Is It Time to Start Using a Travel Agent Again?

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With few exceptions, it is not necessary nowadays to pay a travel agent to book your trip. Should you be paying for help anyway?

The industry publication Travel Weekly, which, granted, is written mainly for travel agents, recently called attention to the newfound attention travel agents are getting in the media. Stories from Forbes, The New York Times, and various TV networks others have all focused on the idea that using an agent might not be such a day idea after all, even if it does cost extra.

In theory, travelers today have more information and booking capability at their fingertips than ever before. So there's less need than ever to pay someone else to book your trip. In theory. But with all of this possibility comes added complication, especially given the dizzying, often counterintuitive ways that travel purchases (flights especially) are made nowadays.

The "unbundling" of airline travel, in which a long list of possible fees cost extra in addition to the cost of a flight, is one complication. We're not talking about chump change either. Spirit Airlines just announced it is charging up to $100 per carry-on bag. Fee-tracking tools from services such as NerdWallet can help clue travelers in on fees, but it's still a chore trying to figure out which airlines charge what fees, and how much.

This week, Joe Sharkey's New York Times column, meanwhile, covers the scenario in which, as odd as it may seem, booking a circuitous series of one-way flights can be cheaper than a simple round trip. While some travelers love strategizing and searching to beat the system, many understandably don't want to be bothered.

Presumably, most Budget Travel readers are DIY travel planners. Ditto for the independent-mind backpackers who travel around the globe with Lonely Planet guides in tow. And yet, in a recent Lonely Planet poll, more than half of those who responded said that they'd happily pay an agent either "a small fee ($30 - $50) to save the time and hassle" or "whatever they ask! I'd rather chew my arm off than sort through all the many online travel options."

So maybe a sizeable portion of BT readers now feel the same way: that after a couple decades of booking their own trips, it's now time to give the responsibility back to the pros.

Would you pay a travel agent a fee to book your trip? Have you done so recently? If the answer is yes to either, tell us why, and under what circumstances.


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