Forget Your Travel Agent: 4 Trips You Should Book Yourself
Want to go somewhere? Book the trip yourself.
About half of all leisure trips are reserved online -- give or take a few percentage points -- according to several recent surveys. The latest, a Forrester Research< study which showed an unexpected drop in the number of U.S. leisure travelers who booked online (it fell from 53 percent in 2007 to 46 percent last year) was a boost to traditional travel agents, who thought their days were numbered.
They might want to hold off on the celebrations, though. That's because there are a lot of vacations you're better off booking by yourself, despite a recent story in which I outlined some trips where you should consult a travel professional.
In fact, after that column appeared, I heard from dozens of indignant do-it-yourselfers who insisted travel agents were worthless. And so, in the interests of balance, I'm going to let them have their say-so. (For the record, I don't think travel agents are worthless, but there are many agents practicing their trade who should probably be working somewhere else, just as there are many travel writers who should have taken their mother's advice and gone to law school. But I digress.)
Before I jump into this thorny subject, a refresher: I believe honeymoons, cruises, round-the-world flights and certain international trips should be handled by a pro. Also, if you're uncomfortable with the Internet or don't have any time, a travel agent is a good choice. I'm also on the record as saying there are a few trips I can't imagine planning through anyone but a travel agent.
"For the rest," I noted. "I fire up my laptop."
So let's talk about the others, then.
1. WHEN YOU KNOW MORE THAN A TRAVEL AGENT
Travel professionals aren't omniscient. If you know more about a particular route or destination, you're probably better off flying solo.
2. IF YOU'VE GOT THE TIME
If you have an abundance of time --for example, if you're retired -- then you might be able to do at least as well, if not better, than an agent.
3. IF YOUR AGENT ISN'T INTERESTED IN YOUR BUSINESS
Oddly, this happens a lot more than you'd think. Many agents would prefer you book a simple point-to-point airline ticket online. Why? Because there's almost no money in it.
4. WHEN YOUR TRAVEL AGENT IS NEGLIGENT
You pay more for a travel agent because you get more, at least in theory. You get a professional who ensures your trip goes as smoothly as possible. And when that person isn't there for you, then you probably should have just booked it yourself.
I don't know of any competent travel agents who would disagree with these points. Travel pros who can't do the job, won't do it, don't have the time or the know-how, should not get your business. They should get out of the travel business.
However, there are still incompetent travel agents out there who will be upset at this column -- the ones who see us as walking commission checks and live for the next familiarization trip. For the sake of the travelers who inevitably will be their future victims, I hope they find another line of work. Soon.
Should you consider an agent for your next trip? I still say yes. I wanted to give a travel agent the last word in this column, so let me hand the mike to
"I liken what I do to buying full-serve gas," says Reimer. "You pay a little bit more, I do all the work and I take car of all the details -- like making sure to remind you to check the expiry date on your passport and making sure you have adequate out-of-country medical insurance. The self-serve option is the Internet. You are doing the work, so it costs you a little less, but you are now responsible for all those little details that can make or break a business trip or vacation."
7 Trips You Should Never Book Online
Some vacations should never be booked through anyone but a travel agent, and a honeymoon is arguably one of them. But there are others, too, as travelers are discovering. So when should you not book on the Internet? Here are seven kinds of trips not to book over the Internet
Recent Vacation Ideas & Travel Destinations
- Krakow: Poland's Historic and Cultural Gem
- Europe this Summer: Mixed Bag of News
- 'Qualify' for a Fleecing?
- Forget Your Travel Agent: 4 Trips You Should Book Yourself
- I Had to Pay Twice For My Flights to Mexico
- What's Next For Airlines Paying by the Pound?
- What Parents Say About Family Vacations
- Low Cost Travel Accommodations: Home Exchanges
- Low Cost Travel Accommodations: Hospitality Exchanges
- Parents Who Shouldn't Be Allowed on a Plane
- Traveling with Pets
- The Best Airlines in the United States
- Spirit Airlines Hits Two New Lows
- Online Airfare Booking Conspiracy
- By Unbundling Airlines Make a Bundle
- Touring Rome When All Doesn't Go as Planned
- Traveling Greener as We Celebrate Earth Day
- Eating Tapas in Spain
- Exploring Greece's Ancient Past: Delphi, Epidavros & Mycenae
- Entertaining Edinburgh
- Honest Guest's Guide to Free Hotel Amenities
- Value Destination: Go Back to College
- Budget Hotels in Europe
- Healthy Eating at Disney World is Possible
- Where Are Cheap Round-the-World Airfares
- New-Style Vacation Trips Trip with the Grandparents
- Princess for a Day at Disney World
- Easter in Europe
- Premium Economy for Overseas Trips
- Healthy Hiking With Your Dog
- Four Secrets for Upgrading Your Next Vacation
- What's New in Eastern Europe in 2010
- Low Fare Airline to Europe? Sort Of
- Europe 2010: Pricey, But with Some Good Deals
- Too Sick to Fly? When to Put Yourself on the 'No Fly' List
- Lowest Airfare? You May Have to Connect
- How to Ensure Your Luggage Survives a Trip
- What Hotels Will Resort to For a Good Review
- Accidental Tourist? Tips for Maximizing Happy Coincidences and Avoiding Bad Ones
- Low Airfares That Vanish in a Click
- Air Travel Buying Extra Legroom
- Priceline Opens Up; Quikbook Goes Opaque
- Another Argument For Travel Insurance
- Travel Apps for Your Smart Phone
- 6 Ways to Save: Family Vacations
- My Hotel Lost a Star -- What Now?
- When Travelers Experience Discrimination
- Good Airline Fees? Some Are Worth the Money
- Clear Airfares Act Left Sitting on the Tarmac
- Rental Car 'Gotchas' That Can Cost You Real Money
(c) 2010 Christopher Elliott
World-renowned chefs with an extraordinary passion for food, share that passion. They make great cooking easier than you ever imagined. Each feature includes both an expert tip and an easy recipe - exactly what you need to transform your home cooking from acceptable to delectable.
Recipes Click Here
Movie Reviews, commentary and more. Plus Trailers from movies currently in theaters and available on DVD.
Movie Reviews Click Here