Consumers have a choice when planning trips, a big one being whether to use a travel agent or book myself. You can hire a travel professional, book everything yourself, or some combination. With such power, though, often comes great frustration.
Travel agents are fantastic for booking most trips but here are 8 great reasons not to use a travel agent and instead book your own travel arrangements.
Please also see the article 3 Reasons to Use a Travel Advisor, so that you can read our pros and cons of using travel agents.
I have seen many sides of this situation and feel qualified to speak about reasons NOT to use a travel agent. I encourage you to also read some of the countless internet articles with reasons why use a travel agent but, as an independent consumer advocate, I also wanted to present the other side.
Before the world wide web, travel components had to be booked directly with suppliers (airline, hotel, rental car, cruise line, etc.) or travel agents. I quickly recognized anomalies, strategies, and ticketing ploys, and leveraged this knowledge to find better travel deals.
I learned how to test the boundaries and rig the system to my benefit (travel hack, if you will), how to deal with unknowledgeable travel agents, and how to best utilize good travel agents.
Since Eaasy Sabre enabled consumers to book travel on the internet in the early 1990s, I have booked most of my travel arrangements. In fact, I became adept enough at trip planning that I also helped other people book their trips.
In addition to planning trips, I wrote a book (Winning the Airfare Game), taught travel classes, spoke at conferences, and published hundreds of articles.
Indeed, I realize, I can serve different audiences because there are different travel solutions.
- Some people are completely confident and competent to book their own travel, and will consider using a travel agent to supplement own efforts.
- Others are comfortable with technology and will figure out a decent online solution.
- Some people are happy to hire someone to plan travel.
For book-it-yourselfers, here are some disadvantages of using a travel agent.
8 Great Reasons NOT to Use a Travel Agent
You Know How to Book Your Own Trips
Book-it-yourselfers enjoy solving trip planning challenges, much as do-it-yourselfers enjoy doing household repairs. As you book more trips, you become more experienced and comfortable with the trip planning process.
Before I could book online, it was a challenge to find competent and flexible travel agents to accommodate my quirky travel bookings. I found myself explaining to travel agents how to find sneaky flight deals and sneaky strategies, and I thought there must be a better way.
I was so thrilled when I was able to book my own travel, starting in the early 1990s.
You Have Time to Research and Book Your Own Travel
When you can devote time to planning your trip, you might be more effective than a travel agent. The chance of a problem increases with each additional layer of communication. You give details to a travel agent, they seek suppliers, suppliers get back to the agent, the agent gets back to you. If any issues (wrong date, place), repeat the process.
You Know Exactly What You Want
If you know when and where you want to travel, what you want to do, where to stay, you might save time booking it yourself. Travel agents are good at crafting solutions. For instance, if a client wants to travel to Paris for a week, the agent can plan the trip by picking the lodging, tours, and transportation.
You Like Non-Traditional Travel Components
You might find better deals with alternative travel components like vacation rentals (Airbnb, HomeAway), independent motels, hostels, or home exchanges. Travel agents may not receive commissions for many such trip components.
You Can Find Better Travel Deals
Online booking engines are powerful. Users can tweak the options, and pick the most attractive flights, car rentals, hotel rooms, packages, cruises, etc. Frankly, travel agents just cannot book every deal you can find on your own. There are many promotional offers, discount codes, Twitter sales, etc., that must be booked through the supplier’s website.
Quirky or Complicated Trip Planning Scenarios
If your trip is hard to explain, you might be better off booking it yourself. If you want to fly to one airport, rent a car, drop at a downtown location, rent an RV, drop it at another location, book a one-way train ride, then a ferry, and a flight home from a different airport, whew, that might be too hard to communicate with a trip planner.
Many of my itineraries use open jaw flights, one way flights, multiple airports, and/or co-terminals, and I have found them easier to research and book myself rather than using a travel agent.
Travel Circumstances When You Cannot Use a Travel Agent
Some situations you must book without a travel agent. You might have online bonuses or credits, like Expedia+ Rewards or Orbitz Orbucks.
A hotel may offer extra loyalty points when you book directly through their website. It might be easier for you to arrange rentals cars from an independent agency. Those are some reasons not to use a travel agent.
McCool Travel note: Most travel agents charge a hefty fee book airline frequent flyer awards or most airline ticket bookings.
Whether to Use a Travel Agent or Not For Time-Sensitive Travel Deals
Flash travel deals are available only to consumers booking directly with suppliers. For instance, a credit card company offers a resort deal at noon for the first 1,000 bookings.
JetBlue Cheeps are limited availability last-minute deals. For these and other flash travel deals, consumers will need to book directly with the travel supplier rather than use a travel agent.
Still wondering, Should I Use a Travel Agent?
If you feel intimidated by the travel planning process, do not want to make a mistake, or do not have the time, energy, or patience, then perhaps it is best to lean toward the side of using a travel agent.
Please also see the article 3 Reasons to Use a Travel Advisor, so that you can read pros and cons of using travel agents.
24 thoughts on “8 Great Reasons NOT to Use a Travel Agent”
Travel agents have global connections and also exclusive access to special deals on flights, hotels, tour packages and activities so ideally they can only offer you the most reasonable holiday options than booking online.
Ideally that is true. Thank you for the note.
I am a 25+ year Senior Travel Consultant/Advisor, and I have quite a large client list, who are repeat clients 15 year Plus, who do value the Service I provide. Being open and honest scores huge points. Some examples: If airfares are available on a seat sale online & we can’t match it, or if we can but need to add a Service Fee, I advise the client to book it online. Oddly enough, many clients want to pay the service fee, for “when things don’t go as they should”. If client has an airline voucher or future credit, that is best done directly with the airline.
For Cruises, Customized trips, All inclusives, our suppliers pay our commission, so the consumer doesn’t pay a nickle more than if they booked it directly with the supplier themselves. Plus they have the prior to, during, and after service of a qualified Travel Consultant.
If you just want to do a point A to point B flight, doing it online is pretty easy, however anything more complicated should be run by a professional that you trust.
If you, as a consumer, and previous Travel Agent, have discovered “tips and tricks”, can you imagine what a qualified Travel Professional has up their sleeve.? An enormous amount of Industry knowledge and Professional Training will never be replaced by online Travel links, because, as you know, their 1800 lines are manned by mostly novices that usually have very little experience in the field.
Thank you for the very insightful note, Sally.
And this is the most uneducated misdirection of reality that is available when it comes to travel and supposedly trying to help out the “common traveler”. When you book on your own and go after that sweet deal, you are not getting the quality end of the travel product, and you will also not get any support when something goes wrong. I speak from experience on this one. There is also no such thing as better pricing when you do it yourself online because the suppliers of the travel products DO NOT have special offers that they provide through those channels. Again, voice of experience here. I have found that what you do get when working with a travel advisor is a person who is dedicated to making sure that all of your travel needs meet your expectations, being there for you when something goes wrong (it is a true when situation, not an if situation), providing support to you when you are traveling, and being there for you when you return. I look at a professional travel advisor the same as I would any other skilled, experienced, and highly trained professional: they are a necessity, and they deserve to make a living just like anyone else so being charged for them to make sure that my vacation is really a value and also being looked after is quite appropriate. Travel bloggers are the worst source for any quality information and this article is proof of that.
I trust that you actually read my article and the one I linked to, in order to have a total perspective of what I wrote about this topic. I actually was a travel agent and present both sides of the situation. Happy travels!
So nice to hear the other side from someone who has been on another side:-)
Hello Irene. I try to present multiple viewpoints because not everyone adheres to the same philosophy. I really want to empower and encourage people to travel more, longer, better, and cheaper.
I have never used a travel agent. I am afraid my travels will cost more because how else would he earn his keep?
It would not cost more because they earn commissions on the sales. Travel agents should be working on your behalf. I would certainly use a travel agent to place big package or cruise trips.
A lot of people don’t understand that a travel agent’s commission is already embedded in the cost of their trip whether they use a travel agent or not. If you book it yourself you are not saving the commission. The commission which is already built in is just retained by the vendor or supplier. Hotel, cruise line etc.
Definitely something worth sharing again and again. Consumers do NOT pay more for their trips when using a travel agent.
Couldn’t agree more, Charles. I could never find a travel agent patient enough to understand all my potential scenarios or quirky routing ideas. Best thing that ever happened was the internet for DIY travel. But you need to be a planner!
Independent travel planning is a necessary skill today. Well, then again not because there are still some valuable travel agents. I like planning my own travel though!
This is a nice little history of the travel booking biz, as well as solid outline of why it’s often worthwhile to invest the time and book your own travels. Congrats on your evolving work in travel.
Thank you so much for the lovely note, Kristin. I love following yours and Tom’s adventures around the world.
We have only used a travel agent on one occurrence, which was booking our first cruise. Even with that event, we still handled the air travel and lodging reservations. It’s just not that hard to do yourself.
Glad you agree. Although not for everyone, it makes sense for so many.
As a keen traveller, I strongly believe in making my own bookings. Why use the middle man in this age of the Internet? It’s cheaper and convenient as long as you schedule enough time to make the arrangements. Thanks for your post.
Thank you for your comment. Hope you travel happy and keep on doing so.
As reasonably independent travellers we have rarely used travel agents and I wholeheartedly agree with your list. Sometimes I do use an agent though though, if I find an airfare and a travel agent can price match, it does give me more peace of mind to buy it through the agent than online.
That totally makes sense, Johanna. A travel agent can assist if things go wrong.
If things go wrong, you pay more and at times, the agent can’t help . The issuing office must be responsible and that’s why it’s necessary to use an agent because when things go wrong, your agent is the issuing officer, it becomes very easy to handle. Doing it your self is fantastic but make sure things don’t go wrong . Online will make it hell for you because there’s no direct contact or relationship before issuing. I am speaking as a trained travel consultant for 5 years now. Online is good but make sure nothing goes wrong. You will regret
Thank you for your input. I definitely have heard from people who did not have support from their travel agent when things went wrong overseas but also from many who have had problems taken care of. It really makes sense to use a qualified and competent travel agent if you are going to use one.
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