This question, got us thinking. According to a recent article that I read, nearly one in three leisure travel agencies is hiring, and in 2011 travel agencies experienced a second consecutive year of growth; in fact, their bookings accounted for a third of the $284 billion U.S. travel market.
Silly us, we thought travel agents had become passé.
But if the travel agent business is thriving, we started wondering—is there something to this? Could using an old-school travel agent actually save us money on travel?
To find out, we consulted Elizabeth Goudie, Mother of 4, wife to one, travel addict, blogger at Travelling With Kids Travel Blog and Travel Consultant.
The first thing we learned? Travel agents usually don’t charge customers for their services! Their payment actually comes through the hotels and wholesalers, meaning that we can simply tap into a free service. That also means using a travel agent should never be more expensive than booking by yourself online … and these are experts well-versed in where to find the best deals.
Of course, booking your flights in 30 seconds with a few clicks sounds a lot easier than playing phone tag with a live person, so it pays to know when a travel agent can help the most, and when you might as well DIY it. Elizabeth let us in on the best times to call an agent, and some money-saving travel tips she’s picked up in her line of work:
You’re Traveling With a Group
Use a Travel Agent If …
For group bookings that involve coordinating travel for multiple people, it’s always easier to use a travel agent, . “I just had a bride call me because one of the groomsmen booked his own trip through a discount travel site, and he wanted to add someone to the room,” . “The customer service representative from the travel site he used told him they couldn’t do it, but they were probably just being lazy. This is a great example of when you’d rather hand the responsibility of changing that booking to a travel agent, rather than trying to fix it on your own.”
You’re Not Sure Where You Want to Go
Reading online reviews of a specific resort or city can take lots of time and effort. If you’re booking a getaway for your family, but your destination is still a question mark, an experienced travel agent can help steer you toward what you’re looking for (Family friendly? Beach town? Non-touristy?) “What I’ve noticed is that often our wholesalers have better rates than what discount sites are offering, even when they advertise for ‘cheap last minute trips, Plus, if you start working with the same agent over and over for your travel, they become familiar with you and your needs, which makes it easier for them to help you pick out a spot you’ll enjoy.”
You Want to Use Your Miles
Travel agents aren’t able to use your points or rewards card miles to book a flight or hotel for you—you’ll have to book on your own if you’d like to use them. “You also aren’t able to use points or miles to buy flights on sites like Expedia , either, only directly through the site of the company who is giving the points or miles,” says Vong.
Some Travel Tips to Save Money
Here are Travelling With Kids Travel Blog favourite money savers....
1. Fly at the Right Time
If you can, avoid flying out on a Thursday or Friday, or flying back on a Sunday, when flights tend to be the most expensive. “It’s hard to say exactly how much a traveler could save, as it depends on the specific flight and how much space is available on it, but you could find yourself saving up to $50 or more for longer flights,”
2. Factor in Your Transfer
Set up transportation from the airport to your hotel through a shuttle or van service online prior to arriving at your destination. Local taxis in some countries have been known to charge more to foreigners traveling to and from airports. If you’re working with a travel agent, she should always be able to book transportation for you from the airport. If you’re booking on your own, try calling your airline for suggestions, or searching on the tourism websitefor the place where you’re going (most major tourist cities have a tourism website.) If you’re booking a tour on your holiday, most tour operators also offer transfers with the purchase of certain products.
5. Be Smart About Exchanging Currency
We tend to use a travel card and load it before we go...Its convenient and works for us....