Join AAA
Join AAA

Family at Disney Private Island

Are Travel Agents Worth It?


Traveling isn’t cheap. There’s transportation—be that plane or bus tickets, a couple of tanks of gas, or all of the above—lodging, meals, admission to various attractions and museums, and more. Adding a travel agent to that list of expenses might seem like a waste of money to some. Others, however, swear by working with travel agents to organize trips and would say their fees pay for themselves in convenience and peace of mind.


So is a travel agent worth it? Here are some pros and cons to consider.

1. Pro: Travel agents know the industry

There was a time when travelers would buy plane tickets in person at the airport and arrange for a hotel once they’d arrived at their destination. Those days are gone. As technology has become more powerful and accessible the travel industry has exploded and consumers’ travel options have multiplied along with it.


On the one hand, this has made some elements of traveling more convenient. On the other, with the advent of things like airline loyalty programs, credit card points, frequent flight delays and blackout days—and even Airbnb and other technologies that have disrupted the hospitality industry—it can feel like there’s suddenly an entire game of four-dimensional chess involved in arranging a relaxing getaway. One survey of American travelers found that 68% considered booking travel these days “more complex” than ever before.


Travel agents know that complexity inside and out. They have the expertise, insider industry knowledge, and anecdotal data that come with having planned zillions of flights and booked zillions of hotels on behalf of their customers. They know what days are the best to book, how to get a seat upgrade, which airlines have fees you can get around (and which don’t), and more. On top of that, they learn of flight cancellations and other disruptions well before the greater public, and they’re skilled in troubleshooting those issues. They may be able to offer you travel alternatives before you even know you need them.


2. Con: Finding the right advisor will take research

Though booking with a travel agent can save time when it comes to finding the best, fastest, quickest means of travel, or if you want to avoid poring over guidebooks, it’s not as if there’s no time investment at all. That’s because it’s important to find a representative who won’t just take care of the “lowest-hanging fruit” concerns, and instead understands your specific needs and goals. For example, if you’re a young person traveling solo looking to go off the beaten path and you don’t mind some less-than-luxurious accommodations, you’re unlikely to find a lot of help from a travel advisor who has experience planning travel for families with small children.


What’s more, it’s important to find an advisor you trust. Some travel agents are paid a commission by hotels when they book them, so they’re incentivized to book you with that franchise regardless of whether it makes sense for your trip. So while one of the draws of booking with a travel agent is saving time, it’s worth investing time in finding the right one.

3. Pro: Travel agents have local insights

Travel agents and advisors are there for more than helping with the complicated and tedious world of purchasing airline tickets and booking hotels. It’s also their job to know your destination inside and out. That means you avoid the awkwardness that can come with not knowing local customs like tipping and other forms of etiquette. They can tell you how (or whether) to haggle on prices such that you don’t come across as rude.


Moreover, they know what attractions are worth braving the crowds for, whether it makes sense to stay in the tourist area or outside the city center, and other insider tips. A great travel agent will likely know of small, “hidden gem” restaurants that are actually worth the hype, and not just tourist traps.


Finally, not only do they have that advice, they can make all the necessary reservations and arrangements to ensure your days are smooth and enjoyable. All you have to do is show up.

4: Con: There’s less room for flexibility

…but you do have to show up. Travel advisors are unparalleled when it comes to planning the perfect day, but they can’t see into the future. It’s impossible to plan for every eventuality. Say you visit the snorkeling school your travel agent booked for you and unlock a passion you never knew you had. You’re not going to be able to spend another couple of hours there without expensive changes to your itinerary. Want to order a second dessert at lunch? You’ll have to cancel the next activity—which your travel agent can certainly help with. For people who like to be spontaneous, it’s better to book fewer activities and instead arrive armed with a list of suggestions from your travel agent.


So are travel agents worth it? The answer is really: It depends. If you’re booking a fairly simple trip from Chicago to Tampa, you might save money taking care of it yourself. If you’re planning an extravagant adventure with several destinations, the right advisor can ensure it’s a magical experience. Even if you’ve got a smaller budget and a simpler itinerary in mind, a travel agent can help ensure you don’t miss out on the “must-see” items without spending more than needed.


Are you interested in booking with an agent? AAA members have access to local reliable travel agents across the country. Find one here.