Ditch the travel agent

By 11:21

I use travel agents quite a bit. I use them at work to book my business travels. I suppose I don’t really care about the cost of those but I still have to tell them about which flights are convenient. With all the information I provide to them, if I didn’t have so much work to do, I think it would be more efficient to do it myself…if I was allowed to.

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For my personal travels that don’t have anything to do with work, I use travel agents too. My Thailand trip was nicely packaged by a travel agent that a friend organised. It was less hassle for me. All our friends agreed to the price and paid. I didn’t once question the service.

I did tons of online research for my Maldives honeymoon and I finally settled on the resort that offered the best value for money for everything I was looking for. A travel agent managed to get that even cheaper for us. It’s probably because beachside holidays are popular. Travel agencies get good deals to promote certain resorts so we, the customers, also benefit.

I am currently planning an amazing European winter trip over December. I walked in to a travel agency and they actually gave me some really good options. Once I browsed through all the brochures and sent my request for quotation, I realised that I could actually get the whole package cheaper if I did it myself.

Confused, I realised that there are a lot of reasons why you should ditch the travel agent if you have some time to do your own research. Here are some of those reasons.

1. The internet gives you everything at your fingertips. Sometimes, its information overload but if you can filter through all of that, you have a variety of holiday options to choose from – to either plan it yourself or directly through tour suppliers. Once you find out what’s best for you, you can book it yourself. 

2. I’m not sure how competitive travel agencies are with holiday tours. It seems like they have a relationship with a third party who probably discounts tours so that the agency can make money for driving holiday makers to the suppliers’ products. In my recent experience, that discount isn’t passed on to the consumer so you’re no better off than just booking the holiday through the supplier yourself.

3. After I got my quotes back, I decided to look up flights myself. I used a number of websites that trawls the web for cheap flights. I also looked at specific airlines. I found out that my agent had given me a quote with a super long layover which was actually more expensive than a direct flight. Clearly, the agency gets rewarded for using specific airlines so that’s what she quoted that instead of suggesting what works best for me in terms of time and money. 

4. When I went back to the agent asking for quotes on direct flights where I was landing in one city and returning from another, she insisted that it would be more expensive getting two one way flights from different airlines as opposed to return flight through the same city. However when tried booking those flights with two different airlines, I realised that those two airlines were actually partner airlines and it wasn’t any more expensive at all. 

5. My sister-in-law and her friends just got back from their American vacation and also weren’t impressed with the same travel agent’s service. The travel agent hadn’t confirmed one of their airport transfers. They also realised that their first hotel could have been used for their entire Orlando trip. The agent hadn’t even advised them that the two hotels were about 20 minutes away from each other and that it would have been cheaper and less hassle to remain at the first hotel and commute. Then there was an epic New York trip to which they only realised while in New York that they only had a day and a half in the city. They would have appreciated if the travel agent advised them that it may have been too short of a duration to see that city. 

6. And then there are the unsolicited emails. I contacted the agent for the sole purpose of getting some quotes and to book my travel with them – not to be inundated with their marketing emails. I didn’t sign up for that.

Maybe I just had a bad experience or I haven’t found the right travel agent yet. So unless, you don’t have the time or want to be bothered with the details of your trip, these are my reasons why you could just book your trip yourself. Do you agree?

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