The internet has given us the ability to do a lot on our own, for ourselves, and with the convenience of doing it on our our timeline. How many of you even talk to a bank teller face to face anymore? Online banking has taken that face to face interaction out of the banking equation now. How many of you pay bills in person anymore? Online bill pay has taken the need to go to a physical location away to pay bills. It is no surprise then that travel is yet another facet of life that has been affected by the internet.
Online travel agencies (OTA) such as Priceline, Expedia, Kayak, and countless others provide us with multiple travel options and booking engines so it is natural to look at them first, right? Who has time to go to the airline and purchase tickets for their next trip? While booking with an OTA seems like a great idea, there are many reason that using a living and breathing travel agent is actually a better idea.
1. Travel agents will save you a ton of time.
Your time is valuable isn’t it? Most of us have a list of things we need to get done on any given day and probably struggle to get it done every day. When you want to plan a trip, a travel agent will do the hard part for you…..the research! You can focus on other things while your travel agent (TA) will do the legwork and provide you with options for you to consider. All you have to do is review the options and decide what makes the most sense for you. Some will charge a planning or consulting fee for their time (and sometimes they will apply that money to your bookings if you choose to use them) but not all do. Be sure to ask!
2. Travel agents are trained to match people to vacations.
As an agent, I have a list of questions that I ask my clients. I listen to what they want, their preferences, and anything they absolutely want to avoid so I know that type of a vacation will meets their needs. My goal as a TA is to help them have the best vacation ever so attention to details is THE most important part of our initial conversation. An OTA won’t do any of that so, when you are looking and booking online, what you see is what you get even if it it doesn’t meet your needs, your expectations, or your preferences.
3. Customer service……..not so easy when you are booking through an OTA.
When you working with a human, customer service goes beyond calling a 800 number and talking to an unknown person that knows absolutely nothing about you. When you use a travel agent, you have a direct line to help or guidance anytime you need it.
4. Travel agents have an in depth understanding of the product.
I personally travel to a variety of places not just because I love travel but also so I have first hand knowledge of the destinations. Travel professionals will tell you about limits and restrictions for certain promotions, how to combine multiple offers to get the most bang for your buck, and benefits of certain types of bookings. Traveling in economy may save you money but what value do you put on comfort during long haul flights? An agent can help you decide if more space and legroom, better food and drink, and an upgraded overall experience is worth the extra money.
I use my experience travelling abroad to help my clients find the best accommodations and experiences possible. For instance, when I travel, I make notes about accessibility for people with disabilities. Having a family member that travels in a wheelchair, I know first hand how certain destinations are not as challenge friendly as we are accustomed to here in the United States. I help clients with challenges by letting them know about those barriers and how they can be overcome.
Traveling with children? An agent will direct you to hotels, resorts, tours, and activities that are family friendly or family oriented. Many cruise lines have family suites, character themed activities, and a kids’ club. Wouldn’t it be nice to know up front so AND your children have a fantastic time?
5. Upgrades aren’t as easy as they used to be.
Vendors will routinely upsell travel packages but giving free upgrades is a different story. You may be able to snag a coveted upgrade with your miles but high volume agents have a better than average chance at getting an upgrade for you even if you don’t have the miles. It all depends the vendor and on availability of course.
6. Travel agents will be your point of contact for troubleshooting.
We have seen some massive weather interference over the last couple of years and an agent will be the one you turn to in cases of travel delays, interruptions, and cancellations. They will help you get re-booked, make alternate travel arrangements, or how to file a claim with your travel insurance. If you haven’t had this experience before, it can be a real headache!
7. Travel agents have more resources for bookings than you are aware of.
Some vendors conduct business with travel agents only, never working directly with the travel customer at all. That includes air consolidators and tour companies that offer great experiences at great prices. By using a travel agent, you will have access to all of those resources!
8. Your travel agent will be your personal tour and experience shopper.
From diving trips to helicopter rides over volcanoes to paranormal experiences, travel agents will be able to identify options for you no matter what your desires are. I do a lot of paranormal travel and it is a small niche that has a lot of options……..if you know where to look! In fact, not all TAs know either.
9. TAs are available in cases of emergency.
Lose your passport or have a medical emergency while travelling abroad? A TA will be able to advise you on where to go, what to do, and how to do it.
10. Good TAs stay on top of the news.
I routinely look at weather, travel advisories, and political conditions for a variety of destinations. When a client comes to me wanting to book a trip, my first efforts are aimed at making sure their destination of choice is a safe option for them. Ultimately my client decides if they want to continue planning a trip to that destination but I want them to have as much information as possible before spending the money.
11. If you want a unique or complex itinerary, a good TA will do the work to get you exactly what you want.
When I am working on a paranormal itinerary, I find a destination that interests my clients and then I book accordingly. Mother Earth is a big place and the possibilities are endless. Find a specialist in the type of travel you seek and you have a great start to having the experience of a lifetime!
12. More bang for your buck!
You want to get the most out of your hard earned cash, right? Going through an OTA with no human intervention runs the risk of booking a trip that won’t meet all of your needs. Don’t spend hundreds or thousands of dollars and walk away wishing you had a better or better suited experience. A TA can help you get what you want at the best price possible!
No two travel agents are the same. Some are full service while others specialize in a specific type of travel. Some charge planning or consulting fees, but not all do. Be sure to ask the important questions so you can determine if that particular agent is the one you should be working with. When you find the right one…….tell them exactly what you want and get ready to have a great time! No matter what you decide, get out and see all the beautiful places this world has to offer!