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Is It Worth Using a Travel Agent for Vacation?

woman with laptop on couch making phone call
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When you are ready to go on your next vacation you have a choice.

Do you make all the arrangements yourself? Or do you use a travel agent?

Before diving into the subject, I have to provide full disclosure.

Prior to the worldwide shutdown, I was a travel agent. So what I’m about to tell you comes from the standpoint of someone who was in the business.

So is it worth it to use a travel agent to book your vacation?

Yes! While it’s true that there is nothing a travel agent will do for you that you cannot do yourself, a travel agent can take the frustration out of booking a resort or cruise. You will not receive any special “travel agent only” pricing, although there are ways they can save you a lot of money. But the legwork of booking, remembering upcoming payments, knowledge of the cruise ship or resort you’ll be at, along with recommended tourists attractions and eating venues can be invaluable. That value increases exponentially if you are traveling with a group.

Since that’s the case, let’s ask another question.

Why Is It a Good Idea to Use a Travel Agent?

Yes, it is a good idea to use a travel agent, assuming your reason for doing so isn’t to save money.

There are actually benefits to using a travel agent to book your vacation. But probably not the reasons that might immediately come to mind.

As a travel agent, they have access to booking engines with all the discount codes available for your resort or cruise line.

For the examples I will provide, I’ll use cruising since that was my focus prior to the shutdown. But the principles apply to resorts and hotels also.

If you call the cruise line to book a cruise, they will walk you through the exact same array of questions that a travel agent will ask you.

Based on your answers, they will determine which discount code best fits your circumstances.

You could also do this yourself.

Check out the following screenshot:

Look at each item in the highlighted circle. Based on the answers you give, the travel agent would put you into one of these categories.

They have a code they would use that represents each of these items when they book your cruise.

So, as you can see, you don’t “need” a travel agent to do this for you.

So Why Use a Travel Agent If I Don’t “Need” One?

That’s a very good question.

Remember, if you are asking this from the standpoint of saving money, then you should probably book your travel yourself.

Knowledge of Where You’ll Be Staying

But let’s stick with cruising.

Let’s say you’ve never been on a cruise before. Which cruise line is the best?

The answer is not cut and dry, no matter what your sister-in-law or a YouTuber might say.

Do you want a lot of action and activity when you vacation?

Carnival cruise line is probably the one for you.

Are you a foodie?

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Then Celebrity or Holland America might be more to your liking.

Is just relaxing and unplugging from regular life what you want out of a vacation?

Cunard or Princess might be for you.

Do you want to spend most of your time outdoors?

Royal Caribbean has a host of things from waterslides to wave runners, to iFly simulators and rock-climbing walls.

Sure, you can find a lot of those things on various ships of other cruise lines. But Royal Caribbean tends to have all of these on a number of their ships.

Now, if you used a good travel agent, he or she would ask the right questions to find out what exactly fits you and your budget.

But if you tried doing it on your own, you might pick a cruise line that might not be what you’re looking for.

A travel agent can even guide you to the right ship within the same cruise line.

They know that each ship has a unique personality. A lot of that has to do with the cruise director.

That person is responsible for booking the acts on the ship along with the other entertainment you’ll enjoy.

Your travel agent will be familiar with the venues on the ship and possibly even the cruise director himself.

This can have a huge impact on how/if you’ll enjoy your vacation.

Knowing Where the Hidden Gems Are

Another thing that increases the value of a travel agent is that they can tell you where to go when you stay at your resort or when your ship docks in port.

Travel agents LOVE to travel. Not only do they do this because they enjoy it, resorts and cruise lines will invite them – at no or limited cost to the travel agent – on what’s known as a “fam” cruise or stay.

A “fam” cruise or stay is a “familiarity” stay (thus “fam” for short). This lets the travel agent get to know the resort or ship.

And because it’s like a regular stay, they’ll get to go on excursions just like their customers.

This means they’ll know about local eating places and local attractions that will interest you.

Sure, you could look at recommended attractions on a website. But it helps to be able to ask questions and get an immediate answer for the places you’ve researched.

Takes the Stress Out of Group Travel

If you’re traveling with more than two people, using a travel agent can make life a lot easier.

Let’s go back to the example of cruising to make this point.

No one should pay for a cruise in full until the required time the cruise line says you need the money. That can be one to three months before your sailing date.

This allows you to pay a little each month or quarter or however you decide you want to make payments.

You can also take advantage of any price drops or special incentives that may be made available prior to your sailing.

If you’re traveling with, let’s go with a family of four, that’s going to be a lot of money for your cruise. And you’ll want to make sure you keep up on the schedule.

You travel agent has alerts that will remind him or her of payments that will be coming due. You’ll also get an email from the cruise line.

But if you get swamped with other things and forget the email – or worse, never see it – your travel agent will contact you reminding you of the payment due.

The travel agent will also handle any issues that arise for your booking.

So instead of you spending hours on hold, the travel agent will do this for you.

Travel agents also have special numbers and contacts with the cruise line and resorts. So in the time you would spend waiting to talk to someone, your travel agent might have your issue resolved.

If your vacationing will be with a large group, take all these benefits and multiply them by the number of people in your group.

Can I Save Money Using a Travel Agent?

Earlier I said that there is no special “travel agent pricing”.

That doesn’t mean you can’t save money by using a travel agent.

In fact, you could save a LOT by using a travel agent.

Sound like a contradiction? Let me explain.

First, you need to understand how travel agents make money.

You pay them absolutely NOTHING to book your vacation.

That’s right. Nothing. No service fees or anything like that. If you’re travel agent is charging you a fee, find another agent.

Travel agents get paid by the cruise line or resort after their client stays. So, the more people a travel agent can get to stay at a resort or take a cruise, the more money they make.

As we’ve just reviewed, travel agents have to do a lot of legwork with the resort or cruise line to resolve issues. So it has to be worth their while to go through the trouble.

This is why travel agents will create group packages or group cruises. And this is how travel agents can save you money.

By creating a group package, the travel agent will block a certain number of rooms or cabins. In return the resort or cruise line will offer the agent incentives to fill those rooms.

First on the list is a lower price on the room or cabin than what will be listed on the website.

The cruise line or resort may also throw in extras like additional credits – money the cruise line or resort will give you to spend on the ship or resort.

The resort or cruise line may even arrange a party for your group where you’ll receive free drinks and other extras.

The cruise line or resort might reduce or even waive the fees for gratuities! And those can add up.

As you can see, the savings start to add up quickly. And you reap the benefits just by using a travel agent and booking into the group travel they’ve already set up.

As a bonus, you could have the travel agent create a group just for you. Then you get your family and friends to join your group.

And the best part? Your room or cabin will (almost always) be FREE!

That’s right. As the group owner, you’ll be given a free room because you brought so much business onto the ship or the resort.

What Have You Decided?

After reading all of this, where do you stand on the issue?

Is a travel agent worth it? Or would you be better off booking your vacation yourself?

If you’ve found benefit from this article, please share it with family and friends and on social media so they can start saving on their vacations.

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