With the seemingly endless amount of travel resources now available online, does it still make sense to book your trip with a travel agent? It often depends on the complexity of your trip.
If it’s just you and your spouse traveling to a familiar destination, the arrangements should be pretty straightforward and easily handled online. But, if your journey is to an unknown location, and involves coordinating the arrivals and departures of multiple people and the arranging of various outings and excursions, a full-service travel agent can be a Godsend.
In his article, “Why Use A Travel Agent,” Joseph A. Watters, President of Crystal Cruises, listed the important services travel agents provide their clients either free or for a nominal charge:
1. Distilling the product information: No one knows more about travel and trip planning than a travel agent. They’re up on the latest news, packages, and ways to save money.
2. Investigating and supplying competitive information: Airlines don’t share competing information, like prices, about each other. Travel agents have that information at their fingertips.
3. Staying abreast of the most current and timely promotions: Since travel agents get all the information from industry-only emails, airline district managers, and other sources, they have the most up-to-date promotional information.
4. Analyzing the current promotions: Travel agents can also advise you on the best value over the best price. Remember, a cheap price is not always a bargain if you’re uncomfortable, have to pay extra costs, or get bumped.
5. Clarifying the fine print, such as cancellation penalties and restrictions: A travel agent can tell you of any of the pitfalls you might not otherwise spot on a travel booking website.
6. Making recommendations for travel-related options: Since travel agents are always up on the latest news about the travel industry, including the destinations, they can give you ideas of how to pack, what to expect, places to shop and dine, and packages to try.
7. Simplifying the research and subsequent transaction: Rather than spending hours yourself looking for individual hotels, rental cars, flights, dining reservations, ask your travel agent to help you out. They can act as a personal concierge for organizing your itinerary, saving you the time you need to handle the rest of your life. And you can be sure they’re going to act in your best interest, not the destination locations’
8. Enhancing the trip with value-added benefits and amenities: A travel agent, especially one who’s knowledgeable about your destination, can enhance the experience by putting you in touch with special packages and amenities that the average traveler isn’t going to hear about.
9. Using their clout to obtain the best possible in seemingly impossible situations: Travel agents have a little caché when it comes to their position, name, and buying power. Hotel owners, airline booking agents, and cruise organizers know that a big portion of their business comes from travel agents, and they’ll work to keep them happy — even to the point of getting perks and amenities that you couldn’t have gotten if you tried it yourself.
10. Getting problems resolved: Your travel agent will also, like a true concierge, handle any problems you have when something goes wrong. Get bumped from your flight? Call your travel agent to rebook. Need a different hotel or rental car? Rather than navigating everything yourself, place a call to your travel agent, and then wait for them to call you back with the information.
You’re going on vacation to escape planning, scheduling and hassles. Working with a travel agent helps you do just that, so let them handle your next trip for you.
Photo: MikeMcSharry (Flickr)