With the sheer amount of offers online for flights, hotels and car books, you would think that travel agents would be struggling to turn a profit. However this doesn’t seem to be the case as travel agents are still thriving. This article will help you make a decision whether to use a travel agent for your next holiday or take the plunge of organising your own.

Travel Agent
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok

Walking around a shopping centre in Brisbane recently I couldn’t help but notice a large amount of travel agent storefronts. Agents at lined desks booking their clients dream holidays. As someone who has always organised and booked all my travel on my own I was a bit perplexed as to why people were going to travel agents. I wanted to find out more.

Speaking to friends who use travel agents to book their holidays, it boiled down to a few common factors as to why they went with an agent:

  • Lack of knowledge on the destination
  • Lack of knowledge on where to find the cheapest flights and hotels
  • Didn’t want to organise the trip
  • Perceived idea that travel agents were cheaper

With this in mind, I decided to break down a few common myths around the travel industry. My goal with this article is to help you be able to understand a bit more about booking travel and to help you save money on your next holiday.

Travel Agent Prices

There is a common misconception that travel agents have access to cheaper flights than the rest of us are able to access. While I believe that there are some deals that are offered specially to travel agents, the majority of this time this is not true. Travel agents are salespeople, they are there to sell you products. They get commissions based on these sales. This means they instantly don’t have your best interest in mind. The more they get out of you, the more they earn.

Taking the agents out of the equation, I decided to do some price comparisons between the travel agent websites and using Skyscanner to find my own flights. Here were the results.

Comparison One: Sydney to Auckland Return

Flight Centre Australia were having a Black Friday sale on Sydney to Auckland, so I decided to use that as a comparison. I am using their sale prices to make it as fair as possible, this is their best deals available.

Flight Centre SYD AKL
Flight Centre Black Friday Deal – Sydney to Auckland from $237. Source flightcentre.com.au

The offer for Sydney to Auckland was for $237 per person return between 29 Jul 2020 and 16 Sep 2020. The red flag for me was that the price couldn’t be booked on the website, it was only available by calling an agent. Speaking to a salesperson is a great opportunity for the business to up sell. I did not call them and am just going to use their lowest $237 price.

The flights were with Jetstar so my first move was checking the Jetstar website direct and comparing. What I found blew my mind.

Jetstar Price
Jetstar price for Sydney to Auckland. Source jetstar.com.au

My first search for flights between the dates direct from Jetstar were cheaper than through Flight Centre on their Black Friday special. The dates were between the travel dates Flight Centre offered.

So not only was the final price from Jetstar cheaper than the cheapest price from Flight Centre, you need to call Flight Centre and potentially have more cost added to their $237 base price.

Skyscanner SYD to AKL
Skyscanner price for Sydney to Auckland. Source skyscanner.com.au

A search on Skyscanner came back with a $223 price for the same flights as on Jetstar direct.

The clear winner in this case is booking direct through Jetstar. However it is worth searching through Skyscanner to check prices. Commonly I will compare prices and then head directly to the website to book the cheapest.

Comparison Two: Brisbane to London Return

My second comparison is for Brisbane to London through Helloworld Travel. Helloworld were offering a Black Friday special on this route.

Helloworld Brisbane to London
Helloworld Black Friday Deal – Brisbane to London Return. Source helloworld.com.au

Helloworld’s price was $1073.20 for the dates I selected with Royal Brunei. The positive was that the fare was able to be booked through the website.

Royal Brunei Brisbane to London
Royal Brunei price for Brisbane to London. Source flyroyalbrunei.com

A search on Royal Brunei directly returned the exact same price for the flight. So there was no benefit booking through the travel agent versus going directly through the airline.

Skyscanner Brisbane to London
Skyscanner price for Brisbane to London. Source skyscanner.com.au

Skyscanner was showing a price of $1,006 by booking through website Aunt Betty. Aunt Betty is a subsidiary of Flight Centre.

The winner in this case is going through the website Aunt Betty. Even with Helloworld’s Black Friday specials they weren’t the cheapest around.

Shop Around

Shopping around and familirising yourself with the different websites is the best way to get the best deals. When I am booking travel my routine is as follows:

“Use Skyscanner to find the cheapest price, then double check with the airlines Directly”

  • Check Skyscanner for best deals
  • Look at alternative dates if flexible for cheaper prices
  • Check airline directly as quoted price on Skyscanner is not always accurate (as in first comparison)
  • Book cheapest option

Researching and building your travel website knowledge will always produce a cheaper price than a salesperson will. You can take control and have amazing holidays for a better price.

The Benefits of Travel Agents

Travel agents still have their place. The world is a big place, and it is impossible to know everything about every country. If you are willing to do your own research then you are going to save money booking everything yourself. If you don’t want the stress of booking and organising everything yourself then a travel agent can be a good alternative. However be aware you are going to be paying more.

Travel agents claim they will make your holiday hassle free from start to finish. I personally love the booking part of a holiday, researching and learning about the places I am about to visit. You can pick and choose at your own leisure and it puts you in control. It makes the experience much more enjoyable in my opinion!

In a future article, I will go through my ways to research and learn about the places I want to visit, how I decide on what I want to book and how I get the best value from start to finish.

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