Travel For Less
Travel today is fast and cheap. You can grab a flight, take a boat, board a train, hop on a bus or jump in your car. Our world has become smaller as the way we get around has changed...and the options for planning and booking your travel have also changed.
It wasn't that long ago people who wanted to travel would head down to the local travel agency and let the agent take care of all the details for their vacation. The Internet has changed that. We can be our own travel agent these days. There are many websites that offer ways to save on travel and accommodations, food and entertainment and you can book it all online. But not everyone is comfortable doing that. What's a person to do?
Let's look at some of the benefits and risks to the two alternatives and perhaps it might be easier for you to make the choice.
The benefits of using a travel agent:
A travel agent is a trained professional. She knows the travel business inside and out and can guide you every step of the way. Using an agent to work for you will save you time. You can schedule your appointment, go into talk about your plans and then leave the arrangements in capable hands. Your agent will help you to make informed decisions and will think of things you may not have. She knows about the sales, deals and discounts that are available. Also, she is obligated to tell you about any extra charges that may be payable so there won't be any surprises.
(Make sure that you use an agent from a travel agency that is a member of a traveler advocate organization such as ASTA in the United States and ACTA in Canada. Then if any problems arise, the agent will be there to work on your behalf!!)
The risks of doing it yourself:
The size of a pool, room accommodations or hotel amenities may be misrepresented by online travel agencies, hotels and tour companies
You also have to be aware of online booking agents who use a "bait and switch" tactic. Bait and switch is a form of fraud—an advertisement for a product or service at a low price or with many features, then the buyer is informed that the advertised good is not available at the original price or with the advertised features, but something different is.
There is also the danger that the price that was charged to the customer during the online booking was lower than what was actually being charged by the airline or hotel at the time. Because staff can't keep up with the price changes (they may be dealing with thousands of companies) they may still be showing the sale price after the sale ends. It is unlikely that the customer will be compensated. In fact, in order to keep the original booking, the client must pay the price difference.
Another possible problem using an online booking agency is lost or incorrect records. The customer may be charged (even receiving an email to confirm the purchase) by the booking agency, but they may find later that the airline, hotel, or tour company itself has no record of a booking. Because the booking was made by a third party, the airline or hotel has no responsibility.
DIY may offer lower prices but possibly more risks...you'll have to decide if this is the right choice for you!
Obviously the incentive to book a trip, flight or accommodation on your own is financial. You expect to save money. You just need to be aware that there are benefits in using a travel agency and risks in booking online yourself. Fortunately, there are a couple of methods that can use the best of both options to get you the trip you want. Do we have your interest yet?
P.S. The ninth chapter of our personal finance book: Power Spending: Getting More For Less, is about Travel on less. There are six sections: Do it yourself or travel agency, Congratulations...you're a winner!, Save a buck, Hit the road...Jack!, Getting a second opinion and Off the beaten path. If you have the travel bug we want to indulge you. We'll tell you how you can get on the road (plane, train, boat) for less, what precautions you should take when booking travel, unconventional travel choices and how to get more out of your vacation while spending less.