Beware of Booking Travel Online. Read the fine print.
I recently had a friend ask me what to do when she needed to change their flight that they booked through one of these large travel booking engines or in the travel business what we call an Online Travel Agency (OTA). The problem was that the airline they were using was now using Expedia or Travelocity exclusively and not offering direct booking on their website. When they needed to change the flight, they had to call the booking engine company directly and not the airline. They had a lot of trouble speaking with a person and once they did they were charged all these extra fees to change the ticket. These fees were almost as much as the cost of the original airline ticket! What could they have done to avoid this happening?
So many people ask me “why should I use you or any other travel agent when I can just book on-line?” They are right, they can just book online. Unfortunately, when you book online if something goes wrong you end up being your own travel advocate and it could end up costing you many hours, energy, and money to get it fixed. My friend not only had to pay the airline fees to change the flight (which can be up to $150 on domestic or $200 on international) but they also had to pay the travel booking engine fee. For example, Travelocity’s fee to reissue an airline ticket is $40 per passenger in addition to the airlines fees of $150 per passenger. A total of almost $200 per person for the change.
Many people don’t want to pay a travel agent a service fee, especially upfront. However, when I looked further into these “fees” that were charged by booking online, many people are paying large amounts of service fees.
I found that Travelocity charges a “Processing Service Fee” for all cruise line reservations. There is no set amount so it may vary depending on the price of your cruise. When booking vacation packages they have a “Facilitation Fee” that you pay them for facilitating your travel arrangements. Again, there is no amount so it probably is a percentage of your total amount of the vacation package. All of these fees are incorporated into your final amount.
Other travel booking engines like Expedia have similar fees but you really have to look deep in their website to find them. What ends up happening is that you are paying service fees to the online booking site, and you still have to go through an automated system when you need to make a change. Also, do you know where your money is going? When you book with a travel agency like Life is Better Traveling, service fees go towards supporting a family which goes back into your local community.
Now back to the question I get a lot “why should I use you?” Why not pay a travel agent service fee to have the same person throughout the entire planning process, during the vacation, and even after the vacation? Someone who knows your whole vacation intimately so that when you call them, it is a quick and easy phone call, no automated system or long hold times.
Also, working with a travel agent gives you peace of mind that when something goes wrong you have someone who is in your corner and already knows your information and details. You won’t have to repeat it 10 times like my friend did with the booking engine company!
Did you know that travel agents can sometimes get you extra amenities, meals, or other special treatments that you won’t get from booking on-line. Want a free massage, a suite upgrade, a $250 resort credit, or a free tour? Yes, these are all incentives that, if available, a travel agent can provide to you. There are many times that I have been able to get my clients more incentives than that “deal” they thought they were getting if they would have booked online.
When it comes to finding a travel agent find someone out there who has a niche for where you want to travel. Try them out. They may or may not be a good fit for you. When picking a travel agent make sure you do your research. You don’t want somebody who doesn’t know what they are doing or hasn’t been to the places they are selling. I am speaking from experience, having had a great travel agent for our first Mediterranean cruise. She helped us find tours we never would have found on our own. So when you find a travel agent you love, DON’T LOSE THEM!!!!
Good travel agents are like good doctors, they are hard to find but when you find them hold onto them, even if you have to pay a service fee! Besides you will be spending a lot of money on your trip and you want the special touches and reassurance that a travel agent can give you.
Call us today to book your Europe trip. Looking for a motor coach tour, self-drive, or private tour, we can easily put together the perfect European vacation for you and your family’s needs.