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Is There a Drawback to Using a Travel Agent for Your Next Trip?

Motley Fool - Sun Apr 14, 7:00PM CDT

A couple packs a suitcase for traveling, including a wallet and passport.

Image source: Getty Images

Now that summer is getting closer, you may be in the process of planning your big vacation for the year. And in that regard, you have options. You could do your planning on your own, or you could turn to a travel agent for help.

TravelAge West recently cited a survey by IBS Software showing that travel agent use is on the rise. And 38% of millennials and Gen Zers are opting to use travel agents as opposed to booking their vacations digitally.

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You may be inclined to use a travel agent for your next vacation. But should you?

The benefits of using a travel agent

Travel agents have the potential to help you save money. For example, a travel agent might manage to snag you a more favorable room rate at a hotel they have a relationship with. They might also manage to score you a credit you can use on your next cruise for things like drinks.

Plus, when you use the services of a travel agent, they're the ones in charge of worrying about all the details. They can also, in some cases, help you map out an itinerary that helps you make the most of your destination. And they might know things about your destination that you don't, allowing you to get off the beaten path and enjoy a meaningful trip.

The best part about using a travel agent? Generally, their services are free. Because of this, you might assume that using a travel agent is really a no-brainer. But there could be some hidden drawbacks.

The pitfalls of using a travel agent

In many situations, it makes sense to use a travel agent. But there are some drawbacks to be aware of.

For one thing, booking a trip through a travel agent might cost you more if that agent steers you toward a more expensive property. They may be more inclined to do this if it results in a larger commission for them.

So for example, let's say you're traveling to Aruba and are looking at a resort that normally costs $450 a night. Your travel agent may be able to get you in at $400 a night, which seems like a great deal. But there may be another comparable resort down the road that only charges $375 a night to begin with. Your travel agent, however, may not recommend that resort if it results in a lower commission for them.

Also, you may have been banking credit card reward points for an upcoming trip. But a travel agent may not be able to help you redeem those points. In that case, rather than getting a portion of your trip for free, you're paying out of pocket in full.

Finally, some travel agents are more responsive than others. If you get stuck with someone who's not so great at getting back to you, you may find that using a travel agent is an overwhelmingly frustrating experience.

What should you do?

If you're taking a pretty straightforward trip and are visiting a destination you've been to before, then you may decide to book your plans solo, especially if you have credit card rewards you want to cash in. Remember, too, that you may be able to eke out some savings during your trip by using a travel rewards credit card when dining out or booking activities.

On the other hand, if you're traveling someplace new and you don't want to stress over the details, then it could be wise to use a travel agent. You may want to get recommendations so you don't get stuck with someone who's tough to reach.

Also, if you decide to use a travel agent, be clear about your budget from the start. If you can't swing more than $4,000 for your vacation, say so. That way, your travel agent hopefully won't push you to book plans that are beyond what you can afford.

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