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travel agent ?

In the RS pre-tour planner it says: use a good travel agent to secure the best flight options and most convenient routes for your tour.

Before the internet we used an agent. Now we book our own flights. Seems easier now to do it ourselves – though I wonder some about ‘getting the very lowest tickets’ – one just has to let it go at some point and enjoy the journey!

Does anyone else have the experience of both having used an agent and having booked their own flight?

Posted by
6245 posts

I believe that bit of advice is in need of an update.

Travel agents were pretty much put out of business when their commissions were eliminated, about a generation ago.

There still are travel agents (though not many) but I think there is little practical need for them in this era. Book your own flights. Yes, it does require a little effort, but not that much. There's nothing that a travel agent can do that you can't do on your own, and you are better off being empowered to do it yourself.

If you need help, ask some questions here (or elsewhere where you are comfortable); you'll get advice and information here that exceeds the quality of any that would be given to you by a travel agent.

Posted by
12679 posts

I agree with David. I haven't used a travel agent in years although I'm booking mainly straightforward flights from the Inland Northwest to some place in Europe. I think I am doing as well as a Travel Agent could do.

I base this on travel with another tour group that does arrange flights for international travelers thru their in-house travel agency. My flights and arrangements are often with better times and layovers than the folks who use the travel agent. Last May a fellow traveler was going from Amsterdam to Paris and they had routed her by plane when she would probably have had an easier time on the train. She did have 2 gigantic suitcases so the plane worked for her BUT the travel agent did not know that when booking.

I book directly with the airline so no middle man to go thru if there are hiccups as well.

Where (in general) are you booking from and to?

Posted by
2635 posts

Yep, I'm with David too - for all of the reasons he articulated.
Would only add that we value comfort and convenience over cost when it comes to airline bookings. Would rather arrive rested and refreshed than tired and bedraggled after a multi-stop itinerary that could have been avoided with a minimum of online research.

Posted by
458 posts

I handle all aspects of the trip on my own. Only took one tour (non RS) that required the use of a travel agent. Even then I told the agent exactly what I wanted for flights. There may be some benefits to using one.

Posted by
2025 posts

And contrary to the comment of another poster, travel agents have seen in an enormous resurgence after they had to restructure their models 20-something years ago. Travel agents can add significant value to many types of trips, but not airfare alone. And the demographics/psychographics of travel agents’ clientele is highly divergent from anything like the Rick Steves style of travel, which most people on these boards subscribe to.

Posted by
105 posts

thanks everyone - appreciate your input

Posted by
98 posts

We have friends who only book through a travel agent. One of them believes by using an agent she now has someone to blame. She once wanted to go on one of our trips planned by my husband. No thank you.

Posted by
8080 posts

Yes, one of many pieces pf guidance that needs an update.

I mostly agree with the comments, but as I've said in previous discussions, there are times I was grateful to have a good travel agent to make complicated arrangements, or get preferred connections and seat assignments. It cost me a fee for booking just flights, but it was helpful. I mostly book air myself, but would use a TA's help if it was available. But not because I expect them to have access to better fares than I can find on my own.

But I know there are a lot of people who are not frequent travelers, who are not familiar with booking their own tickets online, and more importantly, dont want to learn that new skill. How many times do we see posts here, from inexperienced travelers who don't know what codeshare means, or what openjaw/multicity ticketing, or the ins and outs of connecting airports. So there is a place for people who can help with this, and provide a lifeline for assistance.

Posted by
710 posts

I almost always use an agent to book for me. I don’t enjoy searching around for the best price, route, connecting times, handicap accommodations, special meals and seat assignments. I much prefer working on the itinerary and accommodations. So, I tell my agent what I want and she does it. Or, she already knows. Boom. Hours saved. Last year, we had to abruptly return from Sicily due to a death in the family. One phone call to our agent was all it took to get us home quickly and as comfortably as possible at a time when I had even less desire to deal with any of it.

Posted by
1259 posts

I have been using the same agency for forty years. My good friend, the agent, has finally let me know that they really only do airline ticketing if their clients are booking tours, events, cruises, &c through the agency. I guess she's been doing me favors for the last 20 years based on our friendship. I did not realize. Still, she knows every trick and bargain hunting scheme and has made sure I have plenty of time for connections and knows which airports to avoid. I also depend on her agency's recommendations for insurance products (travel, medical, evacuation), which are based on their many decades of real world claims settlements and not necessarily cost.

My friend has been a fabulous traveling advisor and booking resource for decades. I'm going to miss our meetings and post-trip lunches. No, wait, I can have lunch with her anytime.

Posted by
2624 posts

use a good travel agent

When I first started buying Rick Steves guidebooks in 2002 and have bought many since, I read that too. The latest Rick Steves book I have is from 2020 and that phrase has been removed.
Commission is still paid to travel agents who book international flights, it’s domestic travel where most airlines no longer pay commission. Travel agents upsell every time they provide a service to make the trip better. I don’t believe you save money because you might be talked into paying for a seat in economy premium and purchase travel insurance in case something goes wrong.
Travel agents make most of their money selling cruises and tours. If you’re only looking for plane tickets check out Google (I prefer Skyscanner) and when you find a fare, you’re willing to pay book on the carrier’s website.
With that said start searching for airfare now and clear your cookies before rechecking. There is no good time to buy a plane ticket but I feel if you pay less than $1,000 between North America and Europe that's not bad.

Posted by
38 posts

We have used for all of our international travel. They were recommended by RS about 10 years ago and have been absolutely fabulous! We have never found a better price for business class airline tickets! We have recently worked with Sheri Smith for two trips this year -
A family trip to Ireland in May for 7 adults and 2 ended up with Covid and we had to reschedule their return and Sheri took care of all of it. No additional charge to change business class to another date.
Three of us are leaving for BOE 14 day in October and have great prices to Rome and home from Amsterdam. She also helped with accommodating 8 extra days.
I also handle all our family vacations for 11, with grandkids, if I run into trouble I would immediately ask for help. I’m a good shopper, but have become wise enough to check them for help!

Posted by
986 posts

The next logical question is why even pay for an RS tour? It is not a major leap to organize your own hotels and inter-city transportation and save even more money.

The bottom line is that if you have the means to pay and prefer to let somebody else do the work, a travel agent or a tour operator will oblige.

Back in 2015, a group of us organized a Mediterranean cruise. I researched it and thought we found the best possible deal on the internet. Then a friend referred us to their travel agent who specialized in cruises. The TA was able to book us on the exact same cruise at a lower price, plus a several choices of complimentary packages (luxury dinner package, shows, spending money, drink packages, etc, I can't remember). The TA had included us into a large group discount. There was no way that we could have done that on our own.