Can a Travel Agent Really Save You Money?
The internet is a treasure trove if you’re searching for discounted hotels and airfare deals. After all, you can search for travel pricing directly with airlines and hotels, or with discount travel sites like Expedia and Priceline. You can even plug your travel details into a site like Kayak.com or Trivago.com and see prices from several travel vendors, all in one place.
With that in mind, you may be wondering why anyone would use a travel agent these days. Since it’s so easy to shop for travel, read reviews, and compare prices on your own, what’s the point?
Travel agents say that using their services can help you plan a better trip while also saving you more cash than you can save on your own. Here’s how.
1. They Have Access to Discounted Fares and Stays
Travel agent Lisa Davis of DFS Travel says that she is often able to find group space to book clients into for cruises, along with special fares that may not be available to the public.
Laurel Brunvoll, President of Unforgettable Trips, adds that a travel agent with the right connections may get access to discounted airfare that can’t be booked elsewhere. They may also be notified upfront about upcoming deals. “Because we work with airlines all the time, we oftentimes get notice of upcoming airfare sales or special packages,” says Brunvoll.
The same can be said for hotels and other lodging options as well since travel agents often have contracted room rates with hotels, resorts, and cruise lines. “Our agency is part of a large network, and therefore we get preferred pricing and sometimes additional amenities for clients,” said Brunvoll. “We have developed relationships with hotels, resorts, tour companies, and cruise lines over the years and this in turn, helps our clients get VIP treatment.”
Brunvoll says that she helped a client save significant sums on both airfare and a European cruise earlier this year. Not only did Brunvoll’s agency have a special amenity of $200 shipboard credit available to them, but they also found their clients discounted airfare that saved them 50 percent.
“The regular price of the Lufthansa ticket was $1876 per person, and we found a discounted fare only available for travel advisors to use for them for $897.50 per person,” she said. “We saved this couple $2,157.”
2. They Can Help You Protect Your Investment
Travel agents work hard to help you plan the trip of your dreams, but they also respect the amount of money you’re spending and take steps to help you protect it. According to the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), travel agents are trained on how to anticipate delays and travel snafus as well as how to handle them.
This often meanings helping you plan for cancelled or delayed flights, even if that means leveraging their own contacts to assist you in the re-booking process. They can even guide you toward travel insurance that will kick in if your trip is cancelled or delayed for any reason. They'll also help fill out travel insurance paperwork to make sure you are compensated should things go wrong.
3. They Can Save You Time
If you’re someone who is compensated significantly for your time at work, why would you want to spend several hours on a computer planning your own trip? While using a travel agent is typically free of cost for consumers, the time these professionals save you is priceless. Plus, your itinerary will be delivered in one easy document. If time is money, then think of them as your asset managers.
4. They Can Help You Score Perks and Upgrades
Davis of, DFS Travel, says she can help clients secure perks that can save you money or boost the value of your trip—perks they can’t get if they book on their own. For example, her clients may qualify for additional perks such as free alcohol packages, shore excursion port credits, or free on-board credits to spend on ship.
Danny Genung, the owner of Harr Travel, a Nexion-affiliated agency, said he commonly gets his clients value-boosting perks by granting them access to special programs they belong to.
In one particular instance, he was working with a client who had a special suite in mind at the Fleming’s Mayfair in London. They had found a good rate online and wanted to see if he could match it.
While he didn’t match the rate, the fact that his travel agency has a special relationship with the hotel through their Travel Leaders Hotels program helped Genung negotiate special amenities. For about 10 percent more in cost, he was able to get the client a room upgrade, transfer to and from the airport and their cruise port in a black sedan, two lunches at the hotel’s Michelin star restaurant, free breakfast daily, and free internet service.
While his clients paid 10 percent more, the value of their trip surged significantly due to all the perks Genung was able to secure.
5. They Help You Avoid Surprise Expenses
While it’s easier than ever to search for airfare and hotels online, the travel industry is rife with hidden fees and expenses. If you book your travel on your own without consulting a professional, you can easily wind up paying a lot more than you think for your trip.
According to travel agent Marcia Simon of Friendly Group Travel, a travel agent can you help you ensure you’re comparing apples to apples before you book airfare or hotels.
For example, she says, many travelers search for the lowest price on airfare without realizing those low fares don’t include checked luggage, a seat assignment, or any type of snack or beverage. Some airlines also limit the size of carry-on luggage or don’t let you carry a bag on at all without paying for the privilege.
“So, when you add up all the surprise add-ons, it would have cost less to have your travel agent book you one level up that includes a few little perks that people falsely believe are included,” she says.