The demise of the American travel agent has been greatly exaggerated. Although their numbers are down from highs in the mid-1990s, the number of travel agents working in the United States exceeds 100,000, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and that number is expected to stay constant for the next decade. When there are so many travel booking sites around today, why would you need (or want) to consult a travel agent?
First of all, a few travel agent facts. The majority of travel agents are paid by the travel suppliers (the cruise line, airline, tour company, hotel, etc.) If you are planning a trip that involves more than just airfare, most travel agents do not charge you an additional fee. That means you can tap into their extensive knowledge and experience for free. Now, that’s Krazy!
Below are just a few times it makes sense to consult a travel agent:
1. When you’re booking more than a plane ticket and hotel. Booking a seat on an airplane and a hotel room is relatively easy to do yourself. However, when you add tours, meals at distinctive restaurants (think Disney character breakfasts), golf tee times, event tickets and ground transportation, things get a little more complicated. The more components involved in your vacation plans, the more occasion for things to get messed up. Best to stop worrying and leave the details to a professional. (Besides, do you really what to be at your phone or computer the day and minute the Disney restaurants start taking reservations for your travel date…and do you really want to explain to your kids why mommy’s fingers didn’t type fast enough for you to have breakfast with Mickey?)
2. When you’re traveling off of the traditional tourist track. Foreign travel comes with an extra set of travel requirements. There are passports and visas to get, foreign pricing to understand and different customs to respect. Unless you are very familiar with the area of the world you’ll be visiting, it’s a good idea to use a travel agent that specializes in the area you’ll be visiting. You don’t want to spend a sizable sum on a vacation only to be turned away at the airport because your documentation isn’t in order.
3. When you’re cruising. The difference between an average cruise and a spectacular cruise is in the details. Forget for just a moment that travel agents often have access to better pricing than you can get on your own (that’s a topic for another post.) A good cruise agent will see to things like making sure that you all get seated together on the airplane, that you eat your meals at the early seating so the kids can get to bed on time, and that the dining room understands about your son’s peanut allergy. She can also alert you to the popular, not-to-be-missed shore excursion that often sells out before the ship sails.
4. When you’re traveling with a group. If traveling with three or four people can be tricky (and it can be), traveling with a group of 15 or 20 people can easily turn into a nightmare. What happens if your plane is delayed and you miss your connection? Most flights these days don’t have a spare 15 or 20 seats left at the last minute. A good travel agent can help you get to your destination. She can also handle seating you all together on the plane, making sure that your rooms are near to one another and that there’s a hotel van waiting for you at the airport when you arrive.
5. When you have special travel needs. A travel agent can be especially useful if you need wheelchair accessible accommodations, are traveling with someone who uses oxygen, or if you require Kosher meals. A good travel agent can make all of the necessary special arrangements for you so that your trip is hassle-free. She can also saves you a great deal of time on the phone prior to the trip.
Have you used a travel agent for your vacation plans recently?