There has been a persistent debate over whether using a travel agent is better than booking direct. The truth is that neither option is inherently better or worse than the other. Both have their pros and cons. Whichever one you decide to go with will depend on your travel preferences and what features you value the most.
With that in mind, we’re here to help you decide by comparing booking direct vs. a travel agent. In this article, we’ve highlighted the pros and cons of each option as well as listed a few things to keep in mind if you decide to use a travel agent.
Keep reading for our side-by-side analysis of booking directly vs. using a travel agent.
What Does It Mean to Book Direct vs. Travel Agent?
Booking direct means you take care of all of your travel plans on your own. You create your itinerary; book all your flights, transportation, and accommodations; and research and plan things to do and places to eat on your trip.
On the other hand, when you book through a travel agent, they take care of everything for you. After consulting with you, they handle all the research and planning, then make arrangements for your flights, accommodations, transportation, and even dinner reservations and planned activities like tee times and scuba diving.
Travel aggregators like Travelocity or Expedia combine some of the services of a travel agent with the control you get over your trip by booking directly. People will sometimes use multiple travel aggregator sites or apps to make reservations for different elements of their trip. For example, they’ll use Skyscanner or Google Flights to find cheap airfare, then visit Booking.com for accommodations.
Pros and Cons of Booking Direct vs. Travel Agent
Booking direct is often faster, and you can easily find last-minute deals if you use a travel aggregator. You can make your reservations whenever you want without having to wait on someone else’s schedule, and it always feels like a win when you manage to come in under budget on your own.
In addition, you have complete control over your holiday, which can be a major pro for some travelers, but a huge con if you make a mistake. There is so much information out there that it can be overwhelming trying to make the right choice. Handing that responsibility over to someone who has expertise in the area you’re visiting can take a weight off your shoulders. And you’re still in control, because a travel agent will only make arrangements after confirming them with you.
Pros and Cons of a Travel Agent vs. Booking Direct
Obviously, the biggest pro of using a travel agent is that they take all the stress out of planning a trip. A really good travel agent can help you organize your entire vacation down to the minute if that’s what you want. All you need to do is tell them what you want to do and they can arrange the whole thing.
Travel agents can personalize your trip and offer advice if you’re still in the planning stages. They can also help you save a lot of money, thanks to their exclusive offers and insider deals. And of course, they will save you a ton of time. They also give you peace of mind while you’re traveling, since they’re available if any issues arise.
On the other hand, travel agents are trying to make a commission at the end of the day. That means that their advice may be slightly biased, and the choices they present to you are going to be limited to vendors they have contracts with.
Plus, even if they say they are offering you a discount, there’s no way of knowing that you’re getting the best possible price there is unless you do your own double-checking. You’re also locked into a contract with a travel agent, a concept that can make some travelers uneasy.
Booking Direct vs. Travel Agent: Convenience
Convenience is a travel agent’s biggest draw because they handle all the tedious paperwork and scheduling. However, booking directly online is often faster. That’s because travel agents will sometimes have to wait on a third party before they can finalize an offer, especially if you’re trying to negotiate a bargain.
When you book online you’re able to see exactly what something costs right away. You can also plan and book things late at night or early in the morning if you book directly, instead of having to set time aside in your work day to accommodate the schedule of a travel agent.
On the other hand, booking directly requires you to arrange everything on your own, make multiple transactions, and constantly refer to your calendar to make sure that you haven’t double-booked yourself. It can be confusing and stress-inducing.
Plus, if you miss your flight, have trouble with transportation, or have made a mistake with any of your reservations, you have to deal with it on your own. That doesn’t always have a happy outcome. On top of being out whatever money you’ve already spent, it could end up costing you much more to book a last-minute room or flight.
Also, while travel agents make your life easier by arranging things like airport transfers or car rentals, it’s worth noting that many hotels offer complimentary airport pickups anyway, and travel aggregator sites often give you the option to add airport transfers or car rentals when you book your flight, so you can arrange everything in one transaction.
Booking Direct vs. Travel Agent: Cost
Travel agents can offer you airfare and hotel rates at an exclusive industry insider price. That’s not to say that you can’t plan an affordable holiday on your own, but you often have to start making arrangements at least a full year in advance to score the cheapest reservation. If you do manage to find a great deal while booking directly, you usually have to jump on it right away or else you lose it.
A travel agency can usually lock in a given price for a day or two, giving you time to review your budget before making a decision. However, keep in mind that you’re paying for the service a travel agent provides. The cost of their service is built into whatever price they give you.
Travel agents are a great resource if you want a personalized, luxury honeymoon or getaway at a lower cost. If you want a 5-star hotel for your honeymoon (and who doesn’t?) but it’s out of your price range, a travel agency might be able to get a more affordable price than you would be able to on your own.
Travel agents can usually throw in some perks like seat or room upgrades as well, particularly for special trips like destination weddings or honeymoons. However, you might be able to get those things on your own. Airline loyalty programs, if you belong to any, will reward customers with things like seat upgrades or priority boarding, and some credit cards offer room upgrades to cardholders. Not only that, but hotels will frequently throw in a freebie or two if you book for more than 3 nights, or they’ll upgrade your room if you’re a frequent guest.
Booking Direct vs. Travel Agent: Flexibility
Unfortunately, one area where travel agents can fall short is their flexibility. While they will strive to be as accommodating as they can, travel agents generally have office hours that you will need to work within. If you book directly, you can make your travel plans pretty much whenever you feel like it.
In the same vein, travel agents aren’t very helpful when it comes to planning quick, spontaneous getaways. You’re better off checking out a travel aggregator’s site for a spur-of-the-moment holiday as they often have last-minute deals. You can also visit an airline’s website and see if they have any seat sales.
How to Choose a Travel Agent
At the end of the day, whether you book directly or go with a travel agent will depend on your needs. If you do decide to use a travel agent, check their reviews online, ask for referrals, and take the time to interview them. Also, verify their credentials. All travel agents should be registered with IATA or IATAN.
Our trusted travel partners can help you plan the honeymoon or romantic getaway of your dreams with sound advice based on years of experience. For the honeymoon or romantic escape of your dreams, connect with any of our Caribbean travel agents, Europe travel agents, all-inclusive travel specialists, or cruise travel agents.
If you decide you’d rather try booking directly, we have a ton of helpful articles about romantic destinations all over the world. Here are some places to start: 70 Honeymoon Destinations for Any Type of Traveler, Top 25 Most Romantic Islands in the World, 10 Amazing Caribbean Destinations, 15 Best Hotel Swim-up Rooms, 12 Best Hawaii Alternatives, Best Sandals Resorts for Honeymoons, 25 Best Caribbean Luxury Resorts, and Overwater Bungalows in the Caribbean.
He is an expert travel advisor and enthusiast. He has traveled extensively in the USA, Central America, South America, and Europe. He has visited every Sandals Resort and is one of a select few Diamond Elite members of the Sandals Chairman’s Royal Club.
Dan graduated from Johnson & Wales University with an associate degree in Culinary Arts. Later he graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in International Studies with a focus on people and culture.