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The Travel Agent is Back…Find One!

The absolute worst a travel agent can do is book what you can find on your own!

Back in the day, travel agencies were in almost every mall and strip mall in the country. Packed with brochures, desks with desktop computers, and pictures of destinations on the wall, they were the travel industry standard. When the brick and mortar disappeared, many believed the resourceful agent disappeared with them. Not so. In fact travel agents today are mostly independent, use technology much more effectively than in the past, and have many avenues to add value to their clients.

Why Use a Travel Agent?

  • Most travel agents are obsessed with travel and do so multiple times a year. They are well traveled, researched, and know the behind-the-scenes functionality of the travel industry.

  • Most travel agents are individual home-based businesses that are connected to large host agencies. This allows them access to discounts, a network of thousands of agents with extensive knowledge, and relationships with reps of all the major travel companies. The independent nature of their business allows them to make more client friendly hours, specialize in certain types of travel, and focus on value to maintain the client relationship.

  • If you book on your own…you are on your own. A travel agent can help navigate issues that arise during your trip.

  • Sure, with all the travel websites out there today you may think you have all the answers you need, but as the sub-headline says…the absolute worst a travel agent can do is book what you can find on your own.

Establishing a Relationship with a Travel Agent

  • If you have a family member or friend that is a travel agent, start there. They know you and will go the extra mile for you.

  • Be ready to answer questions. Good travel agents want to know a lot about your likes and dislikes to provide you with the best options and give you thoughts on things you may have never even considered.

  • Do some research. You are a team with your travel agent and its good for you to have a general sense of what you want and to be able to ask questions as well.

  • Travel agents earn money on commission. That doesn’t mean their goal is to make the most money off of you as possible. Their goal is to get you a good deal, give you some extras, and keep you happy in order to have a long-term travel relationship with you.

  • If a travel agent does a lot of work for you, at least allow them to book some part of the trip. If you ditch a travel agent after making them work hours for you, it’s like not tipping a waiter and considered rude. Some travel agents may have fees upfront for their services because of being burned in the past, but those may be waived for family, friends, or referrals.

When to Use a Travel Agent

CRUISES – One of the biggest mistakes a traveler can make is not booking a cruise through a travel agent. Most agents belong to huge travel host agencies that have blocked space on many cruise ships. You will still get any freebies offered by the cruise line publicly, but may get a better price through an agent. Agents also like to provide extras like a bottle of wine at dinner, on-board credit, etc. to always provide more than the cruise line directly.

VACATIONS – Whether its guided tour trips, all-inclusive, or an air/hotel/car package, travel agents have an incredible amount of options to find the best price or the trip that best meets your wants, needs, and must-haves.

GROUP TRAVEL AND SPECIAL EVENTS – Large family trip/reunion? Destination Wedding? Friends getaway or adventure? Not only can a travel agent get you group discounts and extras, but they can coordinate logistics, payments, and communication to make life a lot easier for everyone.

BUSINESS TRAVEL – If you do a good amount of travel for work, but don’t have the travel support from your place of business, a travel agent can provide a lot of value. Travel can be a large cost to a business, but travel agents can save you a lot of time and money.

When NOT to Use a Travel Agent

AIRFARE ONLY – When the airlines struggled financially, not only did extra fees increase on customers, but the airlines stopped giving commission to travel agents. Most travel agents charge a service fee to book only a flight for a customer and it could be as high as $25. If you just need a flight, its best to book it on your own.

USING POINTS OR MILES – A travel agent doesn’t have access to your points or miles programs and can’t book redemption travel for you. You can work with your agent though to book another part of your trip for you.

USING SHARING ECONOMY OR BLIND BUDGET SITES – If you plan to use sharing economy sites like HomeAway or Airbnb or blind budget sites like Priceline and Hotwire, there isn’t anything a travel agent can do for you.

LOOKING FOR A SECOND OPINION – Remember, a travel agent only makes money on commissions from booking. Unless you are planning to pay them for their research time, don’t utilize their services unless you plan to book with them. If you’ve booked with them before and the relationship is established, they’ll provide a quick look if you need it, but book with them once first.

You probably have a mechanic, handyman, cleaning service, etc. that you rely on. Add a travel agent to the group. If you find a great one that you like, trust, and adds value…you’ve found gold!


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