8 Great Reasons NOT to Use a Travel Agent • McCool Travel


Consumers have a choice when planning trips, a big one being whether to use a travel agent or book myself. You can hire a travel professional, book everything yourself, or some combination. With such power, though, often comes great frustration.

Travel agents are fantastic for booking most trips but here are 8 great reasons not to use a travel agent and instead book your own travel arrangements.

Please also see the article 3 Reasons to Use a Travel Advisor, so that you can read our pros and cons of using travel agents.

I have seen many sides of this situation and feel qualified to speak about reasons NOT to use a travel agent. I encourage you to also read some of the countless internet articles with reasons why use a travel agent but, as an independent consumer advocate, I also wanted to present the other side.

reasons not to use a travel agent
disadvantages of using a travel agent

Before the world wide web, travel components had to be booked directly with suppliers (airline, hotel, rental car, cruise line, etc.) or travel agents. I quickly recognized anomalies, strategies, and ticketing ploys, and leveraged this knowledge to find better travel deals. I learned how to test the boundaries and rig the system to my benefit (travel hack, if you will), how to deal with unknowledgeable travel agents, and how to best utilize good travel agents.

Since Eaasy Sabre enabled consumers to book travel on the internet in the early 1990s, I have booked most of my travel arrangements. In fact, I became adept enough at trip planning that I also helped other people book their trips.

In addition to planning trips, I wrote a book (Winning the Airfare Game), taught travel classes, spoke at conferences, and published hundreds of articles.

fun directional wooden sign with mileage to world destinations
some reasons NOT to use a travel agent

Indeed, I realize, I can serve different audiences because there are different travel solutions.

  • Some people are completely confident and competent to book their own travel, and will consider using a travel agent to supplement own efforts.
  • Others are comfortable with technology and will figure out a decent online solution.
  • Some people are happy to hire someone to plan travel.

For book-it-yourselfers, here are some disadvantages of using a travel agent.

8 Great Reasons NOT to Use a Travel Agent

You Know How to Book Your Own Trips

Book-it-yourselfers enjoy solving trip planning challenges, much as do-it-yourselfers enjoy doing household repairs. As you book more trips, you become more experienced and comfortable with the trip planning process.

Before I could book online, it was a challenge to find competent and flexible travel agents to accommodate my quirky travel bookings. I found myself explaining to travel agents how to find sneaky flight deals and sneaky strategies, and I thought there must be a better way.

I was so thrilled when I was able to book my own travel, starting in the early 1990s.

You Have Time to Research and Book Your Own Travel

When you can devote time to planning your trip, you might be more effective than a travel agent. The chance of a problem increases with each additional layer of communication. You give details to a travel agent, they seek suppliers, suppliers get back to the agent, the agent gets back to you. If any issues (wrong date, place), repeat the process.

You Know Exactly What You Want

If you know when and where you want to travel, what you want to do, where to stay, you might save time booking it yourself. Travel agents are good at crafting solutions. For instance, if a client wants to travel to Paris for a week, the agent can plan the trip by picking the lodging, tours, and transportation.

You Like Non-Traditional Travel Components

You might find better deals with alternative travel components like vacation rentals (Airbnb, HomeAway), independent motels, hostels, or home exchanges. Travel agents may not receive commissions for many such trip components. McCool Travel note: I charge an hourly fee for travel research and help my clients save money, time, and stress.

You Can Find Better Travel Deals

Online booking engines are powerful. Users can tweak the options, and pick the most attractive flights, car rentals, hotel rooms, packages, cruises, etc. Frankly, travel agents just cannot book every deal you can find on your own. There are many promotional offers, discount codes, Twitter sales, etc., that must be booked through the supplier’s website.

Quirky or Complicated Trip Planning Scenarios

If your trip is hard to explain, you might be better off booking it yourself. If you want to fly to one airport, rent a car, drop at a downtown location, rent an RV, drop it at another location, book a one-way train ride, then a ferry, and a flight home from a different airport, whew, that might be too hard to communicate with a trip planner.

Many of my itineraries use open jaw flights, one way flights, co-terminals, and/or multiple airports, and I have found them easier to research and book myself.

Charles McCool posing in a fun small airplane

Travel Circumstances When You Cannot Use a Travel Agent

Some situations you must book without a travel agent. You might have online bonuses or credits, like Expedia+ Rewards or Orbitz Orbucks. A hotel may offer extra loyalty points when you book directly through their website. It might be easier for you to arrange rentals cars from an independent agency.

Most travel agents will not book airline frequent flyer awards or most airline ticket bookings without charging a hefty booking fee.

Whether to Use a Travel Agent or Not For Time-Sensitive Travel Deals

Flash travel deals are available only to consumers booking directly with suppliers. For instance, a credit card company offers a resort deal at noon for the first 1,000 bookings. JetBlue Cheeps are limited availability last-minute deals. For these and other flash travel deals, consumers will need to book directly with the travel supplier rather than use a travel agent.

Do you have any other reasons NOT to use a travel agent?

8 Great Reasons NOT to Use a Travel Agent published on McCool Travel on 17 November 2014.

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