Why You Should Book Your Own Travel Instead of Using a Travel Agent

Why You Should Book Your Own Travel Instead of Using a Travel Agent

With the rise of online booking sites and apps, travel agents are no longer necessary for most travelers. Booking your own travel can save you money, give you more flexibility and control, and allow you to customize your trip to your exact preferences.

As an experienced traveler who has planned trips across the globe, I recommend booking your own travel arrangements instead of using a traditional travel agent. Here's why:

  1. Save Money by Cutting Out the Middleman
  2. Have More Flexibility to Plan Your Ideal Trip
  3. Control All the Details Yourself
  4. Access Deals Directly Instead of Adding Fees
  5. Avoid Pressure to Buy from Supplier Incentives
  6. Customize Your Experience Your Way
    1. Choose Your Own Flights
    2. Handpick Your Own Hotels
    3. Build Your Own Itinerary
    4. Control Costs
  7. Utilize Tools to Plan DIY Travel Easily
  8. Save Time Communicating Directly with Providers
  9. Access Local Expertise Through Reviews Instead of Agents
  10. Avoid Travel Agent Upcharges
  11. Have Control if Things Go Wrong
  12. Access Local Deals Not Available to Agents
  13. Use a Travel Agent for Complex International Trips

Save Money by Cutting Out the Middleman

The main reason to book your own travel is to save money. When you book through a travel agent, they take a commission off the top - usually around 10-20% of the total cost. This commission comes out of your pocket. By booking directly with airlines, hotels, tour companies, etc., you cut out the agent's fee.

For a $5,000 vacation package, you could save $500 or more. That's $500 extra you could spend on excursions, nicer hotel rooms, food, and more. Or it's $500 you get to keep in your bank account.

Booking your own travel online is easy and in most cases doesn't take much more time than using an agent. Take that little bit of extra time to save yourself a lot of money.

Have More Flexibility to Plan Your Ideal Trip

Another big perk of planning your own trip is that you can customize it exactly how you want. Travel agents often push certain hotels, tours, and travel packages because they have incentives or partnerships. You only have the options they give you.

But booking online gives you endless possibilities. You can meticulously research each destination and handpick the very best hotels, activities, and flights to build your dream itinerary.

Maybe you want a few extra days in Rome. Or you would rather spend some time hiking the Austrian Alps instead of visiting busy Vienna. Do your own research and create the perfect trip for YOU.

Control All the Details Yourself

When you have a middleman like a travel agent, it separates you from the details of your bookings. You have to communicate your preferences to them and trust that they will handle it properly. But things can and do get lost in translation.

By managing all the bookings yourself, you have full control. You can carefully compare flight options, read hotel and tour reviews, manage reservation changes or cancellations, and oversee everything from start to finish.

This also gives you the flexibility to adjust your plans. With a travel agent, any changes often involve fees and their availability. Do it yourself online in just a few clicks.

Access Deals Directly Instead of Adding Fees

In addition to their commission, many travel agents also charge service fees on top of the cost of travel and accommodations. This adds EVEN MORE onto your total bill.

When you book directly, you cut out all the middleman fees and get access to the best deals.

For example:

  • Airlines often have online-only sales and promotions for flights and packages.
  • Hotels offer discounts and perks for booking directly through their website instead of third party sites.
  • Tour companies provide special internet pricing that includes an extra discount compared to the retail prices travel agents pay.

Do some research online and find the best travel deals without paying someone a fee to do it for you!

Avoid Pressure to Buy from Supplier Incentives

It's important to know that many travel agents and agencies receive incentives, commissions, perks, and other benefits from certain airlines, hotels, cruise lines, etc. This means they are encouraged to push these supplier products rather than provide unbiased recommendations.

But when you book online for yourself, you can focus strictly on what's best for YOU - not what gets your travel agent the biggest perk.

Customize Your Experience Your Way

Here are some examples of how booking your own travel allows you to customize your trip to your needs and preferences:

Choose Your Own Flights

  • Find the ideal timing and number of stops
  • Select your airline based on price, amenities, points programs, etc.
  • Choose seats/upgrades à la carte

Handpick Your Own Hotels

  • Filter by price, reviews, amenities, location
  • Opt for boutique hotels or B&Bs over big chains
  • Get the exact room type you want (upper floor, corner, etc.)

Build Your Own Itinerary

  • Research destinations and build your own personalized schedule
  • Adjust the pace and activities to fit your interests
  • Add in a personal touch with local restaurants or small tours

Control Costs

  • Price compare every detail to find the best value
  • Take advantage of sales, coupons, and special deals
  • Avoid fees by booking directly instead of through a travel agent

In summary, planning your own custom trip allows you to micromanage all the details for a truly personalized experience. Travel agents can't provide anything close to this level of customization.

Utilize Tools to Plan DIY Travel Easily

Technology has made travel planning simple enough that most people don't need to pay an agent to do it. Here are some of the best travel resources online today:

  • Search engines: Google, Bing - Easily compare flights, hotels, car rentals, tours and more from countless providers - Find reviews and get travel advice
  • Maps: Google Maps, Apple Maps - Get directions and find nearby attractions - View photos, hours, reviews and more
  • Review sites: TripAdvisor, Yelp - Read through first-hand experiences from other travelers - Identify the best restaurants, things to do, and hidden gems
  • Travel websites: Expedia, Priceline, Booking.com - Compare pricing across airlines, hotels, vacation rentals, cruises, and more - Bundle deals and packages to save money
  • Company websites: Delta, Marriott, Enterprise, etc. - Book directly with providers to get the lowest prices - Access sales and earn rewards through loyalty programs
  • Apps: Google Trips, XE Currency, GateGuru - Stay organized with custom itineraries and mobile boarding passes - Look up currency exchange rates, translations, terminal maps, and more

With all these resources, it's simple for travelers to plan their entire trip independently. The DIY options today are robust!

Save Time Communicating Directly with Providers

Most communication with a travel agent happens over email, phone calls, or by visiting a brick-and-mortar office. This back-and-forth can drag on for weeks or months to finalize plans.

But when you book directly online, it happens instantly. Need to compare the prices of 5 different airlines? It takes 5 minutes. Have a question about a hotel's amenities? You can find the answer on their website or chat with their customer service rep.

You'll save countless hours not having to coordinate everything through a middleman. And if any issue does come up, you can handle it directly with the airline, hotel or tour operator yourself.

Access Local Expertise Through Reviews Instead of Agents

In the past, travel agents offered more local expertise about destinations. Now with the internet, you have access to even better first-hand knowledge through reviews from other travelers.

On TripAdvisor, Fodor's, and review sites specific to a city or country, you can get insider tips from people who have actually been there. These reviews provide:

  • Candid pros and cons instead of a glossy brochure view
  • Off-the-beaten-path recommendations beyond big tourist traps
  • Warnings about problems or scams others encountered
  • Tips on getting deals, using transit, and more

There are millions of reviews online. Tap into these on-the-ground perspectives for better local expertise than any one agent can offer.

Avoid Travel Agent Upcharges

Another common issue with travel agents is upcharges on things like:

  • International transaction fees
  • Booking fees
  • Paper ticket fees
  • Fees for payments not by check

These extra costs quickly nickel-and-dime you. But typically, the provider doesn't actually charge a fee - the travel agent tacks it on for themselves!

By booking directly, you once again cut out these middleman charges. No upcharges required.

Have Control if Things Go Wrong

No matter how carefully you plan a trip, things can sometimes go unexpectedly. Flights get delayed, hotels overbook rooms, weather causes changes in plans.

If this happens while using a travel agent, you have limited recourse. You can't call the airline or hotel directly - you have to go through your agent. This delays any fixes or changes that need to be made.

But if you book everything yourself, you have the power. You can promptly call customer service for each provider to solve problems. You also have all the booking confirmations and documentation in one place under your control.

While travel agents do help rearrange plans, it ultimately comes down to the vendor's policies - which apply whether you booked directly or not. So cut out the middleman and handle any issues yourself.

Access Local Deals Not Available to Agents

Many tours, attractions and transportation options offer special deals, discounts or packages only if you book directly instead of through third parties.

As a travel agent, they can't access these exclusive local offers. But you can by planning DIY travel:

  • City sightseeing passes giving free or discounted admission to multiple attractions
  • Bundled deals on Broadway or Vegas shows
  • Discounted attraction passes that come free with train/bus tickets
  • Special rates for repeat museum visits if you get a membership

Doing a bit of research can uncover lots of special offers only bookable on your own. No agent needed.

Use a Travel Agent for Complex International Trips

Here's the main exception: if you are planning a complex itinerary to an unfamiliar international destination, having a travel agent can help. This includes complicated trips like:

  • Safaris in Africa
  • Tours across multiple countries
  • Destinations requiring visas and immunizations
  • Places where language barriers make booking difficult

In these cases, an on-the-ground travel agent knowledgeable about the area can handle logistics you may struggle to navigate.

But for typical vacations to familiar destinations, do it yourself. You'll get better prices, customization and control.

Key Takeaways: Why You Should Book Your Own Travel

  • Save money by avoiding middleman commissions and fees
  • Customize your trip with full flexibility and control
  • Take advantage of online prices and deals not accessible to agents
  • Avoid pressure to book supplier-incentivized options
  • Use review sites for better local expertise from other travelers
  • Cut out fees and upcharges that come from booking through an agent
  • Quickly make changes and handle issues directly with vendors
  • Access exclusive local deals and discounts only available booking directly

For complex international trips, using a knowledgeable travel agent can help navigate logistics. But in most cases, you'll have a better experience booking your own travel online.

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