Do You Still Need a Travel Agent?
In the twenty-first century, is a travel agent still necessary? If so, how much does a travel agent cost? Find out in our detailed guide.
November 30, 2021
Whether you’re planning holiday travel to see family or an exciting around-the-world adventure, you’ll have plenty of work to do: researching and booking flights, finding lodging, renting a vehicle, etc.
For some people, planning a trip can be enjoyable; for others, it’s the most stressful part of traveling.
Many of us now make our own plans and book our own travel, but what about using a travel agent? Does it make sense to use one if you’re hoping to travel on a budget?
What is a travel agent?
Travel agents help individuals explore, plan and book travel. Agents can plan and book entire itineraries for you, or they can help with certain aspects of your travel.
There are a variety of travel agents out there:
Standard travel agents that are happy to help you plan a typical holiday trip or international adventure
Ultra-luxury providers who only work with clients with five-figure travel budgets
Specialty agents who focus on hard-to-book travel, including exotic destinations that require additional planning and precautions
How much does a travel agent cost?
Working with a travel agent can carry no extra costs or it can add several thousands of dollars to your trip bill. In many cases, however, travel agents can be very affordable, adding at most a few hundred dollars to the cost of your trip.
Agents often make money through incentives from the cruise lines, hotels and airlines they book for their clients. For example, if you book a one-week cruise through an agent, the cruise line will likely compensate the agent for referring the booking to them.
For many agents, these commission payments are their primary source of revenue. Fees charged directly to clients are generally secondary sources of revenue.
As a result, the fees that travel agents charge clients are often lower than you would expect. Some agents may charge just a few hundred dollars to plan a trip for you, and some may charge nothing at all — even though planning the trip can entail a lot of work.
Keep in mind that many travel agents charge deposit fees, often in the range of $100 to $500. This fee is typically charged upfront in order to use their services. However, when you do end up booking travel through the agent, the deposit may be refunded or applied to the cost of the trip.
Why do you need a travel agent? They’re definitely not necessary, but in many cases, it can still be very helpful to use an agent.
Pros and cons of using a travel agent
Weighing the drawbacks and benefits of travel agents will help you make an informed decision on whether to use an agent for your upcoming trip.
Exclusive deals: Many agents can score excellent deals on cruises, flights and hotels. Often, these rates are not publicly available, but the agents’ professional relationships with travel companies allow them to book at exclusive rates. For this reason, using an agent can sometimes help you save money on travel expenses.
Industry experts: Travel agents plan and book travel every day, and many have been in the industry for decades. They understand all the rules of travel and can help you find destinations that suit your desires and budget.
COVID-19 knowledge: Travel rules, vaccine requirements, quarantine protocols and COVID-19 risk levels are constantly changing in each country. Travel agents stay up to date with these changes and can help you navigate the complexities of traveling during the pandemic.
Low costs: Contrary to popular belief, working with a travel agent typically doesn’t cost much extra. In fact, sometimes it can save you money.
Time-saving: An agent can save you a lot of time by planning and booking each aspect of your upcoming trip. For people who don’t enjoy the travel planning process, this is a huge benefit.
Bundling is often required: Many agents require that you book everything for a particular trip through them. This means they will book your flight, hotels or cruises, and even some activities. If you’re just looking for help with a certain aspect of the trip, discuss this with the agent upfront to ensure that they will work within those parameters.
Costs can add up: While many agents offer no-cost or low-cost services, others have high advising or booking fees. Be sure to discuss the agent’s fee structure before committing to a trip.
Travel agents for holiday travel
Are you planning a trip to see family for the holidays and wondering if a travel agent is worthwhile?
In general, holiday travel is relatively simple and can usually be booked on your own. If you’re just flying across the country to visit family, you don’t really need the help of an agent. However, if international travel is involved or the itinerary is more complex, then an agent may make more sense.
If you’re in a position where you need to book last-minute travel, an agent may be able to help due to their industry connections. But if you can plan ahead, using a travel agent for holiday travel is likely not necessary.
Travel agents for vacations
While holiday travel is usually straightforward, vacation itineraries can often be more complex — and when things get tricky, travel agents can come in handy.
If you’re thinking ahead to vacations or international trips, consider reaching out to a travel agent. Particularly in this COVID-19 era, utilizing the expertise of a professional travel agent is especially useful.
Saving money for your next trip
Make a budget and start tracking your spending
Cut out unnecessary spending, like eating out
Lower your fixed monthly costs by shopping around — think cable, phone bill, car insurance, etc.
Sell unwanted or unused possessions
Consolidate high-interest credit card debt to save on interest — consider Tally† to potentially lower your interest rate and pay off debt faster
Whether you use a travel agent or do it all on your own, it’s important to plan ahead, start saving and enjoy your trip!
†To get the benefits of a Tally line of credit, you must qualify for and accept a Tally line of credit. The APR (which is the same as your interest rate) will be between 7.90% and 29.99% per year and will be based on your credit history. The APR will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Annual fees range from $0 - $300.