Travel Agencies: Once in Decline, Now on the Rise

By Brenna Kehew Sculley

by ELYSIAN Magazine

One of the hardest parts of planning a weekend away with a loved one or friends is the planning itself. 

We all love obsessing over the details, and there are so many ways to use the internet and apps to pre-plan your next adventure. It can be fun analyzing itineraries, restaurant reviews, and travel blogs and poring over every moment. But sometimes… even for the most Type-A among us, it is nice to let go of the reins and enjoy the ride.

Travel agencies, once a booming industry in United States and across the world, have been in decline. There were just 13,000 retail travel locations in the United States in 2016, down about 60% from the mid-1990s peak of 34,000 locations, according to a CNN report. After a tough few years during COVID, travel agencies are seeing huge surges in business, surpassing even their pre-pandemic numbers. Travel agencies’ growth across the board in 2023 is projected to be 6.3%, and trends suggest that this once-dying industry is truly back. 

For those who don’t want to plan any details, Pack Up + Go may hold the key. Essentially, it is a surprise travel agency that showcases unique and overlooked cities across America. Their team plans you a weekend, and you don’t know the destination until the night before you fly! You answer a pre-trip survey and provide the dates, budget, and important details needed to get you booked, and Pack Up + Go connects you with one of its curated vacations. Founded in 2016 in Pittsburgh, this agency supports local businesses and economies nationwide by connecting travelers with unexpected locales. With more than 300 destinations and 30,000 travelers over the last six years, we know that every destination has amazing things to do, see, and experience.

Even if you aren’t looking for a total surprise, there are ways to be delighted and surprised when you travel, especially if you weren’t the one hounding the Yelp reviews to figure out where to go.



One bride-to-be shared with me her experience booking for her upcoming honeymoon with a travel agency: “With all the wedding details, we just had decision fatigue and wanted to outsource the honeymoon.” Lindsey Vidinha and her soon-to-be husband will be getting married in Newport, Rhode Island, at the end of April and will head off to Portugal and Italy. While their trip isn’t a surprise, and they’ve excitedly combed through all the details, most of their trip has been planned by an agent they’ve worked with at Liberty Travel. They settled on a budget, talked through sites they wanted to see, perused a few options their agent suggested, and are looking forward to enjoying the accommodations and sites. 

Luxury agencies like Virtuoso, invite-only agencies like Velocity Black, solo group travel agencies with full meals, accommodations, and excursions planned for you like Flash Pack (as recently detailed in the New York Times) and Contiki continue to rise in popularity.

There are many ways to travel, so however you plan and wherever you go, enjoy the ride!



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