With all of today’s options for booking hotels, flights, and activities while you’re on vacation, it’s a common belief that travel agents only add costs to the eventual price of a trip. It’s only natural to avoid using a travel agent when you’re already spending your hard-earned cash on the vacation itself. So, to help you better understand their role, I’ll answer the burning question: do travel agents save you money?
In short, yes, travel agents can save you money. In fact, most travel agents have access to exclusive deals you can’t otherwise find when booking your travel online. Pair that with their extensive knowledge, and you’ll find that using a travel agent is one of the best ways to stay within budget.
So, what exactly can they do to save you money? Well, that’s exactly what we’re about to cover.
Let’s jump in!
What Does a Travel Agent Do?
Before we get into the financial side of things, it’s useful to understand just what a travel agent’s day at the office looks like—especially since their responsibilities are often misunderstood.
The main role of a travel agent is to provide clients with transportation and accommodations for their trip. However, they certainly don’t shy away from counseling on the best tourist locations and activities, either.
Agents typically spend a lot of their time coordinating plans with clients.
They help decide on a reasonable budget, jot down all hopes and dreams, and then go on to plan the perfect vacation for everyone involved.
Basically, a travel agent is a vacationing guru.
The Cost of Using a Travel Agent
While it seems like a luxury, hiring a travel agent is more affordable than you may think. In many cases, you don’t pay them at all.
Yes, some travel agents incorporate a small fee for their time into your overall budget, while others may ask for a deposit upfront. But a service fee shouldn’t scare you—it’s only understandable that a travel agent gets paid what they deserve for their knowledge and expertise. Regardless, it is rarely costly.
Still, a service fee isn’t always what you should expect when you hire an agent. To make sure you’re only paying for what you can afford, simply ask your travel agent about any fees during your initial consultation.
Realistically, in most instances, you set your budget for your vacation. And, rather than paying any hotels or airlines directly, you typically pay your agent with what you’re planning to spend on the holiday, and they use your cash to do all of the behind-the-scenes work for you. Which makes for a simple payment situation on your end.
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So, How Do Travel Agents Make Their Money?
If travel agents don’t make the larger portion of their money directly from clients, it’s natural to wonder how they even make anything at all. But, to give you an idea, their income derives from a few alternative sources aside from the travelers who need them the most.
When it comes to income, it’s best to see a travel agent in light of a salesperson. Agents do most of their work alongside specific companies by “selling” their products to travelers. For example, they might sell clients on staying at a particular hotel from which the agent will ultimately receive a commission for sending travelers their direction.
The travel industry has certainly changed over the last couple of decades. But, back in the day, agents made most of their money through airline commissions. Airlines soon began to cut commission due to their newfound partnerships with the internet, and in particular, travel websites, such as Expedia and Travelocity, which made booking travel as simple as a few clicks. Since then, travel agents have had to rely more heavily on other hospitality sources for a commission, including hotels, cruises, and vacation packages.
Now, I know what you might be thinking. If I go with a travel agent, they’re only going to sell me on the priciest option to get the highest commission all for themselves. And, in all reality, you could very well be right. However, this generally only happens if you’re dealing with a genuinely unethical agent, and fortunately, that is not the dominant attitude in the industry.
How Travel Agents Can Save You Money
If you know your way around the globe and trust yourself to all of a holiday’s planning, consider yourself lucky. Plenty of us struggle to plan a vacation, spending hours upon hours delved into the world of online reviews and disheartening prices. Think about it, how many times have you booked your own airline ticket, only to be left with a $50 one-way that takes off at the same time as your connecting flight? Well, good news: you’re certainly not the only one.
That’s why travel agents exist. A travel agent will be your right-hand man when it comes to vacationing; they’ll book your reservations, handle deposits and payments, plan itineraries, and even solve any problems that may arise while you’re enjoying yourself in Cabo.
They know their way around the hospitality industry and do their research to ensure that you’re getting the best deal in all areas.
Alongside travel agents being an absolute convenience, to give you a clear idea of how they can easily save you some cash, I’ll breakdown of some money-saving advantages of using a travel agent to book your next vacation.
The Best Deals
You may think Kayak is providing you with the lowest price on all-things hotel and car rental services. But think again. Travel agents find plenty of information from sites like Kayak, but they also have additional access to exclusive deals that aren’t readily available on the internet.
Travel agents have connections to various airlines, resorts, touring companies, and plenty of other corporations for your travel needs. Being so up close and personal gives travel agents the upper hand. In fact, most agents have contracted rates with companies that are less than those you can find on your own. Not to mention, their relationship with companies provides agents the opportunity to negotiate costs when needed.
Clients are much more likely to get special deals—including upgrades wherever possible—when relying on a travel agent who employs face-to-face communication and connections.
Travel agents understand—and generally respect—the amount of money you’re about to spend on your vacation. After all, they’re the ones setting it all up. They’ve established the ultimate trip for you and your loved ones and definitely don’t want to see you disappointed. Because of this, they take steps to ensure that everything goes smoothly; this includes protecting your finances.
The travel industry is riddled with surprise out-of-pocket fees, and travel agents fully acknowledge them. To keep you from paying outrageous costs for silly services, your agent will professionally take care of all of your payment needs. Instead of racking up the bill by booking everything yourself online, merely sit back, relax, and let your agent take care of you. They’ll find you exactly what you need while sticking to your budget.
Additionally, it’s always a bummer to see your flight get delayed or canceled. But as we discussed before, travel agents have their connections. Your agent will stick with you through thick and thin, even stepping in to help you in any re-booking processes.
Travel agents are experts at guiding their clients through travel insurance, which will ultimately protect you and your money should anything go wrong.
To come back to the original question, do travel agents save you money? In short, yes, they can.
Whether it be bargaining with cruise lines to find you the best deal or helping you to avoid those inevitable hidden fees, booking your next vacation through a travel agent might just be one of the best ways to save some money on travel.
Plus, if you’re like me, and dread the idea of researching, planning, and booking a vacation, it’s hard to go wrong by hiring a travel agent.
So, who is going to plan your next vacation?