5 Reasons You Need a Travel Agent
My colleagues and I often laugh about our bygone days in the travel business, when travel agents booked hotels by fax, assigned seats in the smoking section and sent clients off with paper tickets. Imagine!
Before the 1990s, cruises, tours and hotels were not yet the core of the vacation travel business; it was all about the airline tickets. And while that’s changed since the dawn of the Internet, AAA still embraces the philosophy that we want to be trusted advisors at every stage of the vacation experience, from the moment you leave home to the moment you return. Need convincing? Here are five reasons to consider travel agents for all your travel planning.
1. They are patient planners
Agents not only search your air options, they can also often hold your reservation for 24 hours, sometimes longer, while you make a decision. It’s important to note that any airline ticket price can go up between the time a seat is held and purchased, and some ticket prices do require immediate full payment. Still, this tool gives clients time to sort out details such as work schedules and cruise or tour availability.
2. They will advocate for you if a promised service is not delivered
We’ve all heard gate agents asking for volunteers to take the next flight; this is a common overbooking scenario. Fortunately, airlines now offer fair compensation to bumped passengers, so working out a settlement is rarely necessary. The thornier issues involve hotels and car rentals—accommodations that don’t live up to their advertising and vehicle inventory problems being the most common. A travel agent will go to bat for customers with legitimate complaints, either to find a reasonable alternative on the spot or compensation later.
3. They customize and personalize
Savvy agents understand the biggest differentiator between them and an online agency is the ability to engage in dialogue. A client’s input is critical to moving the conversation from “Who’s traveling and what are the travel dates?” to “How can we make this vacation everything you’ve dreamed of?” Travel agents can customize a vacation by piecing together various components, such as independent pre- and post-cruise tour packages or add-on special activities such as cooking or photography classes. AAA’s TripTik with hotel reservations is the ultimate road trip: a personalized route complete with road-construction indicators and time estimates but without the fear of No Vacancy signs.
4. They add value
Travel agents build their business by maximizing their clients’ time and money. They do the searching and provide advice as needed. Some clients know what they want but need help finding it. Others have no idea what they want and come to a travel agent for ideas. Each situation has its own unique set of variables—such as budget, past experience and style preferences—but all vacations are personal investments. A travel agent’s job is to work within those parameters.
5. They have the inside scoop
Most seasoned travel agents have some decent travel experience of their own, and the best among them continuously broaden their knowledge and develop their expertise. AAA Travel agents, in particular, are well-trained, passionate about exploring and eager to share what they know.
Globe-trotter Chris Anderson, in our St. Louis Park office, is a prime example. He took his first Viking river cruise in 2016, from St. Petersburg to Moscow, knowing only a few geography basics and returned to the office with a fresh perspective on river cruising and the confidence to recommend this often-overlooked destination.
Interested in Vietnam? Acacia Fritz, a former agent, fearlessly jetted solo to this emerging hot spot to join a Contiki tour group. She bravely sampled “otherworldly” food, kayaked between limestone mountains in Halong Bay’s emerald waters and mud-fished in the Mekong Delta with newfound friends from around the globe.
Former agent Morgan Weaver stated with conviction that first-timers visiting Costa Rica will return.“My big takeaway was the ever-changing wildlife we encountered on our hikes. While passing a hanging bridge, I witnessed an anteater with a baby clinging to her stomach as she climbed down a tree. Up above, howler monkeys were chattering from the treetops. It was unreal.”
But it was Morgan’s comment about the Costa Rican culture that struck a chord with me. “It’s happy and peaceful. Locals greet one another with the phrase ‘Pura vida,’ which translates literally as ‘Pure life.’ Use this phrase wherever you go, and expect a smile.” Most travelers want to leave a place with a memory to connect them to the people they’ve met. A travel agent can book your reservations but also prepare you for moments like this, which I promise is the added value you won’t find anywhere else.