I've written similar posts before, but it's a question I get a lot.
Imagine the setting: I’m living in New York City, happily employed at one of the best advertising agencies in the country. I have a six figure income, great clients and interesting work.
One day, I see a banner ad (yes, a banner ad!) that says something like “Travel Agents On The Rise! Click Here To Learn More!” I click through (remember, I work in advertising!)
After that, my life would never be the same.
I think everyone “enjoys” travel. It’s fodder for countless cocktail party and conference room conversations.
“What do you do for fun?”
“Oh, I love to travel!”
I’m a little different. Travel is part of my soul, part of who I am. Growing up in middle-of-nowhere Missouri, I dreamed of the exciting places I could visit and the unique people I could meet.
My first attempt at travel writing occurred at age nine, when I documented a family camping trip to Colorado. I am certain this was high prose in a Mead notebook. It was a highly dramatic journey filled with airbrushed t-shirts, lost shoes and a broken tent stake.
As I grew older, I visited those places and I met those people. I’ve lived all over the US and I’ve traveled the world. My personal adventures have taken me throughout the Caribbean, Europe, South America and Africa.
Fast forward to 27 years later and a banner ad. People still use travel agents? “Ok,” I thought. “I’m game.”
I’ll skip the details of “how,” though that is a story in itself. Spoiler alert: I didn’t go with the training from the banner ad! Here I am, less than one year later and I’ve done it. I am a certified travel agent. If everything goes as planned, I’ll be a successful one. I booked $30K of travel in my first month alone!
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of travel agents will increase 10% by 2020. In the age of DIY and everything internet, here is why you still need a travel agent:
I recently read a quote that I love: “What’s the difference between a travel agent and the internet? A travel agent can talk back.”
Your vacation days and travel dollars are precious, so why put your faith in a faceless, nameless website? You deserve expert advice and value for your dollar. Go retro and use a travel agent!
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!
Hi, I'm Ashley
Ashley (@ashleysmorris) is a freelance writer, virtual assistant and owner of Alpaca Your Bags Travel.
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