Back in the stone ages, well before the advent of all of these Do-It-Yourself travel sites, people used to turn to travel agents when they wanted to take a vacation. But with all of this new technology, do travel agents even still exist? That they do! And you may be surprised to learn that, although technology has changed dramatically in the past few decades, travel agents have not.
They are still the same patient world-travelers who have oodles of experience, helpful tips, great suggestions and they still offer better deals than most of the big travel booking sites. Read on to see why using travel agencies aren’t for the old-fashioned – they’re for the budget minded traveler who wants the best vacation experience possible.
Then Vs. Now
When your parents were younger, they would head to their local travel agent when they were in need of a getaway. The agent would listen to your family’s needs and assess the family budget, time of year, vacation style and personal preference of this vacation. Then the travel agent would not only give advice and make recommendations based on her extensive travel experience but would also book all of the details: flights, hotels, rental cars, excursions, etc. If that weren’t enough, sometimes this personalized service came at an even cheaper rate than if you personally called all of those companies to book individually. Nothing has really changed in regard to the service you’ll get from a travel agent, but now it’s easier than ever for the layman to book his own trip. Not only are there a plethora of sites like Expedia and Priceline that promise the best deals, but there is also no shortage of recommendations to help you along your way. There are websites like Tripadvisor and Yelp or personal travel blogs like Nomadic Matt that will give you more information than you can even absorb. While this sounds great, there is so much information to wade through that it can sometimes be overwhelming to try and find reviews that fit who you are as a traveler.
How do travel agents still provide value in this day and age?
Travel agents have weathered this storm of technology by continuing to provide excellent service to their customers. It can be tedious and extremely time-consuming to manage all of the aspects of booking a vacation, which is where travel agents excel. You can call a good travel agent and tell them you’d like to do a 10-day tour of Rome and you’ll get personalized itineraries with recommendations for cafes, upgrades to your hotel and everything booked with zero hassle on your part. Many travel agents these days have chosen to specialize in specific types of vacations (like cruising or Disney trips) so that they can provide the utmost customer service to their guests. They cultivate close relationships with partner hotels or cruise lines to secure the best deals, perks, and upgrades for their customer- things that would be virtually impossible for individuals booking their own vacation to acquire. And then there’s the fact that a travel agent’s job isn’t complete once the booking is done, either. If something goes wrong during your trip, a travel agent can provide much-needed assistance instead of you having to flounder on your own in a foreign city. They can change your hotel if you’re dissatisfied, get your money refunded if you’ve had a terrible time and my travel agent has even gone so far as to bail me out of almost missing a flight thanks to lost documentation! That peace of mind doesn’t come with travel arrangements that you book on your own.
To use an agent or not?
This all comes down to personal preference, but there are some things to keep in mind. If you are planning a simple trip and you enjoy the research that comes with booking a new vacation and the time that it may take to get the best deals, then you’re probably best off booking everything yourself. But if you’re traveling somewhere new, it would be wise to speak with an agent. They can tell you what you need to know about passports, visas, inoculations and the customs procedure so there’s no confusion. Another time to re-consider using a travel agent is if you’re planning a complex trip. Complicated vacations are travel agents’ bailiwick so utilize them if you’re planning a tour that involves multiple cities, flights or tours. They’ll also give you the low-down on any hidden fees or restrictions with your flight, hotels or car rentals, making the whole process much smoother and stress-free!