Written by Wendy Maxey, Star City Travel
Researching the perfect vacation takes work. Sure, it can be an exciting process. The world is at your fingertips. Just pull up Google and go, right?
Maybe your search begins something like this: “Which Caribbean island is best for kids?” Or maybe: “How to plan a girls’ trip to Hawaii.” The information that pops up is relentlessly overwhelming, and how do you even know which websites to trust and whether you’re really getting the best deal?
When planning a trip, American travelers log an average of 140 visits to travel sites before booking a vacation, according to Expedia Group. And many of those abandon their planning altogether because of the grunt work and uncertainty. Once you’re caught in the “I’ll plan it later” trap, six months have passed, and you’ve left vacation days on the table.
We rely on accountants to file our taxes and Realtors to find the perfect house. Why wouldn’t we entrust a travel specialist to plan our precious getaways? Navigating the travel landscape has become more and more complicated. Just choosing a destination is an involved and lengthy process.
Yes, travel agents still exist!
In fact,USA Today reported that travel agents are more than just agents; they are advocates for the traveler. Travel agents stand up for travelers at a time when travelers need a voice now more than ever.
“A travel advisor is a value interpreter and can help you find the best ROI on your vacation dollar,” says Vicki Freed, senior vice president of sales, trade support and services at Royal Caribbean International.
If you’re not convinced, here are few more reasons you should consider an agent when planning your next getaway.
Agents have a few tricks up their sleeves. Sure, booking a hotel online is an easy process. But you may be leaving offers on the table by not going through an agent. Agents oftentimes have access to special promotions or upgrades, including free breakfast, spa credits, or food and beverage packages.
Agents anticipate the unexpected. Something you may not consider when planning a trip to another country may be whether the accommodations have air conditioning. Or, if your stay coincides with a major event you weren’t aware of. Or the fact that taxi cabs aren’t available at midnight when your flight arrives in a particular destination. These types of incidents can derail your vacation.
Travel advisors have clout. At any given time, they can get an issue resolved over the phone faster than you can. You can spend hours on hold or put in a call to your agent to handle specifics. They are working on your behalf.
They can prepare you for international travel. Depending on the complexity of your vacation, will you need a visa or immunizations to enter another country? Oftentimes, your travel agent even knows before you do when your passport is set to expire. Agents will also educate you on the laws and customs of another country.
Agents can simplify group travel. If you’ve ever been elected the “lead” on planning a group trip, you know how frustrating the process can become. Each traveler has a different request or payment schedule. Minds are changed midway through planning. Details are easily lost. Using an agent as your point person is wise choice. Bonus! They often have access to discounted group quotes given their relationships with suppliers.
Good agents match a traveler with the vacation that’s right for them. One thing to remember is that travel agents live travel. They experience the destinations they recommend. They have access and connections that would take the average traveler a lifetime to build. And they use those connections to not only save their clients’ money, but more importantly to create unforgettable experiences with lasting memories.
Wendy’s love of travel started at an early age with family beach vacations. Early on in her career she was managing editor of a hotel reservations website. She was afforded the opportunity to visit some amazing places — from the Cayman Islands to Aspen, Colorado (and several spots in between). She has a healthy obsession with the Caribbean islands, and has visited several, both by cruise and resort stay. Wendy is co-owner of Star City Travel, a Roanoke-based Dream Vacations franchise. Need travel advice? Call (540) 713-3068 or visit starcitytravel.com.