So, you want to go on a trip.
What’s your usual starting point? Maybe you bring up Google and type in the simple query, “Where should I go on vacation?” Maybe you poll your friends on trips they’ve recently taken. Or, if you have a particular destination in mind, you immediately begin tracking down cheap flights and hotel stays.
That was all fine and good prior to 2020, but travel has fundamentally changed due to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), and booking behaviors have changed along with it.
In the past, travel agents were “worth it” based on the type of vacation you wanted. For example, if you sought a solo trip for a few days at a low cost, you could probably find a cost-effective solution without consulting an expert. But if you wanted to travel as a large group, embark on a luxurious trip, score a cruise deal, or go somewhere more exotic, then working with a travel agent was the right path.
Now, travel agents (or advisors in the parlance of the industry) are far more valuable, not only in booking vacations but also in providing guidance.
You can transfer the time-consuming tasks of locking in flights, hotel stays, rental cars, and multiple stops to them, while also receiving up-to-date information on whether or not you should travel at all.
Regardless of the situation, here’s why speaking to a travel agent is worth it.
YOU DON'T PAY THEM.
Let’s start with this one because it’s probably what brought you here in the first place. While budget is always a concern when you book travel, you don’t actually pay the agents themselves.
Yes, you read that right!
A common misconception is that you cover your travel agent's commission. In reality, travel agents get paid a percentage from the vendors that you end up booking with. And that means they have your best interests in mind. If they provide you with a great vacation, you’ll come back to them when it comes time to hit the road again.
Think of a time when you bundled a trip using a booking website. After you chose your flights, perhaps the site suggested lodging with a discount attached to it. Or maybe the site provided information about renting a car. Each step begot another without real guidance on how it fit your preferred vacation.
That’s where travel agents are most helpful: They’re human.
Agents won’t suggest anything without listening first. They take the time to get to know you, your vacation desires, and your preferences, and understand the dynamics of exactly the kind of trip you want to take.
In cultivating this relationship, they can provide honest feedback and advice. On one hand, this might be a travel advisory—a certain destination might have health concerns or other calamities. On the other, they may find an alternative location that better fits your personality and that of your fellow travelers.
For example, let’s say you want to travel to the Caribbean. You might think one island is the right place for you based on prices and your own research. Your agent will either confirm that assumption—and help fulfill your wishes—or steer you in a direction that will really deliver you a dream vacation.
They communicate constantly to make sure they meet your standards and fit your budget, before and after you book. That’s crucial. If you’ve ever had a flight canceled (or you missed one for that matter), you understand the frustration of dealing with booking engines directly. Now, you have a person to talk through the process with and ensure you get to your destination as soon as possible. Who knows? You might just develop a friendship.
THEY KNOW YOUR DESTINATION.
You book travel for pleasure. Agents do it for a living. Just as you would in your profession, agents are constantly improving their craft. That means identifying the best communication methods, following trends, and researching.
One of the best things about working with a travel agent is their knowledge and expertise regarding your desired vacation spot. Whether you're looking for a personalized Disney vacation, or an unforgettable European cruise, there's an agent out there who specializes in planning it all. A lot of times, vendors will offer agents complimentary vacations so they can experience for themselves exactly what they’re selling.
Even if it’s not a cruise or specialized trip, agents work on your behalf. They know the ins and outs of transportation—whether to rent a car, rely on public transit, or consider alternatives. They can tell you what nearby attractions are worth your time, and which to skip. And they can advise you on restaurants and fun activities based on your group size.
THEY HAVE SPECIAL ACCESS TO DEALS.
Here’s a secret of the travel industry: Some of the best deals aren’t available to the public. They’re hidden from search engines and booking websites. However, through partnerships or subscriptions, travel agents have access to these deals, whether they’re upgrades, lower rates, or all-inclusive packages at a discounted price.
Sometimes, these deals also come with perks. So when you book a hotel with your agent, don’t be surprised to find yourself treated like a VIP—well, you are a very important person to your agent!
THEY'LL THINK OF THE THINGS YOU WOULDN'T.
Travel agents do this all the time, so it's normal that they'll think of the things you might simply overlook. For example: Did you know that some countries won't allow you in if your passport has a few too many stamps? Or, what about that small plane you need to take to get to that Greek island? Your travel agent knows all the missing pieces that you don't, ensuring your trip will run smoothly, from beginning to end.
So the next time you want to take a trip, consider enlisting the expertise of an online travel agent. They'll provide the right solutions, if you ask the right questions.
You'll receive invaluable guidance from an experienced and knowledgeable professional and also enjoy that all-important peace of mind that comes from knowing you're in good hands. You will soon be embarking on the trip of a lifetime!