Is the age of the travel agent dead? No. Here’s why.
Should you use a travel agent? Heck yes!
I love the internet, but there’s something to be said for talking an expert. For all the ways the internet has positively changed the travel industry, I’d argue that the sheer volume of information makes trip planning a lot more overwhelming. Spending hours online reading traveler reviews can’t replace the guidance, care and personal service of a good travel agent.
In a nutshell, agents provide value by helping consumers cut through the clutter.
They provide travelers with a unique and personalized experience. Working with a travel agent means you get the inside track from someone who has spent years building relationships within the industry. Studies have shown working with a travel agent saves travelers over three hours of time spent planning per trip. Eureka! Now I have time to get a haircut!
Travel agents are known for their ability to put together the impossible– a vacation that fits needs, wants and budgets. There’s the added security of an expert in your corner when things go awry. For example, cancelled flights, rebooking hotels or making sure you have a plan in case the storm of the century hits. A travel agent acts as your personal advocate if things go wrong or services haven’t met your expectations.
So, how do you find a good travel agent?
The same way you find a good doctor or lawyer: ask your friends. Word of mouth is still the most trusted form of information. You could also do a little research online. Schedule a call or a meeting to visit a few agencies in person.
And when you do meet them, ask questions like:
- What is the agency’s area of expertise?
Some agencies specialize in Europe or Safari, others Cruises and the Caribbean.
- What is your personal travel history?
Find out how much “boots on the ground” experience this agent has.
- Have you visited my travel destination?
- How much experience do you have booking travel and excursions to this area?
- How much is hiring a travel agent going to cost me?
Travel agents often get paid commissions from hotels, cruise lines and tours. Many receive special access to deals that you can’t find online. That’s why some agents (but not all) charge a service or consulting fee depending on the complexity of your trip. A good agent will notify you of this, but ask about any extra fees you may incur.
You may think an agent who is essentially paid by say, a cruise line, is not working in your interest. On the contrary, it’s that agent’s hard-won relationships with the travel industry that you are benefitting from. Those relationships could mean upgrades in a room, a free spa visit, breakfast included or any number of amenities that will be passed down to you… at no extra cost.
You also want an agent that is certified with the right organizations.
Are they a member of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA)? ASTA’s continuing education and training programs prepare its members to operate high-caliber, ethical, competitive businesses.
Here’s a good-to-know: check TravelSense.org and you can see if your agency is an ASTA member or has been suspended or expelled from the association. An agency rating feature has been recently added to the website as well.
My advice? Definitely consider bringing a travel agent into your life.
The trips we take with our families and friends are becoming too few, and therefore, far more important. When we do all finally manage to find time to get away with one another, it will be wonderful peace of mind to know you are in good hands. All you have to do is enjoy your trip with the ones you love.
This post was sponsored by ASTA, but all opinions are my own.
Do you work with a travel agent? Do you like it? Any tips for finding a good one? Share in the comments!
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