When should I not use a travel agent?

Yes, there are times when you should book a trip yourself. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself before doing so.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or check out his adventures on his family adventure travel site. Contact him at chris@elliott.org. Read more of Christopher's articles here.

  • danieldurazo

    How can I get those cool booking keys on my keyboard?

  • VoR61

    For the low, low, LOW, very low price of $99.95, made payable to Chris Elliott! (teasing of course)

  • Bill___A

    My default is definitely to NOT call a travel agent. My mother was recently telling me all this “advice” she was getting from her “travel agent” about Disneyworld. I told her, “Ask your travel agent if she has ever been there”. My mother says she must have, I say “ask her”. A couple of days later, she says “No, the travel agent hasn’t been there’. I’m really sick of people who haven’t been places INSISTING on certain places to stay. Other travel agent experiences: “Doesn’t know what a London Pass is and can’t look it up”. “Can’t find a non smoking hotel in London”.

    I am quite certain that there are some good travel agents out there, but my continuing gripe is that they don’t cull the bad ones from the herd.

    I remember the last time that a travel agent did cause a serious problem, they didn’t take responsibility for it at all.

    I suppose there are some people who should use travel agents, but for me, I’m through with them. Done.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    u obviously don’t know how to find a decent one. Plenty around.

  • Bill___A

    The few decent ones are pretty busy.

  • AUSSIEtraveller

    yep & that’s who u should use.
    When we go to USA/Canada, we use one that only does USA & Canada & nothing else.
    & yes, they’ve been to USA, not everywhere, but almost.

  • Bill___A

    Well this latest experience with my mother and her travel agent just underscores all that is wrong with them up here. I just don’t bother. I don’t need them. The mistakes I’ve made (okay one mistake) was far cheaper than any of the mistakes travel agents I’ve dealt with make.

  • Annie M

    As a travel agent, I agree with your post.

    Bill A – you are also correct – many agents have never been to places you have been to. Even those working for the supplier. Ask a cruise reservation agent at the major cruise lines if they’ve ever traveled on one of the companies ships – you will get many answering no.

    You should interview a travel agent before booking with them. Don’t take the first one that comes along – you want to know they have been in the place you are looking at, or booked many people there if they haven’t. You have every right to interview an agent before you hire them.

  • Annie M

    You should always interview your agent. Don’t take the first one that comes along. Some people aren’t even interested in whether an agent has experience, they simply want the lowest price and you get what you pay for. If an agent is discounting, they need to do a huge volume to stay in business which means they become order takers, not dream makers and won’t have time to help you if you have questions or a problem occurs.

  • Bill___A

    Annie, I do not have a problem with them not being places that I have been to, but I do have a problem with them insisting to my mother to stay at certain hotels when there is no real advantage to that particular hotel and some disadvantages. Maybe her particular fascination with having a giraffe outside the window (particularly when she has not experienced this herself) is not so important to me as a central location, more dining options, and not patronizing a hotel that’s owned by the money grubbing Disney corporation. I realize that Disney is interested in capturing 100% of the revenue, but that’s not my goal. Furthermore, there are more attractions in Orlando than just those owned by Disney, so to have a “disney centric” hotel is not the main goal. The prime driver for a hotel for me is convenience, cost, services available, location, etc. Not whether I can look at a giraffe on the balcony.

    I hope you are quite busy and that things go well for you.

  • Annie M

    I hear you and agree with you. She was selling the most expensive resorts, thats what they are trained to do. Had she actually had a conversation with your Mom to determine what your MOM wanted in her resort and not what was going to make the agent the most in commission, your Mom would have had a better experience.

    A good agent asks probing questions to determine what the client wants. Many agents are just order takers and take no time to talk to their client. And it’s not easy to find the good ones, so I certainly understand where you are coming from.

  • sofar

    Very true about considering what kind of traveler you are. I love scouring the internet for the best deals, doing tons of research, reading reviews and polling friends for recommendations. By the time I get to my destination, I feel like I already have the lay of the land instead of having a game plan given to me by someone else. If things go wrong, eh, that’s part of the adventure.

    My dad, however, always uses a travel agent, especially for international travel. He wants hotels where the staff speaks English and where he can get a “real American breakfast” every morning. Give him a nice binder with all his tickets and a planned-out itinerary, and he’s happy as a clam. His travel agent knows him well, knows what he likes, and it’s a good relationship for both.

  • naoma

    I never use one. Period. Husband is the best vacation researcher! WE have a fabulous apartment in Paris we rent every year for 3 months and know the owner.

  • IGoEverywhere

    Seems that you are unaware of how to use and find a travel agent. My Disney customers know it all before they leave. Their dining, fass passed, experiences, and park days are all pre-arranged. I have the military customers raising the flag, and the elderly with an elecric scooter. Look harder, I helped a person get a full refund at the Seattle airport and an alternate flight to IAD yesterday whaile standing at the airport with her; she was not even my customer. We are out there, you are a foll not to look. It is a top 10 sale for us and all agents are required to go there once every 5 years to keep up. I would be lying if I told a customer that I have been everywhere. Impossible, but I am smarter than you when it comes to knowing good, bad, and downright ugly when it comes to travel. I listen to my clients upon their return and learn alot abot the world. I constantly read reviews, your experience with an agent is not a fluke, it was your lack of communication with the agent and their responsabilty to your needs. When my father, grandmother, and uncle retired, the country lost 3 outstanding agents. Today, I represent the last stoorfront agency in WV that does 99% leisure travel.

  • Bill___A

    I’m quite surprised you know so much about what the issues are..

    You make quite a few assumptions, and claim that I don’t communicate, don’t have much knowledge, that you are “smarter than me”, and that I am a fool.

    There is little or no point in carrying on the conversation after those assertions.

    I shall now get ready for my trip later today that I booked all myself, I suppose I shall have a terrible time with all of the inconveniences and extra costs I will suffer from not using a travel agent.

  • Bill___A

    I also won’t be buying a “trak phone” on arrival, my “non travel agent” solution is far cheaper. I guess you are smarter than me, it is much wiser to pay your 99 cents a minute than the 10 cents a minute I will pay. Do the math.

  • bodega3

    Yes, what works for one traveler isn’t what another traveler wants. I always chuckle at the time some put into their research to save $20 a night on a room. Had a woman say it took her two weeks to find a place on Maui. To each their own.

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