How much time do you spend researching your next vacation? According to Expedia, Americans visit 140 travel websites before booking their next vacation. Could you be saving time and money using a travel agent?
"Really truly what we work on is value, you're getting someone with knowledge and experience on your side, so you don't have to do all of the work," said Crystal Seaton with Road to Relaxation Travel.
Seaton says booking through a travel agent typically won't cost you more. She says while some agents will charge you a nominal planning fee, many agencies like hers do not charge anything extra for their services.
"We get paid a commission on the back end from the vendor, so that's how we make our income," she said.
She did say they sometimes charge a fee if it's for a major complex trip with extensive planning.
When it comes to getting the same deals offered online, Seaton says, "99 percent of the time we can get the same deals."
"What I caution people," she said, "is to look beyond price to value because sometimes those digital deals come with a lot of small print that you don't notice upfront."
You need to make sure the advertised price is the final cost, and there are no extra taxes and fees added on after booking.
Seaton gave examples of when travel agents can save their clients' money on trips to Disney.
"We monitor promotions," she said. "Disney had a fall promotion that's come out recently. Our agents were up through the night waiting for it to drop based on what we're hearing, and then we go through the reservations that are booked for us and see who qualifies for it and apply it."
She says agents do the same thing when it comes to cruises and all-inclusive trips.
When you book on your own, you could be locked in on the price. The biggest difference is time.
According to Expedia, Americans spend nearly 23 hours on travel websites six weeks prior to booking a vacation. Those are hours that you could save for other things and let a travel agent do the work for you.
If you prefer booking your trip on your own online, Rob Stern, with RobPlansYourTrip.com says consider this: " Travel agents offer many things that the Internet does not, including personal knowledge of destinations and our recent travel experiences, knowing the quality of different travel suppliers, and providing a live resource for help during your trip. We have access to some industry only booking engines for travel packages as well."
If you book through an agent, they can also help when problems arise on your trip.
"Travel agents can help with troubleshooting when suppliers don't come through, in cases of bad weather, labor strikes, lost luggage, flight delays and cancellations," he said. "If there's an issue at a hotel or with a car rental when can often resolve it. We can explain what types of travel protection plans are the best for your type of trip."
Whether you are booking on your own or with an agent, Seaton says, "My best advice is to plan early. Your better deals are almost always early."