Once upon a time, and not that long ago, people relied heavily on brick-and-mortar travel agents for their business trips and vacation plans. It made sense. The travel agent, who had the potential to send hundreds of clients to a hotel or airline, often enjoyed great discounts that were passed along, at least in part, to the traveler. The travel agent was often very familiar with the destination and could offer professional advice about the trip's particulars, (like whether or not to drink the water.)
Today, travel agents are still a viable option for many businesses or individuals - especially for those with little time to spare, or for those trips that may need the expertise of a professional. Of course, many, if not most of them, can be found and dealt with online, rather than inside an office. Aside of the face-to-face experience, the biggest difference we see today is the increased competition among agencies. Since a single low-overhead website can cover the whole world's territory, there are more travel agents competing than ever. The end result is of great economic value to the consumer.
So, what about doing it all yourself? According to the US Travel Association, we are doing just that with over 65% of travelers using the Internet to make their plans. From air travel and ground transportation, to rentals and lodging, many people are making their own arrangements. And it's no wonder-the Internet is the best possible place to nose out the best possible deals. Not only can you find great air travel rates and use auction style bidding for hotels rooms, you can also locate the best prices for gas once you've mapped your road trip.
But it's not just about the best deals. Scheduling and information are just as important if not more important than budget for a smooth trip. That's where online planning really makes a difference. Viewing entire schedules, trying different dates for better rates, and choosing your seat on the airplane is just the beginning.
Let's say you really enjoy white water rafting and would like to go on an adventure to a place you've never been. A simple Internet search will return a long list of rafting adventures and locations to choose from. When you you've found an adventure that appeals to you-perhaps a trip to Ecuador- you'll then be able to search the name of the tour company and seek a list of customer reviews, pictures and even video. You can also search for travel tips, language lessons and places to find gear.
Maybe it's a business trip that has you planning. What if your business takes you to an obscure location that you've never been -somewhere between "nowhere" and "really-nowhere"? A quick search will give you a visual of the place you'll be doing business, an idea of where you can stay, an understanding of the local culture, and a list of places to eat in the area- all of which will help bring peace of mind so that you can focus on your business purpose.
If you're vacationing at a favorite location, working with some spare time during a business trip, or seeking the adventure of a lifetime, the Internet will open thousands of doors for you. Travel Agencies still make very good sense, but getting the most out of your trip is up to you.