I’ll start this off by saying I’m a big fan of researching and booking my own trips and I’ll definitely continue to do so.
I’ll also say that I used to be a travel agent. I wasn’t one in your traditional sense of sitting in an office waiting for people to walk in. I was a wholesale groups travel consultant. Basically I sat with an earpiece in all day starting at a computer screen with no contact with the actual clients. The traditional travel agents would call me looking for the best wholesale travel rates for their clients, and in my particular job, large groups. I did everything a traditional travel agent did, just on the wholesale side. So I do know the ins and outs of the travel industry having worked in it, having extensively traveled and now…dum dum dummmmm…using a travel agent recently.
***TRIP CANCELLED DUE TO COVID-19***
My dad WAS getting remarried in June (they just did it over Zoom during lockdown instead, ha!) and they decided they wanted to do destination in Mexico. It basically came down to two options: everyone books the best flight/resort package they can find on their own through Expedia or whatever OR we all go through an agent.
I knew going into it a few things.
1. I knew that agents are typically more expensive than booking an online package
2. Agents will often price match whatever it is you find online
3. Going through an agent gives you the option to pay in installments
#3 was the main reason for all of us going through an agent because when dealing with a very large group like we have, everyone has different financial situations and the typical traveler just doesn’t have like $3000 to shell out all at once on Priceline. So after a laborious month of me endlessly searching and narrowing down locations and then finally a resort for these nuptials, we took the information to a travel agent.
Naturally, as expected, the agent was quite a bit more expensive than the online package I found. However, she said she’d price match. Price matching has to be a perfect apples to apples match of course for her to do it, so I spent quite a lot of time and effort screenshotting and timestamping every price and photo from three separate cities (people traveling from all over!) for her to price match for us. Naturally, agencies aren’t going to WANT to price match…and so she (they?) put up a fight. There was every reason ever given to me as to why they couldn’t price match and it came down to the fare class booking codes not matching. For example, every class of service (economy, first, etc) has a one-letter booking code for your ticket. The problem is, economy tickets have like 11 possible letters depending on how much you pay. And those fare letters are sometimes hard to find before you purchase anything. So the same exact ticket she was able to pull for us in her system didn’t match the fare class that I found online. No way of knowing this beforehand because I obviously can’t see her system. It also may not have been true, I dunno, but either way it was an uphill battle to attempt to get a price match and then not get it at all.
We now are left with the only reason we booked with her: paying in installments. Since all-inclusives and resort vacations aren’t my cup of tea, I personally wouldn’t save any money doing those flight + hotel deals. And we also don’t stay in hotels hardly ever, we like AirBnB. And because of that way of traveling, the most we usually fork out at once is like $600-700 MAX for two tickets somewhere (using points for some of it usually!) and then we save a little bit more and get our AirBnB at a later date, then save some more to take with us on the actual trip. So it’s like a weird Sam and Al version of installments? Either way, this wedding is falling under the lump sum kind of flight + hotel type of trip, so we needed a way to pay installments and this agent was the only way to to do that.
Now for the fun (not) part…because she couldn’t price match, we had to do the normal $200 per person deposit on this much-more-expensive-than-online package. Okay…fine…easy enough. BUT!!!!!! She found a cheaper priced package for us departing from Nashville flying with Southwest. Great! I love Southwest! But…wait…SOUTHWEST DOESN’T TAKE DEPOSITS. Okay, angry breathing. Now we are torn between having to pay the total cost of the flight portion up front ($$$$$) with the much cheaper overall Southwest package total, or do the $200 per person regular deposit using a different airline but end up paying way more in the long run. We ended up choosing the Southwest route to save money down the road…but LORDY LORD.
To me, working with an agent is not fun. If you aren’t too worried about the cost of your trip or think being able to pay in installments is worth the overall price hike in the end, then maybe an agent would be the way to go for you since you wouldn’t be back and forth over price matching or anything. But I’ve made it my life to find the absolute rock bottom travel costs on anything and saving money and traveling cheap are a big part of how Al and I even do it so often. So I’ll say no more agents for me. I just couldn’t personally get over the fact that it was so much more expensive. But if you can turn a blind eye to that, are happy with the price an agent gives you, are going on a common flight+hotel trip and need installments…then an agent would be fine.
So let’s break down the pros and cons:
In the end, it comes down to you, how you like to travel and how much you want to spend. To me, cost is the biggest factor so no more agents.
If you want to know how I do it all myself, it’s all right HERE!