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Do you need a travel agent anymore?

April 16, 2011

Carrie started to plan the one year Round-The-World (RTW) trip and the first thing she did was call her travel agent. This is when her friend recommended instead looking for options online, citing a simple reason “you will have to pay extra to the travel agent as service charges”. With more and more airlines and online travel booking companies offering RTW tickets at competitive rates, there are other things to worry about – travel insurance, hotel bookings, local transportation, places to see. Social networking and travel planning sites can give tips, recommendations and reviews on things to do, hotels and restaurants but can one really plan the whole thing by themselves?

Travel Agent

Travel Agent

Jonathan, 32, from Santa Monica, CA, says “It took Chloe and me about 4 months to plan out the 8-month, 5 continent, 30 city trip. All by ourselves.” While Chloe (Jonathan’s wife) took care of the must-see places in every city they plan to visit, Jonathan was responsible for flight & hotel bookings and local transportation. “Twitter helped us for great deals on flights and hotels.” says Jonathan. Whereas Chloe said “we got hooked on to TripAdvisor for reviews of hotels, best way to travel between cities, recommendations on destinations that we must visit and all the specifics we should not miss at those places. There are amazing travel guides out there as well that help name and editors-pick best hotels and sights.”

How about planning the trip through a travel agent? Jonathan jumped up saying “We actually went to at least 5 travel agents and every time there were hiccups – one agent booked flights and hotels but did not have tips on local transportation. Another agent booked only flights, no hotels. The third one had no clue about RTW trip! And after about 20 days of going around, we thought of putting ourselves out there on the internet and plan out our trip ourselves.”

The internet is filled with information on travel deals, ratings, reviews and everything-you-need-to-know. There’s TripAdvisor and Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree Travel Forum where other users and travel experts advice on questions you may have and discuss every possible destination on the planet, and now websites like Gogobot.com will let you get recommendations and answers from your friends on the social networking sites. These websites help you get personalized and specific information for that one restaurant you have been looking for or that one hotel which is tried-and-tested at your favorite city.

Travel Guidebooks

Travel Guidebooks

John and Sue, in their 60s, from St. Louis, were looking for a two-week train/cruise trip to Alaska and being “internet challenged”, they rely on their local travel agent for the tours offered by the travel company. “One needs to know the way internet works and have the patience to plan a trip. Neither Sue nor I have any clue on how to get on the internet. We have depended on our travel agent for many years.” Sue added “I asked my daughter to find airline deals and tours for us on the internet and at the same time we went the old and easy way calling our travel agent for the same. And I must say that we saved $550 from our travel agent. Plus we get personalized service!”

For most of the travelers relying on their travel agents have two favorites – personalized service and hassle-free booking. With more travel agents waiving service or booking fees, we wonder if you will turn around from the online world to the old-fashioned way of planning your next trip sitting in that chair opposite a travel agent?

Send your thoughts in comments.



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