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So why should I use a travel agent anyway? That's a common question and I want to address it head on. Here are my top tips for when you should trust your vacation to a professional travel agent:
1. You're Planning a Group Trip: Planning a family reunion? Want a destination wedding? Organizing a church or volunteer trip? When coordinating for several people, it is almost always easier to leave logistics to a professional. You will thank me when dear Aunt Sally wants to change her flight for the third time or when Uncle Billy can't find his passport information. Even better? Agents have access to group rates and excursions that can't be booked by the general public.
2. You Want to Travel Internationally: If you'd like to travel internationally and you've never visited your destination, travel agents can help navigate (pun intended!) the endless options. Where should you go? What is the best time of year? What are the "can't miss" attractions? Travel Agents can also advise on the best Travel Insurance to help you travel safely and protect your precious investment.
3. You Want a Cruise: While they are one of the most popular ways to travel, cruises can be complex to book. What port is best? What type of stateroom should I get? What do you mean, upgraded dining? Am I supposed to tip? Am I a Carnival person or a Royal Caribbean person? What is a river cruise? It can be challenging to understand the cruise industry, especially when each cruise line seems to speak a different language. Agents complete rigorous training and receive special certifications to ensure that you get exactly the type of trip you want.
4. You Want to Get It Right: Are you planning a honeymoon or destination wedding? Do you want to celebrate your retirement with a trip around the world? Don't trust your major milestone travel to faceless online booking site. For moments where the experience matters, talk to a travel agent and explore your many options. A thoughtful agent will listen to your needs, ask questions to help narrow your choices and recommend options that are the best fit for you and your family.
5. You Want Access: Agents have access to packages, amenities and discounts that the general public cannot
book. Examples include onboard credit for cruises, a personal local concierge to help with recommendations, VIP "skip the line" tickets for sightseeing and more. Agents also LOVE to network with other travel agents, comparing notes and asking questions when the need arises. When you want more for your money, talk to a travel agent.
Talk to us: Have you ever used a travel agent? What was your experience?
Answer in the comments below!
This post was inspired by a real-life conversation I had with my cousin. Tyler recently asked me to research a trip for him and his girlfriend. They knew they wanted a beach escape, but they didn't want to spend a ton of money. However (like most of us!) they wanted VALUE... it was important that they got 'bang for their buck'.
Early on in the planning process, I got an email from Tyler that I have seen before. It was a screen shot from one of those Flash Sale discount sites (rhymes with 'Poupon'!) and Tyler sent a one line email: "Have you seen this?" My response was probably more than he expected and I will recap it for you here. Let's talk about those "great deal" sites.
First and foremost, I love flash sale sites. This is not a post about bashing flash sales!
Without naming names, I use a few of them regularly when I want to find an activity in another city. One of my best purchases was a 2 for 1 VIP experience at the High Roller in Las Vegas (see photo!) It's amazing how an open bar will conquer one's fear of Ferris Wheels. But I digress..
I caution my clients to be very careful when purchasing travel and trips from these sites. Here's why:
1. The traveler has very little control: Travel deals on flash sale sites are typically available because of consolidators. A travel consolidator buys unsold inventory from airlines and hotels, then re-sells that inventory to make a profit. With consolidator fares, the traveler typically has very little control over flight times, layovers, room type, etc. Want to choose a different flight time or airline? You're probably out of luck. Not happy with that brick-wall-view room at the back of the resort? Sorry, Charlie. These deals are great because you get what you pay for... and that is quite often something that couldn't sell on its own.
2. There is no recourse if you have a problem: No one wants to think about this, but sometimes things don't go to plan. With a flash-sale type deal, you often have no one to call if there is a problem. Miss your flight? Get sick or injured? Category 1 hurricane heading for the hotel? In most cases, there won't be anyone to help you.
3. Pay attention to what's NOT included: Read the fine print and make sure you know what you are buying. Is checked baggage extra? What about transportation to the hotel?
Finally, what about travel insurance? When traveling internationally, travel insurance is always recommended. Insurance is not included in these flash site deals, so mentally add that extra cost to the price on the site. When you add on extra fees, the deal may not be as sweet as you originally thought.
We love a good deal, but we advocate research and understanding what you're paying for. Whenever you book a trip, it is wise to thoroughly understand exactly what is included and often, not included! If you see a deal that is too good to be true, ask yourself if it is.
I am always happy to help decode the fine print if you need me!
What is your best (or worst!) "get what you pay for" experience? How did it turn out?
Hi, I'm Ashley
Ashley (@ashleysmorris) is a freelance writer, virtual assistant and owner of Alpaca Your Bags Travel.
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