Should I book my holiday through a travel agent or should I plan myself and book online?

In November 2019, on my flights to Helsinki, I started talking to the gentlemen next to me about travel. He told me that he had booked a ticket through an online portal and cancelled it the same day. He ended up paying USD 150 (INR 11000 approx) towards cancellation charges. A travel agent would have done this for free without any charges.

Not all travel agents would do this. It depends upon your relationship with him and if you are giving him regular business, he will most probably help you save money. I asked this gentleman regarding why he booked online and not through the travel agent. He said the price was the same and the travel agent was charging a service fee of INR 1000 (USD 15) so he decided to book online.

Yes online is cheaper but not by much. When you lose money, it will compensate the extra you are paying your travel agent.

What about holidays? Holidays are a complex product and require research and planning. Travel agents may be good at selling standard product for e.g. 3N/4D Goa package but most travel agents are not aware of destinations. Try asking a travel agent what is there to do in Gulmarg or Paris? Or how do I go from Prague to Budapest or Darjeeling to Gangtok. Most will not know the answer. Reason is travel is a low margin industry and it is not feasible to hire high quality resources to assist you with the package.

If you like planning your own trip, you can now plan your holiday online. Most online players don’t have real time customised holidays but offer bits and pieces of the holiday. You could visit to help you with all information for planning and booking with cancellation policy and payment terms. Here the advantage is you will know how much you will spend on the holiday with the option to decide your prefered hotel and activities before booking the package. There are other sites offering this in their own way. You can choose whichever site you are comfortable with.

Travel agents have their own advantage and planning your own trip online is exciting for some people. To answer the question on whether to travel agent or self planning/booking, it really depends upon what kind of a person you are. If you don’t have time or are not confident, go with a travel agent. If you like your holiday to be your way and want more control over what you want to do, you could consider planning and booking online. 

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