Before working in the travel industry, I didn’t totally understand why I would need to work with a travel agent. I always took an independent approach to booking travel and would begin by scouring the internet for things to do to determine a destination. After settling on the perfect place, I’d do my best to decipher the sometimes confusing world of flights and transfers until I pieced together some sort of itinerary. However, I soon found myself asking, why haven’t I ever looked into working with a travel agent? And the answer was pretty simple, I didn’t know how.
My first thought was why should I book through an agent, I can figure things out on my own. And yes, past experience proved I could figure it out on my own, however, there is no way I was doing things as effectively as a travel agent can. First, agents have extensive destination knowledge as well as supplier knowledge, so not only can they recommend right-fit destinations, they’ll also be able to tell you the hotels or resorts that will best fit your travel style. Second, agents often have relationships with travel suppliers and that can give them access to special offers or products that aren’t available to consumers, like charter flights, for example. And lastly, travel agents are closely connected to other travel agents, which increases their overall knowledge, as they can turn to their peers if they need info or help with something you’re requesting. All of this means less time plundering Pinterest boards for travel inspiration, searching for the best price on online travel sites and more time talking with someone who knows which vacation spots would be the perfect fit for what I wanted my trip to be.
Another big factor I hadn’t considered when booking with an agent is peace of mind. Travel agents often monitor the weather on their clients’ trip to be on the lookout for weather delays. And when things like natural disasters strike, rebooking itineraries and flights through an agent is far less stressful than figuring it out solo.
There are more than 100,000 travel agents throughout the U.S., a fact that can feel a bit daunting when trying to pair up with the right person. But there are a few things you can do to make finding an agent easier.
When it comes to finding an agent, it really comes down to shopping around. I began with a quick Google search for travel agents in my area because I was curious to learn more about local agents. If you don’t feel confident doing the research on your own, it can also be helpful to search for an agent on TravelSense.org, a resource created by the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA).
Another helpful place to start is asking for references. The reference can be from a family member, friend or even helpful reviews on the internet. If all else fails, ask the agents you might be interested in for client references who you can contact directly to learn more about their experiences.
Depending on the type of trip, it can also be beneficial to look for a specialist. Most agents can book any trip, but agents often specialize when it comes to specific destinations or niches such as safaris, cruise or family travel (like Disney or Universal).
Admittedly, cost was my biggest hang-up when it came to working with a travel agent. Aren’t they expensive? I was surprised to find that working with an agent wasn’t totally outside my means.
Although payment varies from agent to agent, most agents make their money based off commissions paid by airlines, hotels, tour operators and cruise ships. However, some agents do charge a client fee but this fee can come in the form of a security deposit or it can be nonrefundable, depending on the agent.
The truth is, the cost really depends on who you’re working with,the level of work involved when planning the trip and your own travel style and choices. Either way, the price is worth it in exchange for the deals, perks and peace of mind travelers will only find when working through an agent.
What other reasons do you have for using a travel agent? Tell us in the comments below.