Budgeting for a trip can be far trickier than it initially seems. In addition to hotels, rental cars, food, souvenirs, and event tickets, there’s also transportation to consider. And if you’re hoping to lower your overall vacation costs, your airline tickets are a great place to start.
It’s more expensive to book flights with a travel agent than to book online from home. That’s because travel agents typically charge for their services, even booking a flight on your behalf. Still, an agent’s services could be worthwhile for some travelers hoping to avoid stressful vacation planning.
Figuring out your travel itinerary can be stressful and challenging, especially if you’re unfamiliar with your destination. Booking your flight with a travel agent could be an excellent alternative to booking from home, but is it more expensive to book flights with a travel agent? Let’s find out!
What Factors Influence Flight Prices?
The factors that influence flight prices include the seat type, arrival and departure times, flight duration, airport size, and the time of the year.
For example, if you’d like to fly first class to a remote destination during a busy time of the year, you’ll likely pay more than someone traveling in economy seats during the off-season.
Let’s go over each of the factors below.
Most flights offer several different types of seat classes or types. The most affordable of these is often called Economy (or Coach), while the priciest airline classes are often Club, Business, or First Class. As you might expect, each airline class comes with specific perks.
If you’re determined to keep your travel costs low, you might happily choose a budget seat that allows for just enough leg space and a mid-flight snack. But if you’d rather experience the best service your airline has to offer, you could spend extra to upgrade to a better seat in the sky.
Of course, seating type isn’t the only aspect to consider when budgeting for a flight. It’s also wise to consider your flight’s arrival and departure times. After all, flights that fall within the standard nine-to-five range can be far pricier than red-eye flights.
Arrival and Departure Times
Did you know that your flight’s arrival and departure time can affect the price of the ticket? If you’ve ever been amazed at the low cost of a late-night flight, you might be familiar with the concept.
Generally, people prefer to travel during the waking hours of the day. The demand for daytime flights is far higher than the demand for pre-dawn or late-night options. Consequently, if you’re comfortable with arriving at the airport very late or very early, you may be able to reduce the overall cost of your airfare.
In addition, there may be good and bad times of the day to book your flight. So before you start browsing for flights or contacting your local travel agent, be sure to double-check your flight and booking times.
This factor is relatively straightforward. The longer your flight, the more jet fuel your plane needs to stay in the air. Additionally, longer flights tend to offer comprehensive meal services. As such, international or lengthy flights tend to cost a little more than shorter flights.
Are you flying into or away from a remote, regional airport? If so, you can expect to spend more than those utilizing larger, international airports. That’s because smaller airports in challenging locations tend to have few operating airlines—if any.
This means that pilots can charge far more for their services, knowing that they’re often the only option for some passengers. Additionally, some regional airports enforce punitive charges that make it challenging for pilots to lower airfare prices.
Time of the Year
In addition to the time of the day, the time of the year can significantly impact your flight cost. If you’ve ever tried to catch an affordable last-minute flight around Christmas or New Year’s, you’ll probably have a good idea of just how important it is to time your flight booking.
Be sure to brush up on some of the most expensive days to fly, and if you’re traveling to a new destination, take the time to research any upcoming holidays or festivals. Doing so could help you save a little money on that airfare.
How Much Does It Cost To Book Flights Yourself?
The cost to book flights yourself varies depending on your chosen route. For example, you could contact a specific airline and purchase airfare directly through them or through a third-party aggregator. True airfare costs vary based on dates of travel, airports utilized, seat preferences, and airline.
Of course, you could also choose to use one of the many travel fare aggregators, like Expedia, Hotwire, and KAYAK. But which is the most affordable option? We designed a handful of hypothetical travel plans and tested them to find out.
Travel Fare Aggregators
If you decide to go without a travel agent, you’ll likely end up using a travel fare aggregator to find an affordable flight. These can be useful in finding low-cost flights, as they typically show all available flights for your specific dates and destination versus having to search each airline individually.
Still, some aggregators are more capable than others. After testing several hypothetical routes, we found that Google Flights had the best prices on the best possible flights. While travel fare behemoths like KAYAK and Priceline had some super-low fares, they were for hellish multi-change flights with 12-hour layovers.
In terms of non-stop (or minimal-stop) routes and low prices, Google Flights slightly outdid the competition. Still, a flight is only the first step toward a vacation or business trip. After that, you’ll need to consider lodgings, food, transport, and recreation.
If you’re not sure how to plan a trip for yourself, or you feel stressed out each time you consider looking for flights and hotels, you could entrust your time away to a travel agent. However, booking with a travel agent does pose some potential drawbacks.
Is It More Expensive To Book Through a Travel Agent?
The cost to book a flight with a travel agent varies, often depending on the precise services you need. For example, if you only want a travel agent to book a flight for you, you might pay an agent fee of about $40 in addition to the cost of your ticket. This fee is to reimburse them for their time searching, booking, and managing your flight.
When you use a travel agent, they don’t just book the flight and leave. They also help you make the right decisions, know how to find the best rates, and then keep an eye on the flights for any changes or problems. If your flight is canceled or you get bumped, they are also there to help get you back on track. The extra fees can be well worth it to have the extra expertise and support.
If you’d like a travel agent to book your flight, reserve a hotel room for you, and create a jam-packed itinerary on your behalf, you’re looking at a slightly steeper agent fee as this would take them far more time to plan and book.
Still, no matter what services you opt for, one thing is evident: Booking flights with a travel agent is almost always more expensive than booking online from home. However, booking through a travel agent could be the better option if you’d like help choosing a flight or hotel.
A travel agent can also recommend local attractions and restaurants to help guide you through your destination comfortably. This kind of peace of mind could be the perfect way to kickstart your vacation, so it might be worthwhile to consider using an agent’s services.
Booking flights with a travel agent is more expensive than booking with a travel fare app or website. That’s because travel agents charge more for their services than travel fare aggregator websites.
The most straightforward and affordable option for travelers might be Google Flights. But that doesn’t mean booking through a travel agent is a bad idea or that it’s unaffordable. On the contrary, these professionals can book flights for you and plan your vacation for you. As such, booking with a travel agent provides a little extra peace of mind.