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What does a Travel Agent do?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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A travel agent is a professional who specializes in making travel arrangements on behalf of other people. At times, the services of a travel agent can be extremely useful; travel agents often have access to cheap fares, hotel deals, and other travel perks which average consumers cannot get on their own. A travel agent may choose to work freelance, or as part of a larger travel agency. Some agents specialize in a particular field of travel like business travel, exotic travel, or honeymoon arrangements. In some cases, a travel agent also provides overseas support and referrals, which can sometimes be incredibly useful.

At a minimum, a travel agent can book tickets for people who wish to travel to a particular destination; most travel agents focus on air, rail, and sea travel and the myriad options available, including varying classes and routes. The agent may also arrange a rental car and accommodations, if desired, along with services like a pickup at an airport or dock, or a gourmet meal waiting on arrival. Travel agents also have a lot more to offer, however, thanks to their extensive experience in the industry and as travelers themselves.

For example, a travel agent can offer recommendations about vaccinations and preventative medicine regimens which may be required for foreign travel. Travel agents can also help to organize visas and passports for their clients, ensuring that they move smoothly during their trip. Some travel agents can also recommend language classes and other preparations for a trip, while others might have helpful hints and tips for their customers to ensure that the clients enjoy the trip.

A specialty travel agent who focuses on something like business travel may include things in a travel package which are tailored to businesspeople, such as specially organized tours, or accommodations which include needed services like Internet access. Travel agents sell themselves on their ability to organize complex and fun trips, whether they be whirlwind tours through Europe or leisurely luxury cruises.

Employment in this industry is waning, because Internet sites allow consumers to access many deals directly. However, in a crisis a travel agent can be quite useful; for example, upon the death of a loved one, someone might prefer to allow someone else to organize travel arrangements. A travel agent is also experienced in all of the quirks of the travel system, and a trip can sometimes run more smoothly with a travel agent at the helm.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseTour researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon944276 — On Apr 06, 2014

I suppose there are still a few older people who wouldn't know how to look all this stuff up themselves, but almost everyone else knows they just have to go to a travel site to check the flights and hotel prices. If you pick the right site, it's going to be cheaper than a travel agent can manage.

By anon936791 — On Mar 03, 2014

Whenever I go on holiday, I never use a travel agent as they are not needed in the modern day.

By anon335995 — On May 25, 2013

Sometimes it is good to work alongside a travel agent because of their experience. Many travelers have special needs or preferences and a travel agent may come handy.

By anon325167 — On Mar 14, 2013

But why not just have a trip that you just go on ahead with instead of constantly plan? Why not?

By anon311161 — On Dec 30, 2012

@Ana1234: I have been a travel agent for the past six years and I spend the best part of my days listening and 'fixing' holidays that people (of all ages) have tried to book online themselves!

By bythewell — On Nov 30, 2012

@croydon - The problem with that is that they are getting their money somehow and if it's not from you, it's on commission which means it's not actually in their best interest to get you the cheapest deal.

I always double check with online travel agents and with my own research before going to a travel agent. That way I know what I should be getting.

By croydon — On Nov 29, 2012

@Ana1234 - It's not as simple as that. I'm well versed in using the internet and if I'm just going on a simple trip I will usually book the hotel and flights myself, but if I'm doing something more complicated I will almost always go to a travel agent.

There are several advantages. For one thing, a travel agent will often be able to get discounts you can't get on your own. They are better able to juggle the flights, no matter how advanced the website you look at. Plus they can tell you how difficult it will be to get to your hotel from that particular airport and so forth.

Also, a travel agent offers an additional layer of protection to your travel insurance. They are someone you can call if you get into trouble.

Finally, they are going to be much better than the average person at remembering and knowing all the things you have to do. And there's no extra cost. Yes, almost everything they do for you could be done online, yourself, but that takes time. Why not get someone else to do it all, expertly, and for free?

By Ana1234 — On Nov 28, 2012

I'm not sure why there are still so many travel agent jobs in the world, to be honest. I mean, they are almost pointless for people who have and understand the internet.

I suppose there are still a few older people who wouldn't know how to look all this stuff up themselves, but almost everyone else knows they just have to go to a travel site to check the flights and hotel prices. If you pick the right site it's going to be cheaper than a travel agent can manage.

By anon251679 — On Mar 02, 2012

This is just the information I needed. Thanks for being so specific.

By latte31 — On Jul 17, 2010

Allienoelle- You made a good point that I had not thought of before. I feel that hiring a travel agent is particularly useful when traveling overseas because travel agents are most aware of the various tours available and the suggested attractions you should visit.

They also can provide an inside tip on which restaurants to visit and which ones to skip.

As far as domestic travel, I agree with the writer that demands for a travel agent are not as great because most Americans are familiar with which attractions to visit and many even use hotel points accumulated via loyalty programs that make hotel arrangements seamless.

By allienoelle — On Jul 09, 2010

It is often a good idea to hire a travel agent that speaks multiple languages. If you are traveling internationally, hire a travel agent that speaks the language of your destination.

A travel agent will often have to contact hotel managers, tour guides and airports in other countries to arrange for your trip. These people will sometimes not speak English and it will be hard for your travel agent to arrange for your accommodations if she does not speak the national language of the country. Choosing a bilingual travel agent will often save you time and frustration down the road.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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