GOOD READS

Why It Pays to Book With a Travel Agent

Booking a trip often proves to be an extremely stressful, grueling undertaking. You can spend hours online searching for deals on flights and hotels, bouncing from one website to another in pursuit of the perfect price. This kind of process is often headache-inducing: Approximately 20 percent of more than 2,000 travelers worldwide said it took them more than five hours to search and book travel online, according to a recent survey by the I.B.M. Institute for Business Value.

To avoid the hassle, some consumers are turning to travel agents. After suffering for years, the travel-agent industry is now experiencing substantial growth. Nearly 1 in 3 leisure agencies is hiring, according to PhoCusWright, a travel research firm. And the American Society of Travel Agents reports that 57 percent of independent agents saw an increase in business in 2011.

Faced with countless choices for flights, hotels, car rental, and tours, some consumers are dumping the DIY approach. "There are simply too many travel products in the market today for individuals to decipher on their own," says James Shillinglaw, editor-in-chief of Travalliancemedia, a media network for travel agencies. "You need a guide to help you cut through all the different things out there that are available."

"There's a difference between price and value," adds Arnie Weissmann, editor-in-chief of Travel Weekly, a newspaper that covers the travel industry. The more travelers realize that, he says, the more they're opting to use a travel agent. Here are six reasons to consider booking your next vacation with a travel agent:

Save time. An agent can save you time by vetting thousands of flight and hotel options to find the right fare at the lowest rate. "There's just a glut of information, and you need someone to make sense of it all," says John Peters of Tripology.com, a website that matches consumers to travel agents.

Stephanie Axelrod and her husband, who live in Fairfax, Va., used Tamalpais Travel to book a trip to Spain and Italy in 2010, and saved a lot of time in the process. "After we spent many hours on the Internet ourselves, we found using an agent made the whole experience more pleasant and less time-consuming," she says.

Save money. Some people shy away from using a travel agent because they think they'll be charged extra for the agent's services. Some agents charge additional fees (for example, a $25 fee for their time and research), but most make their commission through the travel suppliers. "You're going to get more value from your money booking with a travel agent," Peters says. Nina Meyer, president of the American Society of Travel Agents, says you can also save big on airfare with the right agent: "I have seen in the past people save anywhere from $500 to upwards of $1,000 on a ticket."

Axelrod says she and her husband found it difficult to find good flight deals on their own. "The travel agent was able to get deals we weren't able to find," she says.

Learn what you want. "Very often, people don't really know what kind of trip they want," Shillinglaw says. It's the travel agent's job to provide you with a number of options they think you'd enjoy. Not only will they help you book a trip, they'll help you build the trip.

Connections. Don't underestimate a travel agent's extensive Rolodex. Agents may have people on the ground who you can connect with, such as a local tour guide, as well as people you can reach out to if you encounter any problems. "Having access to a travel agent's insiders makes it just an overall better customer service experience than going at it alone," Peters says.

Kate Rice, who covers airlines for TravelPulse.com, says agents who book a lot of flights develop strong relationships with sales representatives. "That means they have double leverage that they can use on your behalf--the purchasing power of the agency group they're affiliated with, as well as the personal relationships they have with their sales reps," she says.

Authenticity. The right travel agent will enlighten you about trip options you may not be able to find online. "It's about knowing what the real local find is, whether that be a great dinner at a small café or tickets to a private show," Peters says. "When people travel, they don't want to travel like a tourist. So it's about the travel specialist being able to help people find unique life experiences that they'll remember."

Knowledge. Flawless travel plans lie in the details, and travel agents are experts when it comes to handling those details. "It could be a pretty picture, but what if there's construction going on? What if it's in a bad neighborhood?" says Meyer. "Agents have that kind of background knowledge."

Axelrod booked five of the eight hotels on her trip based on recommendations from the travel agent, but says she wishes she had booked all of the hotels through her agent. "This was the first time we had used a travel agent," she says. "In the future, I would take all of their advice, rather than just picking and choosing to save some money."

Troubleshooting. Despite extensive travel planning, you might encounter some bumps on your trip. Having a travel agent handle them for you can make your travel experience a lot less stressful. "In almost any rough situation, you need a travel agent," Meyer says. "I have clients who were going to miss a sports event because their flight got cancelled, but we still got them there." Says Weissman: "If the hotel room doesn't match your expectations and you don't have a travel agent, you're on your own."

Twitter: @danielbortz



More From US News & World Report

Quiz: How well do you know India's economy?

Question 1

Which of these products is India the world's largest producer of?

Poll Choice Options
  • Wheat
  • Rice
  • Milk
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10

Latest News

  • India to make May-July oil payments to Iran - sources

    India is set to pay Iran $1.65 billion over the next three months under an interim nuclear deal that eases sanctions on Tehran and gives it access to $4.2 billion in blocked funds, four sources with knowledge of the matter said. As long as Tehran complies with the terms of its preliminary agreement with western powers, which took effect on Jan. 20, Iran receives some of its funds frozen abroad in eight payments from various buyers over six months. Iran has cut its most sensitive nuclear …

  • $4.5 Wine Country Estate Offers a 'Personal Form of Heaven'

    Click here to view the full photogallery. Inspired by a client's relatively open-ended request for "an easy-living space that incorporated the color blue," Calif.-based architect Juan Carlos Fernandez built this modern Casa Cielo Azul (or the Blue Sky Home)... …

  • Gold edges off 2-1/2-month low as dollar, stocks ease

    Gold edged up on Wednesday from a 2-1/2-month low hit in the previous session as a softer tone to equities and the dollar helped arrest its slide, though the metal is vulnerable to further losses as investor demand remains slack. Spot gold was up 0.1 percent at $1,283.60 an ounce at 1419 GMT, while U.S. gold futures for June delivery were up $2.90 an ounce at $1,284.00. …

  • Wall Street edges lower following six-day S&P rally

    U.S. stocks edged lower on Wednesday as strong results from Boeing failed to inspire investors to keep pushing equities higher following six straight days of gains. Better-than-expected corporate earnings ... …

  • UltraTech Cement Q4 net up 15 pct on cost controls
    UltraTech Cement Q4 net up 15 pct on cost controls

    UltraTech Cement Ltd (ULTC.NS) reported a forecast-beating 15 percent rise in net profit for the January-March quarter as India's largest cement maker kept a lid on rising costs. "Optimisation of fuel mix and other initiatives helped in maintaining costs almost at the previous year levels," UltraTech, part of the $40 billion Aditya Birla Group, said in a statement to the stock exchange on Wednesday. UltraTech also said it had earmarked 100 billion rupees to set up grinding units, cement …

IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS & INTERVIEWS

  • This might well be India’s biggest Ponzi scam

    It was just too good to be true. Ashok Khital, 45, displays every symptom of a man who knows he's been conned. …

  • India's star studded football league

    High and mighty including Sachin, Salman & Sun Group buy ISL teams …

  • Leaderspeak with Rajesh Janey

    Rajesh Janey, President - India & SAARC, EMC shares many firsts in his life. …

  • Power Hungry

    Gujarat has power round-the-clock. Most other states do not. Why this will matter in the general elections. …

  • Etcetera

    The most keenly watched contest of the current general election will be the one for the Varanasi parliamentary seat, where the Bharatiya Janata Party's prime ministerial hopeful Narendra Modi squares off ... …

  • Economy vs Democracy

    As the country gets election fever, cash comes out of mattresses and turns into liquor, gifts, and food. But it is not bad for the health of the economy, reports Sarika Malhotra from the trenches. …

  • Bracing for Challenges

    Raghuram Rajan is preparing to deal with concerns that may arise when a new government takes charge. …

MARKET MOVERS

  • Most Actives
    Most Actives
    NamePriceChange% Chg
    16.52-0.33-1.96%
    UNITECH.BO
    14.31-0.27-1.85%
    SUZLON.BO
    120.40+7.00+6.17%
    FRL.BO
    66.05+4.10+6.62%
    MANGCHEM.BO
    54.40+1.65+3.13%
    HCLINFO.BO
  • Price % Gainers
    Price % Gainers
    NamePriceChange% Chg
    16.20+2.70+20.00%
    JAGSONPH.BO
    53.50+8.90+19.96%
    RUSHIL.BO
    40.45+6.45+18.97%
    RCIIND.BO
    63.95+8.90+16.17%
    MRPL.BO
    24.00+3.10+14.83%
    NELCAST.BO
  • Price % Losers
    Price % Losers
    NamePriceChange% Chg
    24.25-6.00-19.83%
    BMAL.BO
    13.26-2.24-14.45%
    ZYLOG.BO
    30.15-4.05-11.84%
    DRDATSONS.BO
    19.55-2.45-11.14%
    MARAL.BO
    121.50-13.50-10.00%
    POKARNA.BO
  •  
    Recent Quotes
    Symbol Price Change % ChgChart 
    Your most recently viewed tickers will automatically show up here if you type a ticker in the "Enter symbol/company" at the bottom of this module.
    You need to enable your browser cookies to view your most recent quotes.
  • Recent Quotes News

    •  
      Sign-in to view quotes in your portfolios.

    Yahoo Cricket