I was driving through my dad’s sleepy town — the town where I spent my formative high school years — about a week ago, when I noticed a little white building tucked away on the side of a one-lane road. That building had been there ever since my family moved in a decade ago, but I’ve never really given it much attention. Last week, I finally realized what it was: a travel agency. Yes, a brick-and-mortar place where you go (in person) to talk to someone else (also in person) and pay him or her to plan your trip for you — your plane tickets, your tour times, your hotel stays . . . all in person.
To me, this is a foreign and exotic concept. As a digital native, I’d sooner find my own deals than pay someone else to do it, and I definitely prefer the (perhaps imagined) flexibility that comes with making my own plans.
But the more I thought about it, the more it maybe-kinda-sorta made sense. Perhaps it isn’t an awful idea to pay someone to do that web hunting for you, someone who knows the best vendors and who can get fantastic deals (often because they buy in bulk), someone who knows the best spots in the best areas to visit. Especially if you haven’t gone abroad very often.
I think, for now, I’ll stick with my own planning. But I’m curious: have any of you ever used a travel agent? Do people still do that anymore? If you have, was it a good or bad experience?
I was also thinking about how I actually go about booking all my trips. I usually do some kind of marathon Internet surfing, hitting a million sites and doing price comparisons. I have a few favorites: statravel and studentuniverse for super cheap airline tickets, hostelworld for hostels (obviously), airbnb for other lodging.
Honestly, though, I want to know what your favorites are. I don’t like the idea that I could be missing out on awesomely cheap travel because I’m not familiar with all the ins and outs of the online travel scene.
What websites are your go-tos for sweet travel deals? Do you have any that you avoid?