Planning a family vacation is a big undertaking… and a big expense. Flights, accommodations, souvenirs and excursions can add up faster than you can say “momhestouchingme!” Busy families can easily spend weeks — if not months — researching and planning the best way to save their hard earned dollars.
In an earlier post, we explained a few ways that travelers can prioritize and set aside money for travel. But did you know that travel agents are also a great resource for saving money on the trips themselves?
As travel agents, we are often asked “What’s the cheapest deal you can get me?”
I’ll be honest, I CRINGE when I hear this question. Like anything in life, you get what you pay for. After all, someone has to get stuck with that the tiny, odd-shaped room overlooking the dumpster, right? Don’t let that person be you!
When planning a vacation, it’s important to remember that COST does not equal VALUE. More often than not, people who ask the “what’s the cheapest?” question don’t actually mean the cheapest out of pocket price…they are actually asking about how to get MORE for their money. This is where an agent can be a huge resource and advocate.
1. Agents know what’s “worth it” and what’s not.
Here’s a real life example: Last October, my family sailed on the Norwegian Escape. A beautiful, brand new ship, the Escape offers a private adults-only area called Vibe. The catch? It’s $199 a person for the entire week. Was it worth it? For us, no.
On that seven-day Eastern Caribbean itinerary, we scoured the ship and found many other FREE areas to be just as relaxing as Vibe. Cost savings to us? $400 in cold hard cash. Travel agents have years of knowledge for things just like this…we can tell you if a room upgrade is worth the money or if that “luxury” property is really actually a luxury. Even better, we have access to dozens of agent-only resources to help when an answer is hard to find.
One note on this: Just because WE didn’t like Vibe doesn’t mean that you won’t. This is another area where agents are extremely helpful. We excel at asking questions and listening to exactly what you want. We can help you weigh the options to find what’s right for your family… that is always money well spent!
2. Agents have personal relationships with resort managers, concierges and tour operators.
Looking for the best day-trip fishing excursion or a resort that specializes in food allergies and special needs? Travel agents know which properties can handle special requests and which tours give you the most for your money.
Earlier this year, we arranged a spectacular birthday surprise for a client, complete with room decorations, a romantic beach dinner, a surprise birthday cake and access to a special excursion. The cost to our client? ZERO DOLLARS. That’s right — because of our relationship with the resort concierge, we were able to offer this amazing and memorable day to our client, absolutely free.
3. Agents know the best time to visit a location and have special tools to narrow the options.
Trying to arrange a vacation around a school calendar or work schedule? If you can be flexible with your dates, a good travel agent can offer suggestions on the best time to visit a particular location. If your dates are locked in, we can help you find the most cost-effective location for that month.
Travel agents can also offer suggestions on when to book said vacation, often resulting in hundreds of dollars in savings. Booking on the “shoulder season” is one good tip for saving money. A resort that costs thousands in February may only cost hundreds in June. We’ve seen luxury properties drop by nearly 50% in the off-season months.
Finally, travel agents also have access to special tools not available to the general public. For example, we have a cruise-booking tool that allows us to see every cruise company's departure date on the same screen at the same time. This allows us to quickly compare departure dates and price options across dozens of itineraries, saving our clients time and money.
4. Agents understand room capacity and configuration.
Did you know that many all-inclusive resorts can only accommodate four per room in a standard room? What is a family of five to do? In many cases, unaware families get stuck booking two rooms at double the cost.
Travel agent to the rescue! Most travel agents have a list of properties that can accommodate a family of five, booking a single room (or a 2-room suite) and saving you lots of cash. Need adjoining rooms? Many properties won’t guarantee them, but a good agent will have a list of properties that can accommodate the ask.
5. Travel agents know what is hot and new, what is being remodeled, and which locations are past their prime (avoid at all costs!).
Construction updates are another area where a travel agent’s insider knowledge can help get more bang for your buck. Understanding which properties or cruise ships are currently being remodeled can actually work both ways when it comes to saving money. A travel agent can help you AVOID construction, but we can also help you take advantage of remodeling deals!
For example, the much anticipated UNICO property in Riviera Maya, Mexico is pricing much better than other five-star resorts, simply because it is brand new! Hotels know that new properties are unproven…to entice adventurous travelers, they sometimes offer extremely low rates in the first year. A good travel agent can help you take advantage.
These are just a few of the DOZENS of ways that travel agents help families…truthfully, these five tips don’t even scratch the surface! The knowledge above combined with our access to the latest promotions, resort credit offers and exclusive deals make using an agent a smart decision for any family.
What is the best way that you’ve saved money on a family vacation? When did a travel agent come to your rescue and stop a bad decision in its’ tracks? Sound off in the comments below!
Hi, I'm Ashley
Ashley (@ashleysmorris) is a freelance writer, virtual assistant and owner of Alpaca Your Bags Travel.
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