In the age of online booking sites, using a travel agent may feel like going the way of the dinosaur. But agents are more useful than simply selling trips to Disney World and cruises. Many agents still provide services or have knowledge that you just can’t get online –and sometimes, especially in times of crisis, working with a real live person is just plain superior.
Here are 10 reasons why they're still useful:
1) They Are Educated and Have Personal Experience
Simply put, they know more than you. They can give you insider tips and advice, using their education and personal experience to guide your vacation decisions in a way that provides you with the best vacation possible for you and your hard-earned investment. They have access to the personal feedback from hundreds of clients, and their own personal travel agent network, to provide insights you can’t get on TripAdvisor or other social media sites.
2) They Have Clout
Many travel agents develop personal relationships with individuals at the companies they sell. They leverage these relationships to get you things you can’t get on your own. That “sold out” room or the connecting rooms you want for your extended family trip when the online sites say they aren’t available. They also have exclusive entrée to experiences you might not know are available to you.
3) The Fixer
In addition to getting you more on any particular trip, they can step in and fix things when your trip goes awry. The average consumer books one or two trips per year, typically with different travel suppliers, so they have little or no leverage when things go wrong. The travel agent is constantly selling a particular supplier and has the leverage to fix things, even when the supplier isn’t directly at fault. Travel suppliers value the travel agent’s business much more than any individual traveler. They will step up to make things right or simply to make sure that traveler, and their travel agent, are happy.
The best travel agents have unique access to benefits that can save you a lot of money and provide you with a better experience: free room upgrades, spa credits, food and beverage credits are just a few of the things that agents can get, that you can’t. Add in hard-to-get restaurant reservations, exclusive or priority access to attractions, added amenities, and you will have a lot more value for your travel dollar. (Ever wonder why the couple in the cabin next to yours got champagne and you didn't? They probably used a travel agent)
Instead of searching blindly on the Internet for hours, days, or even weeks – depending on the complexity of the travel plans – you can have an expert do the research for you, with your personal needs in mind. They do it for every component of the trip and very often do it at no cost to you.
6) Safety Net
If anything should go wrong during your trip, you can rely on them to assist you. A travel agent will suggest and arrange alternate travel arrangements, help you to deal with any travel emergency you may have, and put you in touch with the right local people to answer your needs.
7) On the Cutting Edge
They are on the cutting edge of what's new: Travel agents are the first to know about a new resort, cruise ship or tour. They have relationships with their best travel partners who keep them informed as to the latest and greatest offerings they have. So if you want to travel on the latest and greatest, agents are the way to go!
8) You Pay the Same Anyway!
More than 98 percent of hotels are parity priced. That means the cost is the same whether you book it yourself or have the travel agent do the work. Some travel agents even have websites that feature the same inventory, bookable in real time, as Expedia and Orbitz. The customer gets the best of the high tech world, in a high touch, environment. This parity pricing applies to virtually every travel product.
9) You Get Matched Right
If you call a cruise line directly, they won’t tell you that their competitor is a better fit for you and your travel needs. Since travel agents sell everything, they focus on you’re your particular needs, making sure you are matched up with the right.
10) An Ongoing Mutually Beneficial Relationship
A good agent is like a good mechanic. Once you find them, you’ll never want to give them up. Travel could be your biggest discretionary spend in any given year, along with your limited time, so you want to make sure it’s done right. When they make that happen, you’ll want them in your inner circle moving forward.
Feature Image By Laya Gerlock from Philippines (4 Italian Girls in Hawaii) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons