Pros and Cons To Booking with Travel Agent and Online Agency? Online? Agency? Online?
So you are planning and trip, and in the early stages of your research. The tale old question has come up: Do I book with a travel agency or do I book online? You have already spent hours online and you are sick to death of sitting in front of the computer.
Let’s talk about pros and cons:
Pros of a travel agency:
- Your brain can shut down. You don’t have to think. You don’t have to worry about the details. That is what you are paying this person for.
- Information is readily available. As opposed to hours and hours of doing your own research, you are paying someone who has experience in what you want. Thus you avoid the hassle of reading zillions of travel articles. They have probably had customers do exactly what you are looking to do, thus they can tell you where people were satisfied and where people walked away unhappy.
Cons of a travel agency:
- Convenience has a cost. I have heard rumors of deals better than online being found in agencies. However, I have never experienced this. In my experience, agencies tend to be more expensive as you are paying for the convenience of not having to think and organize personally.
- Recommendations are biased. Agencies receive commissions from airlines, companies and hotels, so their recommendations are based on the places where they receive the best commission. While I would love to tell you that you are walking into the office of a selfless cupid, who just wants to organize the ideal honeymoon for you and your sweetheart… I’d be lying. This is a money making game, folks.
- You often times get crammed into a package. It is easier for them to book you a package deal than to customize your trip, so prepare yourself for some resistance if you are looking for something extra special! They are most likely going to try to push preexisting packages.
- Save money. Anytime that you organize any trip on your own, you tend to save money. You aren’t providing anyone with a commission. And you aren’t directly paying someone’s salary.
- It’s easy to do cross company comparisons. It is significantly easier to compare airlines, hotels, trains, etc. with just one click. Within an hour of searching, you pretty much have a general idea of what it’s going to cost you to fly where you want to fly or sleep where you want to sleep. You have also probably eliminated a few options that were previously on the list.
- There is no pressure. Travel agencies, like I said, make commissions, so the deals are sometimes pushed and pressured-much like a car dealership. In the comfort of your home, there is no sickly sweet smiling face telling you that you are just going to love they deal they have in Cancun.
Cons of online:
- Direct communication is limited. The problem with not communicating with companies, like airlines, directly, is that you have to really do your research. Well, at least I recommend it. I find that it’s important to know if you can change your flight. Know before buying the ticket what the baggage policy is. You may have to do a little of digging, but it’s important to know these things in order to both avoiding getting ripped off later and have a plan in the event of a crisis. Things do happen.
- It’s frustrating. Let’s get real, it is downright aggravating sometimes. You spend hours and hours in front of the computer screen. You read travel blogs. You compare and contrast airlines and hotels. Sometimes I can’t help but feel that booking online is similar to hitting a piñata. I never know for sure if my swing is going to be a great success or end with no candy and utter disappointment.
I don’t know what is right, and what is wrong. I only know, from my personal experience, that I tend to find travel agents a complete rip off. Then again, we are talking about someone with an overly developed independence complex, so I may not be the best person to take advice from…
Regardless, let me tell you a story.
A few weeks ago I wanted to do Machu Picchu in the raining season. I make very little money, so I was on an extreme budget-not an easy thing to accomplish when you are trying to do one of the most expensive sites in South America.
I went to several agencies around town and got a few quotes. The cheaper ones seemed completely unorganized. The more expensive ones were just that-crazy expensive.
In the end, I went to tourist information, talked to a few fellow travelers, and spent a few hours online. I booked the entire trip myself. I was even able to organize a few stops in the local pueblos on the way.
But wait, there’s more…
Remember how I told you that things do go wrong? Well this is a prime example of the unexpected kicking your traveler’s butt.
I got sick. Like really sick. Like third world illness complete with marimbas and drums. I was completely delirious. I was in the hospital. I was told that I had typhoid, which I was vaccinated against, mind you. The consequence? I had to change EVERYTHING that I had already organized, which thankfully, since I didn’t buy a package, wasn’t a whole lot. I called the hostels that I had booked and the bus station, and I was able to change every
thing without a fee.
Now let us do a hypothetical replay of that event had I been working with a travel agency. What the travel agency would have done is purchase all of the tickets; bus tickets, train tickets, park entrance tickets, etc. They would have organized guides and hotels. They would have set up meals.
Sounds great, right?
But let’s play this out. I would have gone to them, blubbering for help and to rearrange the trip. Do you really think that they would have been merciful and redone all of that work for no extra pay?
Not an ice cubes chance in hell.
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