Are travel agents cost-effective?

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – It’s the season for summer vacations, and whether you’re going somewhere in the United States or abroad, the trips can be costly.

Do you save more money by booking a vacation yourself or by using a travel agent? WYTV put it to the test to see whether using a travel agent is worth it.

WYTV Reporter Molly Reed booked a week-long vacation for a family of four to Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. She spent almost six hours researching websites to find the best deals.

Websites like Trip Advisor made it easy to read reviews and pick the best spots, based on others’ experiences. An all-inclusive hotel took care of food, drinks and activities such as snorkeling.

Hotels ranged from just more than $1,000 to $2,100 for the week. Molly booked a hotel for $1,175 and added on $2,000 for a flight, bringing the grand total to $3,242 with taxes and fees.

Then, she went to Tippecanoe Travel Services to sit down with Travel Agent Mary Ann Dwyer. She found the same vacation using Apple Vacations — a service for travel agencies.

What took Molly six hours took Dwyer just three minutes, and she was able to book a direct charter flight open only to agencies. That flight ended up costing less than half of the price.

She then chose a popular hotel with a premium package.

The total?

A flight and hotel cost $3,476, without the fees that many travel agencies charge. Dwyer said her fee can vary, based on time spent booking a trip. While some travel agents receive their pay from airlines and hotels that they book through, many agents charge those labor fees, which can be up to $100 per hour.

While you may have to pay more for a travel agent, they can save quite a bit of trip-planning time.

Dwyer said despite the popularity in vacation booking websites, her agency’s clientele is still there.

“We are getting a lot of them back, a lot of clients back, because they go on there and they get confused with so many sites and pop-ups, and they just get lost and get frustrated,” she said.

Dwyer also pointed out that travel agents have actually visited most of the places that they book for clients, so they are able to recommend things to do and places to stay. She said to most hotels and airlines, you’re just another credit card number, but when they see an agency, it’s someone they’ve built business connections with.

“We’re pretty familiar with the hotels and beaches, and sometimes, the beaches are eroded and people don’t realize that when picking a hotel. They don’t think to event think about that,” she said.

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