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Amy_D Jan 14th, 2013 08:20 AM

Feedback: The return of the travel agent?
We’ve been receiving a lot of requests lately about recommendations for travel agents and it’s got us wondering; are travel agents coming back? The internet is chock full of information and “deals” that some travelers are finding it all overwhelming (we can’t blame them).

We want to know – are you overwhelmed when planning a trip? Are you considering going back to the days of travel agents? What are your go-to resources when booking a trip?

Hanuman Jan 14th, 2013 08:32 AM

IMO there will always people who enjoy or need to use travel agents. Some people I suspect can't be bother or don't know how to search the net for the proper information. I often find the hotel rates lower when I book myself and enjoy being able to choose the property that I want.

The last few times that I used travel agents was for Egypt (the TA own the boat) and Russia. All my other trip I had successfully booked myself using the trip reports here and double checking or cross referencing with the data on Tripadvisor. May 1 out of 7 or 8 trips that I have need for a TA.

Hanuman Jan 14th, 2013 08:38 AM

Forgot to add that I normally use a TA for all my flights with exception for the low cost airlines. My TA can normally book flights far in advance with my preferred seats reserved and without me having to pay for my tickets until about a month before the flight date.

kmkrnn Jan 14th, 2013 08:49 AM

For some places like india and china many of us like to use travel agents on site to assist with res etc, cars and other items.

Kathie Jan 14th, 2013 08:56 AM

I don't usually use a travel agent, and I never use a domestic travel agent. But in Burma, you need someone local to book flights in advance and they can get better prices on hotels. So I used an agent in Yangon to book both of our Burma trips. WHo knows how this may change once credit cards are generally accepted in Burma.

Also, I recently used a local agent in central Java to book our ground arrangements in central and eastern Java. I had already made hotel reservations, but he was able to beat the prices I found at two of our three hotels. I also used him to book a car and driver.

But generally, I book everything myself. For flights, I use the airline's own website, for hotels, I check the hotel's own website for prices and specials, then compare with a batch of hotel booking sites I like, agoda, dhr, sawasdee for Thailand, and others. I actually find it pretty easy to find the deals I want. Most of the internet ads are just noise as far as I'm concerned.

Nywoman Jan 14th, 2013 09:16 AM

Having visited 70+ countries have only used TA's 3 times that I can remember. 1 to Russia because you had to, likewise in Burma and they were great in arranging everything for me. Also used an agent who was incredible, for my trip to Galapagos, had my passport stolen or lost in Quito. His service was outstanding in assisting me.

Usually I like to plan and book my own trips.

simpsonc510 Jan 14th, 2013 09:58 AM

I have not used a TA in a very long time. I enjoy the hunt for airfares and hotel rates! But if I'm cruising, then I might ask for assistance from a TA. Thinking about a river cruise in Europe this summer and might ask a TA to help me. Waiting for a bit to decide.

Hanuman, when I used to use TA for plane tickets, I had to pay up within 3 days of booking. That wait time must be something you can do in Thailand!

Craig Jan 14th, 2013 01:18 PM

Fodorites that have attended GTG's in Boston have likely heard my story about the last time Jeane and I used a domestic (USA) travel agent. It was on our trip to Turkey in 1998. The agent booked us at a hotel in Pamukkale. On arrival, we learned that this hotel no longer existed as it had been recently demolished.

Since then, we have used local agents when it has been either necessary (Myanmar and Bhutan) or advantageous price-wise (India, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam). Agents are no longer necessary for most flights, although in the past I have used Eddie at SEATours for flights from Bangkok.

virginiafish Jan 14th, 2013 01:25 PM

We have not used a travel agent in forever, but when we were working the airfare for our trip to Thailand and Singapore, and coordinating flights with our son in another state, we found a travel agent and she was worth the $30/per person she charged in gold. She saved us much more, made it a seamless trip (10 flights-international and domestic) and got us to meet up and sit together, etc.

Amy_D Jan 14th, 2013 02:30 PM

Thanks for the feedback so far everyone. It's great to hear everyone's take on this.

And Craig - what did you do when you found out your hotel was demolished?!? That sounds like quite the memorable trip.

Craig Jan 14th, 2013 02:42 PM

Amy, we ran around, trying to find another place to stay. We managed, but the place we found was just adequate. The experience was quite stressful but, a lesson learned. If I had made the reservation myself, I would have confirmed just before departing the USA, which of course was the TA's responsibility...

crosscheck Jan 14th, 2013 03:46 PM

I, too, only use foreign travel agents, but I wish I knew a good one here, more for my friends than for myself. Because I have a knack for finding bargains, people contact me often looking for cheap flights, hotel discounts and particularly for ways to use their points and miles. (I have finally found a guy on flyertalk who does this, not a travel agent.)

The problem with U.S. travel agents is that they don't really know how to save money and their taste is usually mainstream, glitzy or cruise-ish. If I could find someone with taste I could trust who could hold flights, I would consider being less of a travel control freak.

Femi Jan 14th, 2013 07:03 PM

If I'm staying at more than one location, I'll use a local agent at my destination. Otherwise for a single stop (most of the time), I'll make arrangements myself.

Elainee Jan 14th, 2013 07:50 PM

I enjoy doing the research, searching for deals, making the reservations. But, for India I am so glad I used a TA (Legends and Palaces) to coordinate the car, driver, guide, hotels, restaurants,etc. He knows how long it will take to get from place to place. He knows drivers and guides. I certainly do not. Plus, he knows when conditions, things change and how to deal with the change. In addition, I believe it cost less having him do the booking. But to go to Cancun with 14 family members for 8 days plus a 6 day road trip (to three different hotels) no problem for me to make these arrangements.

crellston Jan 15th, 2013 01:35 AM

For many years I have travelled completely independently, research using the web has become so easy, although we are rapidly reaching the point of information overload and there is a lot of " misinformation" out there particularly on some of the review sites.

The one time I relented and used a TA was for a trip to Sri Lanka. It did seem to work out about the same price or maybe even a little cheaper but the service we got in country from the TA was not great and I vowed " never again"

I am currently in the process of researching a long trip to South America and have just booked our flights. I managed to secure them online using Kayak and found fare some £250 (30%) cheaper than those suggested by 3 travel agents I approached.

jacketwatch Jan 15th, 2013 02:04 AM

I have gone back to a TA for our past several cruises and plan to do the same for future ones. She is good, has recommendations for things to do in ports which have worked out well and though I can get the cruise for less $ on line I prefer the service I have gotten from her. You pay for it but its nice to have someone do the legwork for U.

kmkrnn Jan 15th, 2013 06:03 AM

I think for the die hard Fodorites it is the thrill of the it airfares,hotel, guides, or things to do. As others have said in some countries (China, India, Bhutan) to name a few it is good to have an expediter, or local contact. In Vietman, our discount flight was cancelled due to fog. Our local contact not only got us on a flight the next day, but called ahead and cancelled the hotel at 8pm at no charge to us.

hawaiiantraveler Jan 15th, 2013 10:38 AM

Yes, travel agents are back. The ones that are left actually are the strongest of the ones from before with full service bureaus and with now a strong client list. One of my good clients is a full service travel agent whose business is now booming again with less competition and a growing business finally after shrinking and starving the past few years.

I have also used local Japanese agents on the ground in Tokyo and Kyoto when I needed reservations or recommendations on local places to stay,local tours, on overnight trips and mostly for train reservations. We are using a local TA in Kyoto on our trip this fall to rent a machiya house in the Gion District for the first time at a very good price beating by half what I had found myself on the web.

I also use our local Japanese TA (JTB) to purchase our JR train passes which must be purchased before you get to Japan and have used them sometimes for their extensive lists of hotel and ryokan in the more remote areas of Japan that just do not have internet sites or are all in Japanese language sites but easily read and translated for me by the JTB Japanese agents at no cost to me.

Never overwhelmed when planning a trip. The word "thrilled" seems more like a good explanation of how I feel planning a trip. Of course a stop at the Fodor's Asia Forum is a prerequisite stop on any trip planning to Asia. ;)


kmkrnn Jan 15th, 2013 11:23 AM

We are using an unlicensed TA on our japan trip next fall... It better work out!!!

520 Jan 15th, 2013 10:12 PM

Depends on the destination. Never use a domestic agent (--except did once many many years ago for a trip to Kenya, only to discover when I went to check at the local office in Nairobi that the agent had siphoned off clients to start her own business and the local office knew nothing about my trip!! Happily it honored my reservations and my safari went without further incident!) Domestic agents seem to inflate prices dramatically--and mainly to refer the very high end places.

I'm always amazed at some of the prices friends pay for trips that I know can be done at the same level but much more economically. However, it does take a lot of time, to research and plan a trip and many just don't have the time. For them it's worth paying extra to have an agent provide these services. It does seem that there are many very specialized agents these days that may be able to provide--at a high price--special experiences that would be difficult for the general traveller to get (or that's how they bill themselves--and how they justify the fees they charge.)

Have used local agencies in Vietnam/Cambodia; South Africa/Botswana/Namibia; India and Burma, although on some of those trips we booked some of the internal flights ourselves, and a few of the hotels/b & bs. We ALWAYS use points for international flights.

Our experiences with local TAs has been very good; they've always seemed to have gotten us better prices than we might have on our own and were very helpful if any difficulties arose or changes had to be made. I love doing the research for a trip and there's so much available on the web now--as well as from so many other resources. Of course, the Fodor forums are always helpful, especially the Asia forum.

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