Booking all of the components of your holiday yourself online can throw up lots of difficulties other than the ones we all already know about (lack of ATOL protection in some cases, no agent to give you advice, no back up or anyone to help if your flights are delayed or cancelled which is imperitive when booking a cruise). There are many more though and after some research I thought I’d name a few:
1. Online software doesn’t always hook up to the hotel’s system.
A guaranteed reservation is almost impossible to come by and the risk of finding out your flight or hotel is overbooked increases when you book online. The software isn’t immune to system errors whereas when you speak to an agent, they use a live system for live availability.
2. Don’t be fooled by packages: Often, they’re the items no one else wants grouped together.
Travel sites often recommend one-stop shopping. A hotel, car hire, and tour package all in one click. These deals usually feature items that no one else wants, like flights with multiple stopovers.
3. If you’re trying to save on travel agent fees, you might be spending more with online ‘do it yourself’ packages.
According to statistics, the average service fee for booking airline tickets in 2009 was around £20. Yet that can outweigh £100 or more in straight savings, as well as added benefits (like upgrades and better flights) you can get from a travel agent. A newspaper did a series of test runs, finding the best available flights online and comparing that to what a travel agent could do. The results: usually, the travel agent came in cheaper—fees included.
4. Last-minute travel isn’t the same deal it used to be especially when it comes to cruises.
At the height of the online travel site boom, last minute was the time to book—cheap flights! Cheap hotels! Fly out this weekend! But the last minute deal has ceased to exist; now the best time to book is as early as you can to get the best value for money with a lot of cruise lines offering free on board credit, free drinks packages and huge ‘Early Booking’ discounts.
5. You may be missing out on airline or hotel loyalty points.
Don’t book online if you want to continue to collect loyalty points or miles. Sometimes you’ll get the minimum but your booking won’t make you eligible for any special offers like double points on weekend stays. Work directly with a travel agent to build up the loyalty points that will get you upgrades and priority rewards.
6. Travel agents often can share exclusive offers and extras.
Online booking sites are all about dates, rates, and space, meaning their goal is to put heads in beds, says Misty Ewing at Virtuoso luxury travel network. But for the same price, an agent might have connections and special access. “For example, when traveling in Italy, you can take a cooking class with a local resident in her home—a level of authenticity not provided by the Internet,” she says.
7. Online, you might not see every option available to you.
No travel site will show you options from every airline or hotel chain and not everyone includes budget-friendly choices like Ryanair. But travel sites often leave out more options for lodging, listing big names and omitting little inns, bed-and-breakfasts, and rentals that travel agents have exclusive access to.
8. Once your trip is purchased, you’re on your own.
All trips, no matter how well planned, are vulnerable to cancelled flights, inferior hotel rooms or torrential weather. An online travel agency can’t and won’t provide assistance the same way an agent can. Basically, when you arrive at the airport or hotel, you’re just another client who booked at the lowest rate.
9. Online deal sites can’t give first-hand experience.
A website can’t tell you the exact location of the hotel, the room, the view, the size, or whether or not the room needs renovation. You’ll have to do more research on your own or risk getting stuck in the dimly lit room in the back of the building with a picture-perfect view of the air conditioning unit. They also can’t tell you which cruise ship cabins are noisy, quiet, have restricted views and the like. A real person with real experience can.
10. They also aren’t as up to date as an agent…
An online travel site often won’t tell you if construction work is happening in the hotel or somewhere near by. Researching on other sites might turn up this information, but an agent is likely to be the best resource for knowing what’s going on.
11. They won’t know who else will be staying there.
Planning a romantic anniversary trip for two? That won’t matter to a group of hens or stags at the same hotel or on the same mini cruise. An online company can’t tell you when a large group is booked too, making it uncomfortable for the few guests who aren’t in the group.
We will always endeavour to give you the best service and the best value for money with our years of experience, knowledge and training. Plus, you get to speak to someone. It’s good to talk. Even if it’s because you’re stuck in Chile because your passports have been stolen and you’ve been unable to get on your cruise due to said theft and need us to arrange for you to fly to Easter Island once your emergency passports have been issued. Yes. That has happened. We do have our uses and we’re here for you to use us (in the right ways).