Travel Agent vs Travel Planner

Travel Agent vs Travel Planner

We regularly get asked the usual How Do You- styled travel questions. The three main topics we get asked about when it comes to travel planning is What agent do you use? Do you really need travel insurance (Yes. Yes you do) and how do you afford to travel AND enjoy champagne? Today I want to discuss the great wall debate on Travel Agent vs Travel Planner.

A travel planner is typically a person who enjoys the research on destinations, airfares, hotels. Typically this style of traveler is post baby boomer and is well versed in the use of the Google.

A travel agent is a paid employee to help people purchase travel related services- flights, accommodation, tours etc. The travel agent maybe restricted by commercial agreements. Some agents are paid by the hour; others are purely based on commission. For the sake of today’s discussion all agents that I have dealt with personally have been paid a lower hourly rate and good bonuses based on sales and customer reviews.

Before I put pen to paper on this topic I did a wee bit of Google style research.  The first 5 pages of results were seemingly about travelling families or newly wedded couples looking for a luxurious honeymoon. 90% of these websites recommended you use a travel agent for the pure pleasure of having someone else do something that you could do. Because  you are too silly to understand the complicated booking pages and websites available to the public.

Now we know that you are smart enough to use the Google machine and make adult decisions. Just like us. To answer the question- Agent or Planner- well until recently we used both our own smarts and sometimes those of an agent.

My personal preference is to book our own flights and accommodation. Why? Because I like to be the master of my own (and James) destiny. Of the last 9 major overseas trips in the past 6 years I have used a travel agent three times for the initial departure and return flights. Each experience has had ups and downs.

The first was my very first independent travel to volunteer in Guyana with Youth Challenge International. The Australian branch had recommended a large travel agency who offered “discounts” for volunteers. Pity that the discount was around $700 more than what I could find online. To make this deal even sweeter I had 24 hours to produce the $4000 airfare. A friend recommended me to a travel agent based in Perth, who not only found me cheaper flights but also an easier way to pay.

Our usual method for big priced flights is to find the flights online, find the money to pay and book through an agent, after telling them the exact flight and price that we want.

The second time was a rather uneventful booking to Europe. Melbourne-Prague-Amsterdam-Melbourne. All internal EU flights we did ourselves. Seriously why wouldn’t you when you can get flights for under $20 with airlines like Germanwings and less than $10 bus rides from city-city.

Riding the bus from Prague - Munich. Less then $20

Riding the bus from Prague – Munich. Less then $20

Our third and final time booking with a travel agent was a minor comedy of mishaps. The company in question offered a “layby” program which I thought would be fun to try out.  Always the adventurer.  Long story short, after 4 months and being told our final amount owing was $X, by four different staff members we discovered that the outstanding amount was an additional $1600, due on Christmas Day. It seems that as simple customers we should have been aware of the company’s internal invoicing and accounting system. Whilst totally ignoring the final amount showing on all of our receipts.  To say the least we had a very quiet Christmas and New Year.

Whenever you are dealing with an important decision you will always hear horror stories.  One of the girls in my volunteer trip didn’t have a vital flight from New York to Guyana booked by her travel agent. A small fact she found out two days before leaving Australia. Another friend missed a flight out of Australia when he discovered that the travel agent had spelt his name with a zero instead of an O. This wasn’t noticeable on his paperwork, but it was on the airlines system.

But the travel agent is there to help you when things go wrong.

One teeny thing to remember is that travel agents don’t always work 24/7 and may not be available when you really need them. Which is generally why we strongly suggest that you buy travel insurance.

How do you know what you are doing? You are not a professional.

This is correct. I did not go to travel agent school. Through the life of hard travel knocks and silly mistakes I have learnt my fine trade of Travel Planning. I’ve researched, asked questions, found answers and still made a few mistakes (lets not talk about the time I booked a hotel room in Sydney before a super early international departure the next morning, for July. But didn’t realise it was for July the following year). We’ve had some great experiences and some not so great experiences. Which is the reason we travel. To experience the world near and far. And 5 years later I’m still learning this fine trade of travel.

*Just a side note that for quite awhile there my job was a travel agent for horses in/out of Australia.Giving me a rather unique perspective on booking flights.

Sometimes you just need some time to think things through. In the Palace of Versailles

Sometimes you just need some time to think things through. In the Palace of Versailles

Travel agents can be a wonderful resource. Like underwear you need to find the one that suits your needs best.

Let us know what is you preference? Travel Agent or Travel Planner?

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