If you’d told either of us a few years ago that it was a great idea to book flights through a travel agent, we would have laughed at you.
First of all, they’re more expensive, right? And they take all the fun out of planning your trip yourself, right? We weren’t taking tours, so what was the point?
Well let me tell you, we were dead wrong on all three counts.
We sort of stumbled into using a travel agent. Our close friend started working for one of the major travel companies as a travel agent. She started telling me a few of their insider secrets, so I had her book a flight. And then another. Soon, we were booking exclusively through her for all our flights.
We still avoid tours, but here’s why we’ve gotten into the habit of booking through a travel agent:
1. It’s actually cheaper.
When you book a flight online from any of those companies that compare fares to find the cheapest ones, you generally pay a built-in fee to the company for finding the flight, a commission fee to whichever travel agent who organises it all on their end, PLUS a fee for booking online. When you book directly with a travel agent, you avoid that online fee altogether.
Also, it takes a bit more clicking and refining searches than most of us are willing to do to get the absolute best price on flights. Enter the travel agent, who has more sophisticated computer programs and will be better able to find you the best deal.
2. It’s less stressful.
We are lucky enough to have a travel agent we really trust, so it’s such a relief to know that we can send one or two emails with all the details about what we need. We don’t have to think about it again until we hear back from her with options.
We still always double and triple check the details to make sure everything is exactly how we want it, but it’s so much easier to have all the timings, connections, dates, frequent flyer numbers, insurance, and seat requirements in someone else’s hands.
3. We’re supporting real people in the travel industry.
Ok, so our travel agent is obviously a person who we’d like to see succeed. It’s not like she has her own business, though, so we know we’re still putting some money into the pocket of a big corporation. Still, we know our friend works so hard to make sure all of her clients have wonderful holidays, so we’re happy that the fees we would be paying anyway (see #1.) is going to a deserving person.
4. We get to do really cool things we’d never think of ourselves.
I saved the best for last! This is my favourite thing about going through a travel agent to book flights.
We travel from Australia, which means we usually have flights that take a minimum of 8 hours (maximum 46 hours so far– more on that someday!). Layovers are basically mandatory with that kind of flight path. Depending on the airline, layovers can be pretty basic or very exotic.
Thanks to our travel agent, we’ve been able to make a habit of building in a day or two in an unexpected layover location. This can make one trip feel like two mini-trips!
The great thing about our travel agent is that the layovers we end up choosing are never the ones we considered ourselves.
When I went to Arizona a few years ago, I suggested San Francisco or LA as a spot to stop for a few days; had I been booking my flight myself, I would have stuck to that plan and paid more than I did.
Instead, my travel agent reported that the cheapest flight path for me would include a layover in Hawaii– and was I ok with that?
OF COURSE! I ended up extending my one-day layover into four days and loved experiencing Hawaii. I never would have chosen it myself.
The same thing happened with Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Delhi, even Moscow. Finding out our surprise layover is one of the best parts of booking flights!
Booking your flights through a travel agent doesn’t mean you’ve completely abdicated all accountability, of course– this person is helping you for a small fee, not magically providing perfection and preventing all mistakes. We still consider our plane tickets our own responsibility to double-check and confirm, but having someone else to take care of the details makes our lives better and easier.
If you’re in Melbourne and want contact info for our stellar travel agent/friend, shoot us a quick enquiry email at unsettledblog[AT]gmail.com (or click the handy little Contact Us link in the menu above) and we’ll be happy to pass on her info to you.