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Do You Use Travel Agents For Hawaii Vacations?

I get a lot of emails asking me to help book trips to Hawaii. Well, I’m not a travel agent. It makes me wonder, however, if people are booking their vacations themselves exclusively, or are still using travel agents. I last used a travel agent in the 1990’s, which was before the advent of cell phone apps and online booking. Since then I’ve done a plethora of trips and have booked all forms of cruises, planes, trains, hotels, automobiles and activities.

When I last wrote about travel agencies, research showed that a third of us were willing to consider using agents. At the time I mentioned four companies intent on hooking us up with travel agents. They were Tripology, AdventureLink, Compete4YourSeat and Zicasso. I wondered if those companies were still in business, and if so how they were doing. Here’s the view of their current web traffic. What these low numbers (up to 30,000 recent visitors) tells me is that there remains little interest at least in terms of finding travel agents online.

Why I book all my own travel

As I suspect is true for most of you, I enjoy the adventure, the game if you will, of finding the exact components of a trip to suit my needs at the time. That includes the right accommodation, the best airfare and routing, the exact type of car, the activities, etc. And waiting in watch to pounce on the next great Hawaii airfare deal for example. I find all of this an exciting component of the trip before the trip, if you will. Further, the notion of explaining all of wants and needs to someone else, and expecting them to be able to virtually read my mind and carry out my wishes, seems far fetched. Lastly, since travel agents are commissioned in various and not always obvious ways on what they sell, there are opportunities for me to work better deals myself.

Can a travel agent help if something goes wrong?

Perhaps. In my experience, however, an agent at their desk is going to be able to do little more than I can to remedy any situation. I have never understood that thinking so often expressed that a TA will help you if something should go wrong. If something goes wrong I’d prefer to deal with the airline or the hotel directly.

Complex travel planning.

This is probably the most frequently cited reason for using a travel agent. Finding a destination specific agent you can work with for a complex trip, however, is a challenge in itself. Beyond reputation, experience and professionalism, how do you find someone who will take the time to understand your specific requirements? Well that may just be where one of the sites mentioned above would help.

Would I use a travel agent for another trip to Africa for example. Definitely not. For all the reasons stated above, I’d rather do it myself. But that’s just me. I look forward to hearing your comments.

Do you trust travel agents?

Here’s a post on the subject that I wrote last year.

Lastly, I’m looking to see if I ever wrote about what happened when my travel agent forgot to inform me that the flight times had changed, I missed my flight and had to charter a plane. No joke.

14 thoughts on “Do You Use Travel Agents For Hawaii Vacations?”

  1. It all depends on the complexity of the vacation and the amount of money being spent.
    About 4 years ago, my wife and I decided to share our love of the Hawaiian Islands with my parents and my sister. My parents live in another state 3/4ths the way across the country. My wife and I were cashing in frequent flyer miles for our flight and my sister was paying for hers. We all wanted to arrive on Oahu on the same day and stay in the same hotel for one week. Then hop on a plane and spend another week in our timeshare in Maui. As a twist, we all wanted to have part of the trip on the same airplane!
    Needless to say, this was quite the complex chain of events that needed to culminate at the same time. And while I have no doubts that I could have coordinated this trip with no problems…I have a full time job that my boss is paying me to do … So, planning this vacation would need to be done by a professional. So, I called The Hawaii Vacation Center. (http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Vacation-Center/177612652252869) Told the agent there what I was planning and after working out the details, a very reasonable rate was found and we had a successful vacation that we all talk about to this day!
    Now, we just came back from a one week vacation on the North Shore of Oahu in the quiaint town of Haleiwa. Using the flight tips from this sight, we picked up some amazing discounts on the round trip flights (45% off back in November). We googled vacation houses North Shore and found the perfect little beach cottage right on the beach at the end of a dead-end street. Falling asleep with the waves crashing right on your beach….there’s nothing like it! So, yeah…if the vacation is complex enough, then a travel agent is a good investment. Especially if something goes wrong…all it takes is one call to your travel agent and it is their responsibility to make it right again! Here’s a tip for travelers…American Express offers card holders full primary car rental insurance for $19/year. This covers LDL and all costs associated with rental car insurance. Quite a bargain!
    Also, when you start your travel, call your credit card companies and let them know your itinary. That way if they continue to see charges in Hawaii when you’re supposed to be home, they can flag the charges as suspect.

  2. The last time I used a travel agent was for a trip to the Riviera Maya in Mexico. We were supposed to have a connecting flight to Cancun in Chicago on United Airlines. When I checked the airline website a few days after booking I discovered the airline had changed our flights.

    Our new itinerary would get us into Chicago after the flight to Cancun had departed. When I called the travel agent he had no clue about the change made by the airline. If I had not checked with the airline myself he would never had known about the situation and made corrections for us.

    I am not saying that all travel agents are not to be trusted but I will never use a travel agent again. We have found that 99% of the time we can do better making all of our own travel arrangements.

  3. I’m with you. the last time I used a travel agent was… well, never. Wait, I used one from here in Thailand – she was a friend and had done us a lot of favors so I wanted to pay her back. I let her book my plane ticket from Krabi to Bangkok to Phnom Penh – and it cost me another $50 over what I could have done it myself online.

    That’s the only reason I’d use a travel agent.

    Some people still use them though. I worked as a marketing manager at a big Hawaii resort management firm a couple years back. Most of their bookings came from a travel company that put tours together – and booked all their travelers.

    I’d say there are still quite a few tour packages booked like that to Hawaii. Some people just have no inclination at all to jump online and start figuring stuff out. My mom. Actually, anyone over 60 I’d say (80+% of them) – my own made up stats.

    I think many people just see a tour package dollar amount and say, “HEY that’s cheap!” let’s go to Hawaii… without even checking any part of the trip for how much cheaper they might get it directly.

    Anyway, my 2 cents.

    Cheers guys, great site!

  4. If I was going somewhere for the firs time, I would probably use a travel agent….For Hawaii, I have been there frequently and know just where I want to stay on each island and use vrbo.com each year…and your info on flight sales! Thanks for your great posts.

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