It’s become second nature for many of us to book our airline tickets, car rentals and hotel stays ourselves. But there are certain times when you really need to hire a travel agent.
Planning things like ground transportation for groups, tours, theater visits, theme parks and concerts to coordinate with your itinerary can take up tons of time.
A Retired Travel Agent Explains When You Need To Hire One
I’m a retired travel agent. Recently, I spent countless (too many) hours planning hotel nights, rail travel and tours to see as much of Ireland as I could in one fell swoop over just over two weeks.
Even I’ll admit that the time spent was a bit excessive. Studies indicate that travelers spend 30 hours researching and preparing for a trip and visit up to 38 websites before actually making a reservation. I may have exceeded those averages.
It wasn’t that I tried to over-plan and fill each and every day; I just wanted to know that all of the experiences would appeal to my style of travel (no big bus tours, ample free time, no evenings planned).
If I hadn’t been an agent myself, I probably would have hired one for my Ireland visit. Here are just some of the times when having someone working on your trip can be super helpful:
- Travel agents can guide an inexperienced traveler through taking a first trip overseas, when traveling to a destination where tourism is less developed or when the trip is to multiple cities.
- An agent can help you out of jams should you miss a flight connection, face a canceled flight or need assistance when natural disasters strike that affect your plans.
- A travel agent can often help find the best prices on tours and cruises with exclusive promotional offers and deals. Estimated savings can be anywhere from $500 to $1,000 on international airfare and tours.
- An agent will inform you about any necessary documents you may need: visas, vaccinations and restrictions (if you’re traveling to a religious or conservative country).
- A travel agent can offer travel insurance options to cover just about anything that could happen on your trip.
- An agent is key when you want to embark on a trip of a lifetime such as the inaugural sailing of a spectacular ship, a Disney vacation or The Passion Play at Oberammergau, to name just a few.
- When your trip involves coordinating with a group of friends or family members who live all across the county, an agent can keep things organized.
- Cruise experts can help maneuver through the many options based on your needs. Some ships offer refundable vs. non-refundable rates and guaranteed cabins vs. cabins with free perks. Which option is best for your needs? That’s where an agent’s expertise is key.
How Much Does Using a Travel Agent Cost?
Can a travel agent help save time with trip planning? Yes, most definitely!
Can a travel agent save you money? Probably, but there will usually be some expenses on the front end.
You should expect for an agent or agency to collect fees for certain services. Ask your agent for specifics. Here are some averages:
- Airline tickets: $25-$50 for domestic round-trips or multi-city; higher for an international ticket (per itinerary)
- Cruises: $30-$50 per person
- Tours: $100 per person up to 8 nights; $175 9-13 nights; $250 14 or more nights
- Last-minute: $100 per person (for trip arrangements for travel within two weeks of departure)
Some travel agents don’t charge any fees. That’s because they earn commissions through partner vendors.
Certain agencies may accept a planning deposit for custom multi-city trips or trips that require various modes of transport and coordination.
You might be asked for such a deposit (around $100 in most cases) to prevent you from booking elsewhere after the agent has done all the research. A portion or all of that deposit may be refunded after the trip has been completed.
How To Find a Good Travel Agent
So how do you find a good travel agent?
Ask family, friends and co-workers who love to travel for their recommendations. Chances are they use the services of an agent.
You can also look for an agent at TravelSense.org, operated by the International Air Transport Association. Seek out agents/agencies with American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) accreditation. On the ASTA website, you can filter agents by their specialty.
Each year, Travel + Leisure’s editors compile the “A-List,” a curated selection of the world’s best travel agents and destination specialists. The information is organized by regions of the globe as well as by specialty trips such as fly-fishing, scuba diving, safaris and honeymoons.
Need help with cruise planning? Enter your ZIP code here to find a Certified Agent of the Cruise Lines International Association who works near you.
Most trips probably don’t require the services of a travel agent, but if you’re planning something that involves any of the complications outlined above you might benefit from the help.
These are people who do this for a living, so sometimes it’s best to leave the planning to a professional.