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Is there any advantage to booking through a travel agent?

Is there any advantage to booking through a travel agent?

Old Jul 12th, 2006, 04:31 PM
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The problem is that many travel agents have never ttraveled themseles - esp the ones at the large companies (Liberty etc) soall they can do is sell the packages in their brochures.

Never having been anywhere themselves - how can they provide guidance. (I had one who refused to believe that I wanted St Pet Russia and not FL - I went to them only because of a good hotel rate ina brochure - that they couldn't supply anyway.)
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Old Jul 12th, 2006, 04:41 PM
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Sorry about messing up the <i>italics</i> - -
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Old Jul 12th, 2006, 07:15 PM
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Although I enjoy the process of researching travel and usually book my own reservations, I use a travel agent for work who is a life saver.

This week he is battling with United over a disastrous trip my boss and his wife made to Aspen earlier this month. The tickets were $1900 per person, and United had one screw-up after another from start to finish. The final problem was discovered in advance only because the travel agent obsessively re-confirms everything, especially when it's United.

So, for the last three days, he (rather than I) has been on the phone with United, looking for signs of intelligent life and an interest in customer satisfaction. He gets no commission from United (as opposed to American which still pays agents), and his only compensation for all his attention and advocacy for us will be $90 in fees we paid.
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Old Jul 12th, 2006, 08:31 PM
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This sort of thing is personal and no one should be disparaged for using a travel agent. The only time I use one is when I go on a package tour with Elderhostel. Often I choose out of the way destinations where I would not feel comfortable traveling solo and/or making my own arrangements. In some places you want someone to cry to if things go wrong. In any event, on those trips (and I have done a lot of research on airline tickets), it inevitably turns out that making the arrangements through Elderhostel's contract travel agent is no more money (and sometimes less) than spending hours of my time trying to save $6 online. So, I end up letting their TA do it.

When you fly to out of the way places (the next ones are, for example, Santiago, Chile, and Vladivostok, Russia) there is not a lot of competition and the fares do not go on sale periodically as they do to Western Europe.

So, there is still a role for travel agents although a more limited one than in the past. On my own independent trips in connection with home exchanges, I never use a TA.
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Old Jul 12th, 2006, 09:06 PM
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As with any service provider you have to find a good one. If you find a TA that is knowledgeable, helpful, sensible and/or has traveled where you are interested in going, you can ask them any question and rely on their answers.

When you think about it we all are on this site asking people we have never met for advice and taking on word that they have visited a place and know what they are talking about and not thumbing through a guide book.

I know some TA's personally and know exactly which one if any I would ask a certain question to. Now days I do my own planning but I do ask my old TA's questions once in a while and they ask me for advice sometimes.

There is no definite answer for the OP.
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Old Jul 12th, 2006, 09:23 PM
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In my experience, absolutely not.

Before the web, we always used travel agents. Nothing worse than finding out the folks nearby on the plane paid a lot less than you did and booked later, except for finding out that the far more charming hotel nearby has larger and prettier rooms than yours for somewhat less...

As for travel agents checking over the details...for a trip to Paris, I'd read in a tour guide to phone the airline a few days ahead just to confirm your seats. Guess what? The TA hadn't done this when she should have and we had no seats! AAA had to jump through hoops, at my insistence (after suggesting alternate flights) and pay a lot extra to get us seats on our original flights. Our departing flight was on a Saturday. Good thing we didn't find this out when we arrived the airport and there was no hope of getting TA on the phone.
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Old Jul 12th, 2006, 10:16 PM
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There are certain situations where it makes sense to use a travel agent. I really ought to finish my trip report to Italy.

But in a nutshell, there were 17 people going for my brother's ordination. We were coming and going at different times.
Our agent charged a flat rate to book airfare, and her prices WITH the fee were comparable to what we could find on the Web. The advantage was everytime yet another relative called to find out how to join our group. All I had to do was say &quot;Call our travel agent. She'll set you up.&quot;

In some cases they asked her help in booking a room. In other cases, my brother's friends were connecting us up with apartments.

She more than earned her fees too. For those of us who booked early, she had to reroute all of our flights. The airline cancelled our flight to Europe entirely and decided to add a second layover. She re-booked us to another route to avoid the second layover.

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Old Jul 13th, 2006, 12:11 PM
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I would agree that many of the remaining travel agents are mere ticket sellers. However, I live where we still have ethnic enclaves, neighborhoods where, if you wish, you can eat Ukranian food, and hear Ukranian words and music, for example. The travel agents in those enclaves are very well informed, and I think I would value their advice, within their ethnic specialty, far more than I would value the anonymous advise on an internet forum.

I don't mean to belittle Fodors; I have learned a lot here, but there is no guarantee that a poster is correct, other than the hope that another poster will counter him. So while I generally make my own arrangements to go to more popular tourist destinations, if I were going to, for example, China, I would seriously consider using a travel agent from our Chinatown.
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