There’s No Do-over For a Vacation Gone Wrong

Every moment of the time you take off from work, whether traveling alone or with family and friends, is priceless. And yet travel always involves a certain element of risk, depending as it does on Mother Nature and complicated machines to work together to get us where we want to go. It’s a scenario that calls for an expert—and where the cost of using a professional travel agent comes back many times over.
Here are some of the many ways a good travel agent can add value to every minute of your vacation.

1. Choosing the right destination.
The average online booker goes to more than 30 websites and spends four hours sifting through information and reviews posted by strangers. A good travel agent is part psychiatrist, part social worker, part keeper of family secrets. He knows what you like and what you don’t, and how to pose the questions that will point to the right destination for you and those with whom you are traveling.

2. Standing in your corner.
A professional agent sits on your shoulder from the minute you step out the door until you return home safe with your luggage intact. She is your advocate, your guardian angel, your defense attorney. If the hotel is overbooked or the airport is snowed in, just give her a call.

3. Keeping you safe.
Being a travel professional means knowing the news. Your travel agent will warn you if there is illness or danger in a location you are considering. And if terrorists attack or stormy winds blow, she knows where you are and whom to call to keep you out of harm’s way.

4. Getting the paperwork right.
Many a traveler has been turned back from an airport for lack of the right visa, passport, or other credential. You may think you know the regulations, but then something unexpected will pop up; some countries will not let you enter within six months of the date of your passport expiration, for example. Your travel professional will ensure you have what you need.

5. Knowing the right insurance.
True, you probably do not need cancellation insurance for tomorrow’s shuttle flight from New York to Boston. But there is a time and a place for travel insurance—and those times and places fluctuate. Even more important, U.S. health insurance often does not cover you abroad. A travel professional will remind you to consider whether insurance is right for a particular trip, taking into account your age, your health, and your existing medical coverage.

6. Saving you money.
Travel agents sell service, not discounted prices. But that’s not to say they can’t hold down your costs in many ways, sometimes by hundreds of dollars. They know all the discounts and promotions, the best times to book and the best days to travel. If you are traveling in a small group, they likely can get you a discount or a special amenity that will make the trip memorable and unique.

7. Scoring some perks.
Travel agents live by their connections; they have friends in cities and hotels and airports around the world. Often they can get you free excursions, spa visits, or room upgrades; entrance to private locations; or after-hour access to popular sites.

8. Insights into the unknown.
You’re not likely to find a once-in-a-lifetime experience online. But that’s the magic a professional can bring to your trip of a lifetime. Travel professionals know what’s hot and what’s overbooked—and even better, what’s about to become the next big thing, so you can go before the crowds.
So what are you waiting for? You perfect vacation is just a step away. Pick up the phone, click on the link, go to the Facebook page of a professional travel agent. Because without a travel professional, you really are on your own.

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Advantages of Using a Travel Agent

  1. Buying travel is a unique purchase, because you are buying both a product and a service.
    A travel agent know how to sell both parts—the airline and resort and cruise line that best match your needs, and the service that will guarantee your vacation is seamless and stress-free.
  2. Travel agents are trained to take a critical look at each piece in your trip puzzle.
    They make sure each piece meets your specific needs, so you’re happy with every penny you spent.
  3. They can make sense of the multitude of offers from cruise lines and airlines and hotels. 
    This year travel companies are offering more brands than ever before in history—on land, in the air and on the seas. Is Fathom the right cruise for you? Is Delta Light good enough? A travel professional can decipher the subtle differences and choose the one that fits your requirements for this unique trip.
  4. Travel professionals save you time and money. 
    Whether they charge a fee, as many do, or base their businesses on commissions, what you the time and money you spend with them will be returned to you many times over in the form of perks, upgrades, convenience and great service.
  5. They are your advocate. 
    Whether you need an upgrade to an ocean view or a ticket out of harm’s way after an earthquake, your travel agent will be there for you, intervening with suppliers on your behalf.
  6. They are the experts. 
    Like a doctor or an accountant, a travel counselor will ask the right questions, listen to your answers, understand your pain, and offer expert advice to guide you in making one of your most important decisions—how to spend your invaluable time off. Because there are no do-overs for a vacation gone wrong.
  7. Knowledge is power. 
    From the visa and passport requirements to the name of the maître d’ at the best restaurant in town, a good travel agent has the inside information that makes your trip perfect.
  8. They have your back. 
    When things go wrong, a travel professional knows whom  to call to get it fixed on the spot. If your flight is canceled, just have a seat and pick up the phone while you the rest of the passengers are lined up trying to rebook. Didn’t get the room category you booked? No need to argue with the front desk. One call will get it corrected.
  9. They are your personal shopper.
    Over time your travel professional gets to know you and your family, your likes and dislikes. You are so much more than a sale to them—and they provide the human connection that makes every transaction more pleasant and meaningful. Plus by supporting local businesses, you support your community.
  10. They can offer customized experiences that no one else can. 
    After 20 or 30 years in the business, a travel professional has the connections to arrange for the side trips, the special passes, the upgrades and little touches that are not available to the general public. Because in this wide and amazing and wonderful world, you just don’t know what you don’t know. So ask someone who does—ask your local travel agent!
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Six Things A Travel Agent Knows That Customers Do Not


Sure, a traveler can spend hours doing research about where to go on vacation. But they will never learn as much as a travel professional knows; after all, you spend all day, every day doing research on travel!

Here’s just a brief list of some of the things you know much better than anyone.

(Thanks to American Express Travel for their insights and feedback for this article.)

1. How to personalize your trip.

Travelers are seeking experiences that reflect their lives, passion and distinct needs—and a good travel agent is highly trained to create itineraries that reflect clients’ unique lifestyles. They can not only recommend the right destination and property to meet your needs, but also customize your travel itinerary for a seamless trip experience.

2. Local knowledge.

Travel advisors can introduce you to the world of the locals and ensure you experience the authentic and the unexpected, while staying within your budget. They can offer in-destination experts to provide insider access to unique events, offbeat excursions, and unconventional itineraries.

3. How to add value.

Your travel agent is always in the know about current and upcoming promotions. They have access to the best rates, and often also to comps or food & beverage or spa credit.

4. How to find a room when none seems to be available.

Even when a website shows no availability on rooms during your travel dates, they are not always actually sold out. Many properties hold inventory on reserve  for partner travel companies. Agents can also help avoid misleading room names, such as “mountain views” that overlook the parking lot.

5. How to troubleshoot for you.

From minor glitches to major disasters, it’s when something goes wrong that the value of travel advisors really kicks in. Travel agents can change flights, upgrade and rebook hotel rooms, find missing luggage, and submit an insurance claim.

6. How to ask about dietary restrictions.

Noting an increase in queries regarding dining options and food allergies, many agents have accrued a more in-depth knowledge of hotels and cruise lines that cater to individual health requirements, so they can recommend the best option for each client.

From: by Cheryl Rosen

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Travelers Are Embracing Human Travel Agents Again

Young woman on airplane choosing music on smartphone

Algorithms can only go so far.

Over the last decade, the rise of online travel agencies has made it easier than ever to book a trip. Their appeal is obvious: Expedia, Priceline, and other do-it-yourself booking sites have swapped out living, breathing travel agents — who possess such human failings as incomplete knowledge, opaque allegiances, and inconvenient business hours — for something more algorithmically determined, along with the illusion of total choice and the very best deals.

And yet what’s old is becoming new again.

Last month, travel marketing firm MMGY Global released its annual Portrait of American Travelers survey. The survey found that 32% of travelers now visit direct provider websites (i.e., American Airlines or Hilton Hotels) when making reservations — up 6% from 2015, and virtually even with the percentage of travelers who turn to online travel agencies when booking travel. Meanwhile, travelers are increasingly browsing booking sites during the planning phase of a vacation before turning to sites to actually book reservations.

It’s helpful to think of vacation prep like a funnel: at the top, there’s the planning phase, when the traveler envisions where she might like to go, and then seeks advice, ratings, and deals. At the bottom, there’s the booking stage, where she locks in a specific flight, accommodations, and itinerary. This part used to be the ambit of online travel agencies, but increasingly, these sites are moving up the funnel and serving a different function.

“Suppliers have much more control over inventory, and travelers have learned they can get more points and amenities by booking with the supplier directly,” says Clayton Reid, president and CEO of MMGY. On the other hand, more travelers are “using online travel agencies as showrooms, or ways to go look at aggregated content to help with decision-making, not booking.”

This is the inverse of how travel planning has typically worked on the Internet, but it’s actually in keeping with a trend that has changed the industry over the last couple of years: travelers want more curated results along with the best deals and packages, and they’re showing that they will sacrifice a bit of control that do-it-yourself sites offer. Although there are about half the number of travel agents working in the U.S. as there were in 2000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this new paradigm has created a space, once more, for old-fashioned human intervention. According to MMGY’s Reid, 28% of millennials surveyed said they had consulted a traditional travel agent in the last 12 months — higher than any other age segment — and 30% said they plan to do so in the next two years.

It’s worth asking if we lose something by relying solely on technology to plan a vacation. “Having a travel agent can optimize a trip for you,” says Paul English, the co-founder of a new travel app called Lola. Planning a trip shouldn’t be a stressful experience. “If the travel agent has expertise and knows your preferences well, they can cut down your options to the best two or three. It saves people time.”

Lola is one example of what travel planning in the future may look like. The app, which is currently in limited-release, is intuitively easy to use, and supplements technological innovation and data with responsive customer service. To begin, you simply send a text about what kind of trip you’re planning. It can be vague or specific, because it’s just a conversation starter: on the other end is a travel consultant, equipped with experience, data, and your stated preferences to help plan your trip.

English is also the co-founder and former chief technology officer of booking site Kayak, which he sold to Priceline for $1.8 billion in 2012. While there, he frequently manned the customer service hotline. “I realized that when people are spending a lot of money on something, they take comfort in talking directly to a person before making their booking,” he says.

English developed Lola as a chat app because people increasingly view their phones as messaging devices. “The DIY sites don’t work that well on mobile,” he adds. “They typically return hundreds of results, and it’s just too much data. People get analysis paralysis.”

Travel agents are gaining ground in the luxury market, as well, where DIY booking made fewer in-roads in the first place. “For the luxury community, the travel market has continued to grow and prosper,” says Misty Belles, managing director of public relations at Virtuoso, a luxury travel planning network. “We’re seeing the pendulum swing back toward using an advisor because of people who’ve had a mishap with [online travel agencies]. They want a human being to guide them.”

Virtuoso works with nearly 12,000 travel advisors in about 400 agencies around the world, who specialize in “helping to create travel itineraries you can’t find online or plan yourself” — language aimed directly at the DIY booking sites that have become so popular in the last decade. “Our advisors are very collaborative to make sure you get what you want and what you need,” Belles says.

Departure Lounge in Austin, Texas, is one of the agencies partnered with Virtuoso. Its founder, Keith Waldon, spent 16 years as a senior executive at the luxury travel network, before making a decidedly old-fashioned career move: opening a brick-and-mortar travel agency on a busy downtown corner. If an app like Lola is meeting the customers where they are, Departure Lounge is seeking to attract customers by reinventing an old idea.

“What’s happened in the last twenty-five years is travel companies have disappeared from the streets of cities,” Waldon explains. “Because of online travel sites, the brick-and-mortar travel agencies that have stayed in business pretty much moved to invisible spaces: office towers or out-of-the-way locations with lower rent. They sent workforce home to get overhead costs down and short-term profitability up. But in the process, it made the industry invisible.”

Waldon interviewed more than 200 Austinites about what kind of travel agency they’d like to work with today. They wanted something high-tech, interactive, fun; a place they could bring family and friends. “They were missing something in the equation of travel planning that made them feel special,” Waldon says.

He had a novel idea: what about an upscale coffee and wine bar that happens to double as a travel agency? Patrons are invited to hang out, partake of travel-themed bites and wines, and peruse the array of large touch-screens advertising destinations and itineraries. The approach is decidedly no-pressure: the wait staff are trained to explain Departure Lounge’s offerings, and then, if a customer decides to speak with a travel agent, Departure Lounge sets an appointment with one of the independent advisors it works with, so selected to match up with a customer’s personality and travel preferences.

“Our advisors have specializations in types of travel and different destinations,” Waldon explains. “We have a biking trip specialist on the team, ski specialists, a spa specialist, family travel, continental, region and country specialists, food and wine and philanthropic specialists.”

Waldon feels that the old travel agency model should have changed many years ago. “No one wants to go during the day and sit in front of a desk and look at a brochure and talk to someone behind a computer,” he says. But there’s still much to be gained by interacting with an expert who can leverage connections to find deals and create the perfect trip for you.

“Whenever there is a face-to-face meeting, there’s an 83% closure rate,” he says. “When [booking] just by voice or email, it drops down to 40-something percent. It becomes personal: you build a rapport and trust, and you believe in that person and their abilities. When they deliver on that, you really have a strong bond. Which you can’t do with your keyboard at 2 a.m.”

From Fortune Magazine

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Ten Reasons to Book a Cruise


1. Travel agents are knowledgeable experts.
First and most importantly, travel agents provide knowledge and expertise that has taken them years to collect. This consultative experience with travel agents is incredibly valuable to consumers because it allows them to combine their own research with the expertise of their trusted travel agent and ultimately feel very confident in their final decision.

2. Travel agents offer advice at no cost.
If you have a chance to hire a professional advocate and researcher for zero cost to you (we’re paid by the suppliers), why would pass up that free value-add?

3. Travel agents deliver one-stop shopping.
We are able to create a seamless travel experience with transfers, air, as well as unique pre and post tours and hotels. We are also able to create private shore excursions that are unique to each port. We bring added value to every booking.

4. Travel agents provide an added level of support.
We absolutely rely on agents as our primary means of distribution—and it’s not just our distribution, it’s also just the support they provide.

5. Travel agents serve as your advocate when things go astray.
There’s so much advice we can offer, it helps to have an agent before you go on a trip. But it’s also great to have an agent for when things go bump in the night, to have someone to call when you have a delayed flight. That’s what keeps customers coming back. Yes, they might get a lower price, but if you want service, we’re the ones who will be there for you at 3 a.m.”

6. Travel agents understand your needs.
Travel professionals get to know the customer, their wants and their needs, really well. It’s almost as if your best friend is booking a trip for you.

7. Travel agents are here to stay.
The profession is only going to become stronger and more needed… We are going to need them to continue to sell us more than ever.

8. Travel agents are impartial advisors.
A good agent is impartial and will always recommend and give insights into the best choice for the client, not the supplier. Going direct to suppliers limits your feedback to what is best for the supplier.

9. A live travel agent is better than a click.
When you get a good travel agent on the phone she can enhance your vacation with knowledge and expertise that you can’t get on the internet. And we have access to all types of promotions.

10. A travel agent is a personal shopper at no cost.
At Norwegian there is no price difference between booking direct and booking with a local travel agent, so the customer gets all the benefits of a personal shopping experience at no extra cost. It’s the equivalent of the perfect storm of reasons to work with travel agents! Travel agents are also close to home, allowing a personal and very customized experience, and this is something that no 1-800 number can provide.

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How We Get Paid

Studies show that a majority of consumers don’t understand how travel agents are compensated, and many travelers who generally book directly with a supplier online believe they’ll be paying extra if they use our services.

We want every client to understand how our compensation works. We want you to understand that a “direct booking” made with a tour company, a safari operator, a river cruise company, a cruise line or any other travel supplier includes a 10% to 20% surcharge in the vendor’s published pricing, a fee that is included to cover the travel agent’s commission. Thus, consumers are paying for the travel agent services if they book directly with the supplier or with an online travel agency (OTA) such as Expedia or Priceline, and the cost is the same whether or not a consumer uses a travel agent’s services.

Customers who book directly with a supplier get few, if any, of the services that a good travel consultant would provide. Online bookers have no clout; they are working with a commissioned “headset” who is likely to be based somewhere in Asia. They are relying on that person, who is unlikely to have ever experienced the product, to be their advocate, to offer advice and to have their back if something goes wrong.

Can the “headset” tell the consumer why the product might not be the best option, assist with pre- or post-trip arrangements, counsel the traveler on the crucial issue of insurance options?

No. The “headset” merely takes the built-in commission and pockets it for the company, playing consumers for suckers and insulting their intelligence by pretending they are on the customer’s side.

Charging clients who book directly with a supplier a 10% to 20% surcharge within their vendor pricing models is not exactly ethical, and it is rarely discussed.

When travelers understand that our professional services and counseling come at no additional cost, the game changes. When consumers understand that they can work with some of the country’s most respected travel consultants on a no-fee basis, the game really changes.

This articles was taken from Travel Weekly By Richard Turen /

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Why Use a Travel Professional?

In today’s world of instant online access to unlimited information on travel options, you might be wondering why it makes sense to plan your vacation with one of our St. Louis travel agents.

We take the time to get to know you, understanding your approach to travel, what you like to see and do and in what style. Then we match these factors with your budget, schedule and our insider connections with the best travel providers. Our travel professionals are here for you to talk to, answer your questions, and design a vacation perfect just for you. No web site or cell phone “app” can do it our way.

You Can Rely On TravelMasters for:

For Expert Insights
It’s our job and our passion to know the world’s greatest destinations inside and out. Our expertise and resources give you an insider’s view when planning your next vacation.

To Save You Time
Our extensive knowledge of cruise lines, resorts, airlines and tour operators allows us to cut through the clutter and zero in on the vacation you really want.

To Save You Money
We have access to discounted, limited-time offers and exclusive benefits you cannot obtain on your own.

To Personalize Your Vacation
Through our global network of trusted travel partners, we can custom-tailor your vacation to perfectly match your individual needs and desires.

To Be There When You Need Us
Sometimes the perfectly planned dream vacation hits snags, like a missed plane connection, a front desk clerk who can’t find your hotel reservation or a medical emergency. When you book with us, all you have to do is make one simple phone call and we will handle the rest.

ASTA’s 2015 Traveler Decision Making Study
1)    Travel agents make travel planning easy, cited by 72% of all travelers.
2)    Travel agents take care of things when something goes wrong, 69%.
3)    Travel agents are good for booking special trips, 68%.

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What Agents Do Best

Hotel executives who lead some of the largest lodging companies in the world see an ongoing role for travel agents, especially at the luxury end of the market.

That’s the message from executives who spoke with Travel Market Report at the annual NYU Hospitality Industry Investment Conference in New York earlier this month.

They all had positive words for traditional agents even as the overall tone of the conference continued to range from grudging respect to outright hostility for OTA’s. Here is a sampling of what the hoteliers said.

What agents do best
“If you’re traveling to someplace new, you do not want to rely on the internet; you want to talk to a human being. We have more calls to our call centers than ever because people want to talk to someone and that’s why travel agents will continue to do well. And we like that business because the commission is lower than what we pay to the OTA’s.” — Eric Danziger, CEO, Hampshire Hotels

High-end business
“Agents will always have a role when it comes to higher end business. At that level the customer wants a lot of tender loving care – and somebody they can talk to.” — Christopher Nassetta, CEO, Hilton Hotels

“As you move up the chain scale into luxury, travelers are looking for a more personal experience. And they are now doing more kinds of things that call for the kind of personal touch that a travel agent can bring.” — Paul Cahill, area vice president, Canada, Marriott Hotels

“At the higher end, travel agents are key. We find that even luxury travelers who search social media for recommendations and advice will not buy on those platforms. They will want to talk to someone at some point – and that someone is often an agent. At our Surrey Hotel in New York, which is a luxury property, a full half of our reservations are made by calls to the hotel – and some of those calls are from agents.” — Patrick Denihan, CEO of Denihan Hospitality (operates the Affinia and James brands)

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The Wonders of Asia

Step back in history and forward to the future, your travels to the Far East will take you there.  Calm in a chaotic world, in other words…….”zen”.   Experience the contrast.

The tranquility of the ancient temples of Japan clash with the neon and glass of the Ginza.   Kimonos easily blend with female executives in business suits.  Temples, Gardens, high-speed trains, prayer beads and sake inspire your steps through this intriguing country.

Meander the vast land of China exploring the history of The Emperors’ Forbidden City and Summer Palace; walk a comfortable stretch of the twisting and turning Great Wall; ponder the unearthed life-size Terra Cotta Warriors; cruise the world’s third longest river viewing some of the most dramatic scenery in the world; stroll through museums and the historic Bund and futuristic Pudong areas of Shanghai; and immerse yourself in the bustling culture of Hong Kong.

Asia is the mystical ancient and modern!  Experience the secrets of life in this blended world.


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The Sands of Time: Travel to Egypt

Experience life of centuries ago, so different, yet so similar!

The drone of the Islamic “Call to Prayer” echoes in the air. Traffic snakes through this ancient city of 22 million people while men in long cotton galabyas reverently bow to their knees in prayer. Women draped in burkas, balancing packages on their scarved heads amble through the streets, while the male shopkeepers aggressively sell their wares in the 14th century Bazaar.

Treasures of the “Boy King”, Tutankhamun, and the only remaining survivor of the original Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Great Pyramids of Giza, are gracefully placed within this city where Bedouins graze on their camels nearby.

This is Cairo!

The longest and only river which flows from South to North. Feluccas with their crisp white sails skimming through the heavy air. Temples of Greek and Roman influence with ornate columns, hieroglyphics and cartouches unfolding the stories of the past.

The heat and mystery of the mountainside “Valley of the Kings”, final resting place of the pharaohs of the New Kingdom, also housing the golden sarcophagus of Tut.

Meals of Babaghanougsh, Tehina, Koshari and Omm Ali created by masterful chefs.

This is life on the Nile!

Come allow your Egyptologist to introduce you to this culture, learning of the similarities of the faiths of time and the origins of civilization!

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Travel to Africa and Experience the “Call of the Wild”

The “Call of the Wild”……do you hear it??

Relive the lives and dreams of Karen Blixen, Joy Adamson, David Sheldrick and many others who have dedicated their lives to the animals of the WILD!

Your introduction will be gentle….. as gentle as the friendly “kiss” of a Rothschild giraffe or a loving nudge of a baby African elephant! Your journey will take you to the heights of the hot air balloon ride over the Masai Mara and the depths of the hippos submerging themselves in the muddy waters.

Along the way you will meet the wonderful people of the tribes of Kenya and learn of their traditions and primitive life. A Samburu dancer or Masai warrior, who will be your newest friend?

Lions, zebras, warthogs, and leopards will surround you on your Kenyan safari. Will you share your breakfast with a black-faced velvet monkey? With this “touch” of the WILD, your life will never be the same!!

Are you ready?

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Why We’re Travel Agents

We received this letter the other day from a long time client. We’ve helped them plan travels to Disneyland, Aruba, Cancun, Puerto Vallarta and more. It’s a joy to form long term relationships with our clients and help them plan vacations that bring them such pleasure and are truly memorable occasions for them and their families.

Here’s the letter…

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