Are Travel Agents worth the expense?

I once worked in a corporate environment where all travel booking had to be done through the 'authorized' travel agent. My wife still does. But the real question and the purpose of this article is to discuss the question of whether or not you need to use a travel agent to book personal travel.

My personal opinion is that travel agents are a valuable resource and should be used in some situations. But when you know where you want to go, how you want to get there and what you want to once you do; their fees may be an unnecessary additional expense.

That paragraph above is a lot more complex than a first read would make it appear. Let's take a personal example of a time that I was pleased to pay the additional fees and believe that the travel agent fully earned her small commissions.

We wanted to go to Alaska on a cruise. We are not the dress up for every meal type of person. We wanted a decent cruise line, comfortable accommodations, and little bit of land and sea. In short we wanted to do it once, have a good time and not feel out of place while doing it. We chose to use a local travel agent for the bookings.

This lady spent at least an hour, probably more asking my wife about our previous travel and cruise experiences. How much we preferred to pay and what our maximum willing to pay was. They chatted and bonded. Then she said let me check a couple of things and get back to you in a couple of days. I immediately thought to myself that, 'all this chat is costly. I may as well kiss that maximum goodbye'.

That wasn't the way it turned out. She called back in a few days and told us the cheapest, the most expensive and what she thought the best cruise line who had several ships sailing those waters and particular boat in that fleet would be the best for us. An experienced cynic would say she planned to sell the mid-point of the price range as the best boat. Perhaps she did but she went more for the 40th percentile than the 60th.

She was right on target. It was not the cheapest or the most expensive cruise calling on those ports. It was the right boat going to the right places for people who think like we do. It had the right mix of people in surroundings that were comfortable and I enjoyed that cruise far more than the ones that came before. A big part of that might be the particular cruise line. They are well known for offering experiences across a spectrum of levels none of which are bargain basement.

You could not get this type of service from any agency that sells only online. This is personal service from an experienced travel agent, not bookings through a computer interface. Since I have not quite yet surfed every site on the web, I won't say there isn't an online site out there with this type of service. I will say I am not aware of one.

Bottom line opinion, sometimes it pays you well to use a local, experienced, travel agent.

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