
The only case I'd perhaps need a travel agency is visa regulation/invitation organization (talking about the "tough places ...") - yet, you can still check the web & do it on your own.

The cons outscore the pros IMO. It ttly depends on your preferences, willingness and all the other stuff that makes you pull the $ out of your (virtual) purse in the end...
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RE: Are Travel Agencies Still Worth A Visit?

Wed Apr 14, 2010 1:31 pm

I am a bit biased as I enjoy some salary continuance from work at a small agency. Your type of travel situation is what we deal with every day. A lot of people simply don't want to bother doing the research, or if it is a bit complicatd.
We do not charge fees for our service with the exception of booking airline tickets (the airlines do not pay us a commission) or a small fee for document prep if needed. We even offer passport photo and application services. We derive our income from commissions paid by the vendors we book you on.....hotels, cruises, tour operators, transport companies etc. We may have a negotiated contract for hotel, tour or air fares or package deals that are not available to the general public. We compare these type programs with what you otherwise could book yourself so we work to find you the best travel options.
So, from my perspective travel agents offer great service and travel experience for little or no extra cost to you. We all specialize in some specific areas so even in a small office many of us have a varied and well rounded travel experience you can call upon for advice and recommendation.
The Caribbean at Christmas? Not surprising you're already having difficulty finding availability. High demand, booked months in advance and bookings traditionally hold firm to travel date. A good alternative is a multi-island cruise, but that may not fit into what you really want to do. A travel agent may be a big help eliminating all those "not available" choices, and offer some alternative choices you haven't considered.
To help you, an agent will need to "qualify" you. Travel dates, number of persons traveling, budget (don't expect $79 fares to Nassau) and specifics to where you want to go and what you want to do. How flexible are you? Don't simply say "We want to go somewhere warm." That's like going to Wal-Mart and asking "What's on sale?" If price and availability is a problem since you have an ambitious and complex plan, what is your 2nd choice or an alternate location?
Find an office near you and stop in to meet and discuss your plans with an agent. You should come away from that first contact with the feeling they are eager to help you, and appreciate the business you'll send their way. Good Luck with your plans,
watch what you want. you may get it.
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RE: Are Travel Agencies Still Worth A Visit?

Wed Apr 14, 2010 4:12 pm

For something straightforward, an agency is probably unnecessary. For something truly complex or specialized, an agency that specializes in that kind of travel is hugely invaluable. I use an agency that specializes in cruising for all my cruises because they match the lowest fares I can find anywhere and get me upgraded cabins, free onboard credit, etc., and they don't have a service fee. If I have a problem they are only one phone call away, and once they totally bailed me out of a jam. I could (and have) done it on the phone, but since it costs me no more and I get better service than I otherwise could, I keep returning.

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