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What are Travel Agents?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Travel agents are professionals who provide assistance with organizing and booking travel. At one time, it was very difficult for people to book tickets for plane, train, and boat trips without the assistance of a travel agent, although this changed with the advent of web sites geared at travelers who wanted to make their own arrangements. The services of a travel agent can still be quite valuable, especially for people who are not experienced travelers.

Most travel agents work at a travel agency, a business which provides a variety of travel services to clients, although it is also possible to work with an independent travel agent. An array of services can be contracted through a travel agent, from a simple request to book a plane ticket to a meticulously planned trip. Typically, the fee is a percentage of the cost of the trip, although some travel agents charge flat fees for their work.

In addition to making reservations for travel, a travel agent can also reserve a rental car, book hotel rooms, secure restaurant reservations, and organize various excursions and trips. For example, people traveling to Costa Rica might ask a travel agent to hire a local guide to take them on a rainforest hike. Travel agents can also provide recommendations about places to go, things to do, and spots to see, a service which is often appreciated by people who do not have much experience in the area they are traveling to.

Other forms of travel assistance like local maps, information about travel vaccines, and pamphlets about culturally-appropriate behavior can also be provided by a travel guide. Travel guides also have tips about the best times of year to travel and things to watch out for in various regions of the world. Some may also offer recommendations about language schools, and others offer assistance with visas and other travel documents to smooth the way for their clients.

One of the big perks of a job as a travel agent is the travel requirement. Because travel agents must provide recommendations and work with locally-based companies, they need to travel to get a feel for the places they recommend to their clients, and to experience the service at specific hotels, restaurants, and other establishments. Travel agents can often secure very low-cost travel deals, and they get a chance to travel all over the world as part of their work.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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 WiseGeek 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 SkyWhisperer — On May 12, 2011

I use the online travel websites just to get a preliminary idea of the going rates, but I still use travel agents myself. The reason is simple—I hate sorting through all the paperwork and details necessary to get my travel arrangements together.

Like you, I do a lot of overseas traveling and there are constant visa updates and regulations by the state department, health alerts, luggage fees and requirements, and a whole bunch of other things I find difficult to keep track of. The best travel agents will track down all of this information for you. If you use travel insurance, an agent can also help you find the best rates on insurance.

By NathanG — On May 09, 2011

I have relatives who live in Asia. Whenever we need to travel overseas to visit them, we try to find travel agents who speak the language and are familiar with the area we are visiting. She can often get us deals on low airfares which you can’t get online.

She also advises us as to the best time of the year to travel to get the best deals, and the best values for airlines in that region. Sometimes she will even update us on some of the geopolitical conflicts that may make travel to certain locations dangerous, or at least inconvenient.

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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