The Benefits of Using a Travel Agent Versus Booking on Your Own
What are the benefits of using a travel agent, especially if you’re traveling solo? I’m asked this question a lot.
Can’t you save a ton of money just doing the research and booking on your own?
In all honesty, the answer is “it depends”.
When Should You Consider Using a Travel Agent
Travel Destinations that are Difficult to Book
Some locations require you book through an agent or charter. A good example is my trip to the Galapagos.
Travelers wanting to visit the uninhabited islands are required to be with a certified local guide.
The guides are almost always on chartered ships because another rule of the Galapagos is that only so many ships are allowed in one area at the same time.
The entire tourist season is carefully choreographed a year in advance.
You can try calling the charters directly, but many are not easily reached and language can be a barrier. It’s usually easier to go through an agent.
Solo Travelers on Tours with Overnight Accommodations
As much as this stinks, if you’re looking at a guided tour with overnight accommodations, being solo can make booking more difficult.
Most tour operators want to sell the entire room which yields two paying customers.
They hold off booking solo travelers unless they know they have two they can put together. They may allow a solo traveler a day or two before the trip when chances of selling the full room are minimal.
The benefit of using a travel agent in this situation is they help navigate and work with the tour operators.
Often agents have two travelers they can book together, or they have contacts and can help negotiate on your behalf.
You Have Limited Time to Plan a Trip
If you’re a busy person with limited time, then an agent does all the work for you. It’s fast and easy.
The benefit of using a travel agent and tour operator is you know the itinerary ahead of time and all arrangements are made. All you have to do is show up.
I’m a fan of using a travel agent because I often just don’t have time to research and coordinate an entire trip on my own.
The Trip is Complex
If a trip is complex, or a big “once in a lifetime” adventure, a travel agent can help make things a lot easier.
The benefit of using a travel agent is they can coordinate multiple flights, add ons like a one day stay in a local city, get answers from the tour operator quickly, and keep you apprised of any updates.
I used a travel agent for both my trip to the Galapagos and my trip to Antarctica for this reason.
When Should You Consider Booking on Your Own
You Want Control of the Itinerary (or Lack Thereof)
There’s a sense of adventure in throwing caution to the wind and heading out on a great vacation.
You may have a bit of a plan, but you’re open to possibility and don’t want a structured itinerary weighing you down.
You have Local Contacts in the Area
If you know the location, know someone that’s been, or even know someone currently living there, then there may not be a benefit to using a travel agent.
This is a great opportunity to plan your own trip and truly explore the local culture.
A little sneaky tip: I sometimes check travel agency websites to see where they go and what hotels they use in that area, then plan my own trip.
You Have Flexibility on When to Leave
If you’re flexible with timing, you can often get good last-minute deals.
A lot of travelers hike through Patagonia then head to Ushuaia and try to book one of the outgoing trips to Antarctica.
The advantage is you can save thousands. The only downside is you have no say on the itinerary or timing. This is only for those that have very flexible schedules.
Often a local travel agent helps coordinate this last minute booking.
The Benefits of Using a Travel Agent – the Rundown
Using an agent can be easier, and in some instances, necessary, but planning your own trip can be exciting and allow you to truly explore.
Take into account the destination, type of trip, and your own experience. At the end of the day, just get out there.