6 Surprising Reasons You Still Need a Travel Agent
With online travel booking becoming the norm, it may seem like there's no room left in the industry for travel agents. The number of travel agent retailers has indeed dropped from its peak of 34,000 in the mid-1990s to about 13,000. But travel agents are not yet obsolete; they still own as much as one-third of the U.S. travel market.
In fact, you may want to visit one to book your next trip, because there are quite significant benefits to using the services of a travel agent.
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1. Human Interaction
Despite advances in technology, sometimes nothing beats human interaction. Computer glitches happen, and when things go wrong, it takes ages to get through the numeric options on the phone before you can actually speak to a person.
When a travel agent handles a booking for you, you don't have to fill out a form more than once or slowly spell everything. If an error does happen, there's no need to panic; the travel agent will be the one to fix it for you.
If you don't like having to visit a brick-and-mortar office, you can communicate with your travel agent by phone or email. Once you've found a travel agent you like, it can actually be more convenient than online booking.
2. Decision Making
The amount of choice available online is both a good thing and a bad thing. Booking a trip over the Internet requires that you know which websites get you the best deals. And because things change quickly in the online world, you can't depend on the same websites for all your trips. (See also: The Secret Flight Search Sight Travel Agents Use)
A good travel agent knows more options than you do and narrows down your choices according to the criteria you provide. He does the research for you and presents you with only the relevant information, so all you have to do is make a decision. Travel agents can save you a lot of time, especially for complex itineraries with multiple destinations.
The cheapest rates are not always available online. Many travel agents can match or beat the prices you find online. Look for a travel agent who provides a lowest price guarantee and a price drop guarantee so you can take advantage of any possible savings, even after you make the booking.
Additionally, you often don't have to pay the full amount upfront when you book a trip with a travel agent. You can pay a deposit to secure your booking and only pay off the balance closer to the trip. Some travel agents even offer the option to divide the full amount into a few smaller, more manageable monthly payments.
4. Industry Knowledge
A travel agent has a wealth of knowledge that you can tap into. Even if the trip you book through a travel agent is the same price as the one you can book online, you could save some money when you have a travel agent working for you. (See also: 40 Useful Travel Websites)
A travel agent can alert you of restrictions and fees hidden in the jargon-filled small print that you usually ignore. You may end up tweaking your itinerary so you can travel with two large bags without incurring any extra charges. You may buy a cheaper travel insurance policy that complements the one you already have through your credit card. You may even find your entire big family seated together on all your flights with no drama whatsoever.
Having a travel agent also pays off in more abstract ways. Instead of having to Google everything, you can ask your travel agent instead, who should be able to provide you with a quick answer.
5. Industry Relationships
Travel agents excel when it comes to booking cruises and tours. With the relationships they have built over the years, travel agents can take advantage of lower prices and pass on the savings to you. You may even get freebies like shipboard credits that you can use to purchase things on a cruise.
6. Follow-Up Care
Even if you've planned the trip down to the smallest detail, there's always a chance of something unexpected happening.
When you book a flight through a comparison website, your relationship with that website ends after you make a payment. If there's anything you need after the booking, you have to deal with the airline directly.
In contrast, a travel agent provides assistance before, during, and after the trip.
If you need to change or cancel your bookings, the travel agent can make the process easier. If you run into a problem during the trip, you don't have to waste your precious vacation time on it; you can call your travel agent and have him solve the problem for you. If you need to make an insurance claim, your travel agent can help deal with the insurance company.
Some travel agents are even available 24 hours a day, so you won't have to wait to get professional assistance.
Have you ever booked travel with an agent? Please share your experience in comments!