Are travel agents still relevant?

Walking into a travel agency used to be the first step of planning any holiday. Nowadays, it’s relatively easy to book your own flights and hotels online. So, do travel agents still play a valuable role? And what are the easiest ways to research and book your own travel online?

There are several reasons that some members still prefer to use a travel agent. It’s often the same price or even cheaper than booking online, and a skilled travel agent can construct fares that you simply can’t book yourself. Agents are especially useful for complicated international itineraries. There’s also the peace of mind, knowing that the agent is there if you something goes wrong while you’re away. But dealing with travel agents is not always advantageous.

Sometimes airlines will prevent you from making simple changes to bookings made through an agent. Some agents also charge additional cancellation & change fees on top of what the airline itself imposes. And, while many travel agents do provide great customer service, the service provided by cheaper online travel agencies can be very poor.

Many members enjoy booking their own flights, and book directly through the airline’s own website. If you’re booking your own flights, online tools like ITA Matrix, Google Flights or Skyscanner can help you to compare options. ITA Matrix is a very powerful airfare search tool that allows you to search across many airlines and destinations simultaneously. Skyscanner also has a useful feature that finds the lowest price on any route over a whole year.

For hotel bookings, aggregator websites like Trivago and Booking dot com can help you to quickly compare choices. If you wish to earn frequent flyer points for your hotel booking, it pays to book through a website like Agoda PointsMAX, Rocketmiles or Kaligo.

But there are some compelling reasons to bypass third parties and book directly with the hotel. If you’re staying at a chain hotel (e.g. Hilton), some hotel loyalty programs won’t award points or recognise elite status benefits if you’ve booked through a third party. One member also claims that guests who book direct are treated better. For example, guests with third party bookings are the first to be bumped if the hotel is overbooked.

How do you book your travel? Contribute to the discussion HERE.

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]