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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.

  5. I never use travel agents – even when traveling to unfamiliar, 3rd world countries. I find the “deals” they offer me to be much more expensive than those I scout out on my own. Plus like y’all, I love the investigative part of the planning – I start to learn about where I’ll be traveling. Living in Maui though, it feels like I function as a travel agent – always refer people to Beat of Hawaii for your wonderful deals and put a link to you on all my newsletters and website – keep up the great work!

  6. I used Blue Hawaii vacations last year, and they found me a great deal on an ocean view suite in Waikiki. I will definitely use them again. He got me exactly what I wanted, and at a price less than booking with the hotel direct.

  7. I have been a travel agent for over 20 years. I chose to specialize in Hawaii over the past 17 because I want to know where I’m sending my clients. I make sure to see all the hotels and condos I can when I go to the islands (about 2-3 times a year). I find that the majority of people who like to have me help them are those who are going to Hawaii or a particular island for the first time. Of course, they look online at first, but then get overwhelmed with all the information. I like to find the perfect places for them to stay, after talking with them about the ambience or atmosphere they want. I’ve never been wrong about my accommodation choices for people. I do put a lot of thought into my packages (probably more than most travel agents).

    Regarding your comment about whether a travel agent can help you while on your trip. Well, just last week, I received a text (yes, I tell my clients to call or text me anytime if they need help, even in the middle of the night or on weekends) from a young couple who had flown from Dallas to LAX on their way to Maui. When they arrived at LAX, they were told that their 12pm flight to Maui had been cancelled. I immediately got on my computer and saw that every flight was sold out to Maui from LAX. Zeros across the board. I kept looking and did find a Delta flight at 5pm with 2 seats left on it. I grabbed the two seats and built a reservation around them, releasing the seats to Delta for ticketing. Long story short, they were able to get United to sign the tickets over to Delta and Delta used my reservation to get my couple to Maui – a bit late, but not the next day when the majority of the other passengers were able to get out of LAX.

    Another reason to use a travel agent – I recently sent a family to the Kauai Marriott. They were booked in a gardenview room for 8 nights. I contacted my ‘friend’ in the Sales Department and got them upgraded to an ocean view room. Needless to say, they came home very happy with their vacation, and travel agent! A good travel agent has contacts at each hotel who can take care of clients.

    So, there are advantages of using a travel agent, at least one who really cares about each traveler’s experience and that they always return home happy.

    Nancy Herron

  8. Informational sources, such as you, help many of us who prefer making our own arrangements find the best deals. I have managed to come up with some good deals whenever I plan a trip back home to Hawaii and you have helped in bringing some specials I would not otherwise be aware of, so thanks for that.

  9. I like booking my own travel. I have nothing against agents but feel I know my wants/needs and can explore possibilities that an agent might not. My advice: start planning and researching early and be thorough for best results.

  10. Hi,

    I rarely use an Agent and have never used one for any of my trips to the Hawaiian Islands. The packages prices are not as good as I can get myself doing air/hotel separately.

    Travel and travel planning is my hobby and I enjoy the research and finding my own deals. I also get some good ideas from Beat of Hawaii !

    I always say the best person to look after me is ME !

  11. Ur absolutely right I also live the game of it and also love telling people that I flew to Cali for 188 dollars and watching their jaws hit the ground..lol better off doing it myself I always have ppl asking me to book this or that for them ..lol I love ur emails they help a ton..thx

  12. My brother was looking for LAX-LIH tickets for 1 week ago and was getting 800-900 dollar fares on direct flights- He called a travel agent who got him a fare for 560 w/ added rental car with a good rate- they still have blocks of tickets to sell on Hawaii flights

  13. I use them rarly if I am going into uncharted (for me) waters so to speak. We go to kauai frequently so there is no need, I use your service and then book direct, then I use Kauai discount car rentals for the rent a car. (they always get me cars much cheaper than I can get them direct. and I have family over there so no need for hotels. Works for me and thanks for this service, it is a big help.

  14. I, like you, enjoy the process of research and planning. For me, that’s the fun before the trip! And the internet has made that so easy, I can’t imagine why I’d need a travel agent….though I do feel bad about contributing to the demise of that part of the industry.

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