Do I Need a Travel Agent?
Maybe. A lot of people seem to think that with all of our online resources, travel agents are no longer needed. Yes, that can be true. But it's not always the case.
But let's talk about the instances where I'd suggest going through a travel agent for international travel:
1. You're not tech savvy. You go online and there are so many websites! How do you know which websites to trust, what's a good deal and what to do if something goes wrong? It might be best to use a travel agent while you get the hang of navigating yourself through the world of international travel. Remember, the best tool you can often utilize is consulting the frequent travellers in your life!
2. You're not a frequent traveller, the thought of preparing for a trip and getting on a plane without a designated person to assist you along the way and answer your questions is scary. You want someone else to take care of it if your flight gets cancelled or your luggage gets lost.
3. You're elderly or otherwise ill and you'd like to have someone you can count on to assist you if you needed medical or other assistance abroad. Technically your travel insurance is supposed to help you with this, but they're not always Captain Friendly & Helpful, in my experience.
4. You're going somewhere really off the beaten path, with multiple flights and you need someone on the other end to take care of things for you. I personally always use a travel agent for Africa. I probably average about 25-30 flight legs on one trip to Africa, and carriers don't always have easy ways to book flights online, flights get cancelled shockingly regularly and travel in general can be frustrating. You need someone at home with a good internet connection and a good phone connection to be able to assist you when things go wrong.
5. You have some ideas on a vacation plan, but you really want someone to sit down and chat about your options with you. This is especially handy if you're considering some sort of multi country tour. So you want beach and sand, eh? Do you do a caribbean resort, a multi country tour through South East Asia or a week in Greece? A good travel agent will get to know you and be able to recommend something for your personality and budget. They can talk budget, logistics, safety and what to expect from each destination.
6. You have a very specific type of vacation in mind, and you want to make sure all the boxes are checked and things are exactly as you expect. Sometimes I fall into this category. I am not ashamed! I can be a handful. For example, you want an adults only resort, with AC in the room, with a bathtub with jets, hot stone massages in the spa, a minibar restocked daily, that offers the exact snorkeling excursion your buddy did 3 years ago at a different resort? Get a travel agent to sort that out for you!
Choose a travel agent wisely!
I use an amazing travel agent for my more complicated business travel. He's gotten me out of some binds in Africa, when flights cancel without notifying customers. The guy has me rerouted on another flight before I even know the first one is cancelled! But once I asked if I could get him to help me with a vacation, and he promptly said that was not his thing.
I have another travel agent that I have used to book flights in North America and caribbean vacations. Vacations are her thing!
Make sure you're choosing an agent that specializes in your needs. If you plan to do international travel, you need to make sure you have an agent that is good at that! Some agents focus on domestic travel, or caribbean vacations and cruises. If you're wanting to go on safari in Kenya, make sure you get an agent that knows their stuff! After all, you are paying the service fee! If you're buying a package vacation or tour, ask if they have ever had a client go on this package before.
The Cost of a Travel Agent
A travel agent will charge you a service fee that can range, depending on the level of service provided. If someone is planning you a 10 country vacation in Latin America, it's reasonable for them to charge more than they do to book you a simple return flight from Toronto to NYC.
In my experience, what you can normally expect to pay for the cost of a trip is the lowest regular price rate available at the time + the travel agent's service fee. If you are getting an amazing deal on a seat sale or a last minute sell-off of a vacation package, your travel agent may not be able to match those rates.