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Travel Agencies vs. Travel Websites

Let’s face it: None of us aim to become job martyrs. Vacations and traveling allow us to spend more quality time with our loved ones and take a break from feeling stressed and overworked. Sometimes, however, planning a trip can be a major hurdle even in this age of DIY travel planning.

Prior to the advent of the Internet, we typically contacted travel agents to plan our summer vacations, honeymoons and winter getaways. Now, in the world of Google Travel, AAA Location and Expedia, more individuals and families are self-booking their flights and hotels. In fact, we can easily book a flight or hotel directly from our iPhones. So do travel agencies still exist? The answer may surprise you.

Although online travel websites have tremendously gained popularity among consumers, travel agencies are not only alive and kicking but experiencing a surge in demand. According to Forbes Magazine, 34% of millenials used an offline travel agent in 2015. A study conducted in 2016 by the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) revealed travel agents save customers an average of $452 and four hours of travel planning time per trip. Below are additional findings from this study:

  • Nearly half of consumers polled booked travel through supplier websites over the past year;

  • About 63 percent of travelers claimed using an agent enhanced their overall trip experience;

  • 69 percent stated that agents saved them valuable time in planning and scheduling.

Are there significant advantages for booking through a travel agency? According to travel agents, travelers have the agency’s support before and during their trips. Often, agents receive calls, texts and emails from all over the world, whether it’s an emergency or travelers just want to change plans halfway through their trip. Some individuals prefer working with a travel agent simply because they would rather have a professional work-out the details.

Michelle Barth, owner and manager of San Diego’s Just Escape Travel, sees several advantages to working with a travel agency.

“There are many advantages when contacting a travel specialist to plan and book your next vacation. If you contact a Travel Specialist at Just Escape Travel, you will be communicating with a professional who has traveled to the country offering valuable insight. Our Travel Specialists take the time to get to know your travel style and specific interests in order to provide a custom itinerary,” says Barth.

For certain types of travel, such as a honeymoon or large-group traveling, international travel, multi-destinations trips, multi-generation family trips, niche-oriented trips like trekking, skiing, and solo travel, it may be worth your while to use an agency. Travel agents have access to numerous deals and bulk buying options that the typical consumer doesn’t. This is especially relevant for first-class flights, tours and cruises.

“We have established relationships with the best local operators, hotels, experiences, and guides providing our travelers with the best on the ground. Due to our relationships, we are able to extend travel perks that aren’t offered to the public which can be anything from daily breakfast, room upgrades, amenities, and value-added experiences. When you travel with Just Escape Travel you’ll receive the peace of mind you deserve as we offer 24/7 in country assistance. It is a hassle-free way to plan your next trip,” Barth added.

For staunch DIY travelers, we found the top three websites for planning trips: Airbnb, HomeAway and Kayak. Airbnb does not need much introduction. It has 1.5 million listings in 34,000 cities, in 190 countries. HomeAway is an alternative to Airbnb while Kayak allows you to surf the Web for flight deals, hotels, and rental cars. This travel website provides pricing trends and the predictive algorithms on the fluctuation of prices. You can also book your flight directly from Kayak and create travel alerts to notify you of any price changes.

When independently arranging your entire trip, Barth says a good rule of thumb is to always secure travel insurance. Keep in mind, if a deal seems too good to be true, it just might be.

Let’s not forget that traveling with young children and teenagers has its own challenges. Plan to have additional adult travelers accompanying you, if you are traveling alone with your children. The change in atmosphere doesn’t always agree with toddlers and pre-schoolers while teenagers have a mind of their own! Other responsible and like-minded friends or family members may be your best remedy.

Whether using a travel agency or website(s), planning a trip requires ironing out lots of details. But once you have completed the legwork and arrived at your destination, detach yourself from your mobile device and watch a beautiful sunset, climb a mountain or swim with the dolphins. Be present in the moment. Have fun!

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