More people opt for travel agents when booking vacations than pre-pandemic

(WXYZ) — If a staycation is not your idea of a summer vacation, but rising prices are squeezing your budget, your best option might be to go through a travel agent.

With airfare and the price of hotels going up, more and more people are using travel agents as a way to save a few bucks and keep ever-changing COVID travel rules straight.

Denise Butts of Destiny D Travel LLC became a travel agent several years ago. She’s getting more calls from new clients.

“I’m getting more calls I would say from people I do not know,” she said.

Jill Jones, a travel concierge from Cadillac Travel in Southfield, is also fielding more calls.

“You know, for years, people just thought travel agencies were like dinosaurs, like, ‘Oh, is there a travel agent?’ And yeah, I think we’re back,” Jones said.

Both women say more people are realizing what travel agents can offer — like promotion codes, vendor discounts, extra perks, and more.

“A travel agency has a reservation system that shows that all-in-one screen, every airline, every bucket of inventory. So, you might be asking for noon on Thursday, but an agent can tell you 5:00 on Thursday is less expensive. Are you flexible?” Jones said.

We can find those deals that they wouldn’t be able to find on their own because of the vendors that our agency works with,” Butts explained.

Last year, a flash poll conducted by the American Society of Travel Advisors found 76% of travel advisers were seeing an increase in customers in 2021 compared to before the pandemic, and 80% were hearing from travelers who had never worked with a travel adviser before.

“What are the best destinations for people who are trying to have a vacation on a budget?” I asked.

“Mexico is a good place for good deals right now. The Dominican Republic, of course. And Bali is running some really good specials right now,” Butts said.

“Mexico has always been huge. And the reason it’s huge is that they’re extremely competitive in pricing,” Jones explained.

Their suggestions if you want to save on airfare or hotels? Be flexible in your arrival and departure dates, look at all-inclusive resorts, and consider cruises.

Butts said if your budget is tight, the site allows you to book a flight with one upfront payment and a service fee, then the rest can be paid in installments — like layaway for those who want an affordable getaway.

Both ladies say if you really want to find the best deals on airfare, you need to plan in advance — about six-to-12 months in advance. Airlines open their inventory 331 days ahead, so start searching as soon as you can.