Travel Agent or DIY Travel?

A friend asked the other day why didn’t I do family trip planning for people and my simple response was that it’s just not what I do. He wanted to do one-stop trip shopping, where he could go to one place (online) and say, “hey I want to go here on this date with this number of people. Just tell me how much it costs and what time I have to get on my flight.” I told him that this is basically the task of a travel agent. They will do it all for you – especially if you don’t have the time or motivation to do any of it yourself and are willing to fork over the extra loot for their services.I recently purchased an airline ticket through unconventional means for myself. I worked with a ticketing agent. In general, I do all of my travel planning online as I’m privy to many different resources that I like, which have worked well for me in the past. This time around, I chose to use an agent because I enrolled in a travel rewards program and in order to get credited rewards points, I needed to book my travel through the company. No problem. It saved me time, though not money per se. I paid the same amount for my flight, purchasing through the ticketing agent, as I would’ve if I had purchased on my own. However, I did get rewarded 5 points per dollar. So, in that sense, I guess I came out better.Generally speaking, do you use a travel agent or do you do all of your planning yourself? Are there times when you can say you’d definitely use a travel specialist, such as if you are doing a group trip or traveling to a foreign country or some place that you know nothing about?The internet has empowered the traveler to easily and quickly plan a trip if they know exactly where to go to get the services that they need. I think the availability of this information motivates travelers to bypass the travel agent and do all of the planning themselves. Review sites, price comparison sites and portals are a dime a dozen and honestly, I can’t tell you who has a leg up on who or what separates many of them. I have my personal preferences but I think it’s mainly because they were in the game first (or at least I’ve known them longer) and I have familiarity with them.However, travel agents offer so much more value than simply booking hotels and flights. The sheer convenience of having someone navigate everything and handle problems that may arise would seem like reason enough to use a specialist each and every time we travel. So why don’t we? If I had to take a stab at it, the main reason would be cost. For many people, saving money is a definitive motivation for doing things themselves. In addition, many avid travelers enjoy the process of trip planning, no matter how time-consuming it may be. The remedy to the latter point is to just start planning earlier or visit sites that have “last-minute” booking options.I have to admit that I am one of those who enjoys the hands-on process. On the flip side, I have no problem paying for convenience, especially if it’s to a foreign country or if I’m planning a group trip. Time is money and if it’s going to cost me too much time, then an agent would be the prudent way to go.The thought keeps running through my mind that as the sea of information expands, people just may go back to basics and revert to outsourcing tasks such as trip planning. Who knows? It’ll be interesting to see. However, there’s not much doubt that what they may lose in dollars, they’d gain back in time and peace of mind.

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