In this day and age, I’m still a bit surprised that travel agents still exist… They seem to just be those places I often walk past on the high street, with glossy brochures I’ll occasionally grab for a bit of window shopping, but other than that, I’d never used one. That was until I decided to travel for 7 months. In fear of being judged by travellers who just book a one way ticket and wing it, I actually used the travel agent Flight Centre for my big around the world trip, for reasons I’ll go through below.
So in this post I wanted to talk about the positives and negatives of travel agents, and if I think they can still be useful for travel.
Why I used a travel agent…
Firstly, I’m a very organised person. I like knowing exactly what is happening and when, and having a plan. This doesn’t mean I avoid spontaneity at all costs, for some parts of my trip I’d book my first couple of nights then plan a couple of days in advance what I was doing next. It just means that for a long and complicated trip, I didn’t want to be stressing about it whilst travelling, and I’d rather have flights and the big stuff booked in advance. However this isn’t actually the main reason I used a travel agent. The main reason is a man called Tim.
Tim is actually an Aussie friend I met whilst roommates on a Contiki Tour in the USA. He’s a great friend to this day and I attribute him as a big reason I finally plucked up the courage to travel. It turns out that he was working at Flight Centre whilst I was booking my trip, so thought I’d have a chat and see if I could book my trip through him, save a bit of effort and money on my part, and help him out by booking through him.
It’s Stress Free
The best thing for me about booking my trip through Flight Centre and Tim, was that all my flights, about 19 of them… Were booked and sorted in advance. I had all the paperwork for them and everything I needed ahead of time so didn’t have to worry about any of that. I also booked a few tours through Flight Centre (2x Contikis and a GAdventures Trip), and was able to get all the paperwork etc for those too. Note, I didn’t book hostels, hotels, and accommodation with Flight Centre, just flights, tours and insurance. Paperwork sounds like a pretty lame reason to use a travel agent, but having all of the information for 7 months travel, 19 flights, and 18 countries, all together in a nice little itinerary was perfect and saved me lots of stress knowing I’d paid and sorted most of my trip in advance.
You can save money
The second thing which made a huge difference in what I was able to do, how much I could travel, and where, was the cash saving. I managed to get discounts on some of my tours and also save on the flight prices. Even though I trusted Tim was giving me a good deal, purely out of interest I wanted to see what skyscanner said for the same flight routes. So after lots of going through skyscanner, it turns out my flight prices Tim had got me through Flight Centre were even cheaper than the ones I found myself, which was just great.
It Gives you a Safety Net
Insurance, and the ability to have someone to call if things went wrong was a big positive that luckily I didn’t have to use. Having booked through a travel agent, they were able to sort my travel insurance, and also be there to talk to and help me out in case of any disasters. For any worriers like myself this is a nice safety net.
Is it Always Good Value?
So obviously my experience is a lot more positive because I have a friend working at the travel agent who massively had my back. I also know that travel agents such as Flight Centre have different ways their staff operates in different countries, and that there may be different commissions staff can add on to what you pay meaning you can pay more.
Without committing to explaining exactly how these work and giving mis-information, all I’ll say is that it’s best to do your research beforehand so you have rough prices in mind of what you should be spending. This will avoid a travel agent trying to take you for a ride, as you’ll know a rough idea of market value and if you’re getting a good deal.
Sometimes it’s quicker and easier to book yourself
If you’re just booking a week long holiday with a return flight, I personally don’t see the need in using a travel agent for shorter trips. I book a lot of my shorter trips and holidays myself, using services like skyscanner to check flights, and booking.com, hostelworld, and AirBnB for accommodation, and this is always easy enough.
So should you use a travel agent?
My advice for this is that if you’re doing a very long, and complicated trip across different continents and need multiple flights, then YES, a travel agent takes SO much hassle out of the whole process so you should use one. Research roughly where you want to go and how much you think it will cost, and take this information along with you so you know if the price you’re quoted is a good one.
As mentioned above however, for most trips I don’t see the need unless you’re someone that really likes all the positives I’ve written about above and doesn’t mind spending a little bit more for that piece of mind.
Travel agents don’t seem to be a very fashionable topic so I thought I’d share my experience and how I think they can be most useful for travel. Obviously my experience was naturally a good one having a friend who was my travel agent.
Have any of you had good or bad experiences with travel agents?
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