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.