Do you use a travel agent for your holidays or book it yourself?

With multiple flight and hotel apps on tap, what’s the best option?

Why you’d book with a travel agent – or not

I’d researched airfares for the trip I was planning and knew the best flights in terms of hours, stopovers and costs. But … I wondered if a travel agent could do better. Off I went to the local office, which shall remain unnamed.

I explained my needs to the agent, sat for more than an hour as he wrestled with a computer program then finally told me the best option was a round-the-world ticket that went the wrong way round!

Not impressed. And I don’t blame him, but his manager, for not training him well enough before letting him loose with customers.

My second attempt was no better, though she was quicker with her poor offering.

It was third time lucky for me – this agent listened, found and booked the flights I wanted, quickly, told me about a couple of possible pitfalls with a budget airline, booked the seats that she could and advised on visas. I wanted to kiss her but settled for congratulations.

I was uneasy about doing my own flight bookings in this instance because there were a number of travellers involved and considerable expense. I was happy to pay a little extra for the security of knowing a professional was on deck.

I’m one of those people who will use a travel agent for some things and do my own bookings for others. I enjoy the research; it’s the start of the adventure for me. But that’s me. With travel apps, such as I Know The Pilot, Webjet, Skyscanner, TripAdvisor and others, it can be very easy. But then sometimes it’s reassuring to let the ‘expert’ do it for you.

Independent studies conclude that it’s a question of swings and roundabouts as to whether you use a travel agent.

You might save yourself a $100 here or there by doing your own bookings, but who do you turn to if something goes wrong?

Consider arriving at your hotel to find they’re overbooked and you’ve been shunted into a room fronting the city’s busiest highway where it’s impossible to sleep. Are you, as an individual, likely to have as much clout with that hotel as your travel agent might, especially one who pushes plenty of holiday-makers through that hotel? No.

The Australian Federation of Travel Agents (AFTA) says most of the advantages in using one of its members relate to time saved and intimate knowledge.

A travel agent, says the AFTA, can ensure accuracy with all booking details, can advise on visa applications, assist with all travel documentation and provide travel tips.

In a CHOICE magazine survey, three tours were booked with travel agents – one for one person, one for two people and one for a family. It then conducted its own research on the trips that were put together.

For two of the three tours – the single and the family – CHOICE found the do-it-yourself option worked out cheaper, but in its final verdict it sat on the fence.

“It’s hard to say whether a travel agent or DIY bookings will regularly be cheaper than the other,” CHOICE decided. “It may just come down to your appetite for research and need for control.”

Whether you use a travel agent or do it yourself, it’s important to be thorough with your research. You’ll always get a better result.

What experiences have you had with travel agents? Do you prefer to do your own bookings?



    To make a comment, please register or login

    18th Dec 2017
    With so many great on line booking engines for flights and accommodation, I gave up on travel agents ages ago
    18th Dec 2017
    Janelle is absolutely spot on. Do your homework on what you're seeking to do, then speak with at least two travel agents and decide.
    18th Dec 2017
    Travel agents? Forget it.
    Travel agents do not have the time to check deals on a daily basis and then jump on the offers which are gems. That's where individuals always have the jump on professionals, but there is a learning curve which most of us do not want to be bothered with. That is what keeps the travel industry ticking along.
    Seriously, do your own research, plan a year ahead and then start filling in the bits like a jigsaw puzzle. First the accommodation and flights, then car hire, eating currency exchange, etc. It is not difficult but it will soak up a lot of time. The upside is it gets faster next time around and is also much cheaper than any travel agent.
    Avoid most paid tours. That is the apex of the rip off pyramid.
    18th Dec 2017
    travel agents are past their use by date. its miles cheaper to do it all yourself without the added cost.
    18th Dec 2017
    I use an independent travel organiser and have never been disappointed with her service. Good to have back up as well if something goes wrong. I simply cannot get the same cheap flights and accomodation myself.
    18th Dec 2017
    As a group we had decided to start our website (at last) and thought a travel quote request would be a good way to start.
    So we sent the same holiday plan email to 63 travel agents from the biggest to the smallest. We made it clear we were flexible as to departure and return datres, (anytime in December to Jnauary) where we stayed, and even offered to move around if that suited. We also made it very clear that the purpose of the trip was to rate travel agents and their service.
    We also told them we had around 30.000 members and their submissiions were eagerly awaited.
    It was a simple 3 week stay in Bali for 2, with all the flexibilities I outlined. We get that it's busy time but they could price accordingly.
    Only 15 companies could even be bothered to reply. The prices ranged from as high of $8800 to a "low" of $5800!!!!!!!! When I replied that maybe they thought Seniors are made of money only one reduced their price........ to a lowly $5200.
    I spent 15 minutes on and got the airfares (Jetstar) for $1200 and on found a great place in Seminyak, only 6 units, private pool, a couple of minutes to the beach etc etc for $1000 for the 3 weeks.
    Oh and full insurance through Allianz for another $210
    So for lesds than an hour out of my life I had got everything I wanted..... and more..... all covered for $2410, less than 1/3 of the average of a whole 15 quotes.
    Their ONLY sell is that they can help us when something goes wrong. believe me that's fine if you're in the same time zone, or close, but if not....... you're on your own.
    Folks, the travel industry neither wants, needs or deserves our money.
    19th Dec 2017
    First real overseas trip of a lifetime used a very reputable agent and while a couple of little scares on the way which we solved it was excellent.
    Five years later we booked ourselves and after an evening full of wine clicked on a disastrous mistake
    Of travel on the wrong morning requiring a $500 change
    Made very difficult by being in a virtually non existent
    English speaking country (Columbia).
    If we had used a travel agent this would not have occurred! Didn’t even make the next flight after this
    And luckily $50 USA later were reallocated to the next flight.
    Never allowed enough time through USA customs!
    Factor that in always in your travels they are slow and won’t hurry for no man!!
    19th Dec 2017
    We recently used a travel agent to book a 6 day land holiday + 22 day cruise package. Once on the ship I told Reception that I did not want to pay the gratuities (i.e. daily cabin charge) that they automatically add to your account (but would reward people as we saw fit). I was asked 'Did you use a travel agent to book?' Told 'yes', she informed me that in that case I had already paid the gratuities, which were part of the package fare. This appears to be a method of preventing people from opting out of paying these charges, and it certainly means that I will never use a travel agent again to book a cruise.

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