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When it comes to planning a vacation, you need to answer the age-old question – do it all yourself or use a travel agent? The arguments for doing it yourself could be that you will save time and money, but do you? Before you book that next trip, we asked several agents to tell us the real reasons why we should use them to do the work for us:
Convenience: "Travel agents offer the convenience of having all the pieces pulled together for you- including your flight, accommodations, transportation to and from the airport, and excursions,” said Rebecca Hochreiter, from All Inclusive Outlet. “Better yet, they take the guesswork out of these selections. Instead of potentially endless research, you are given hand-selected choices based on your preferences. Those traveling with a group will appreciate having a hub for all related details. Ultimately, a travel agent relieves you from a great deal of time and work for no additional service fee."
Personal experience: “Working with an agent can offer insight and information amassed from years of research and personal experience,” said Karen La Rosa of La RosaWorks Sicily Travel and Tourism. “Self-directed internet searches can come up with overwhelming amounts of information, but to make a trip extra special it’s best to have someone who knows how to connect all that information and turn it into an itinerary that shines and works seamlessly.”
Greg Antonelle, managing director at Mickey Travels, LLC, said that he is keenly aware of the busiest and slowest times of the year for Disney travel and when there are discounts available, such as free dining. “We're also aware of value season vs peak season,” he said. “If you were to book your vacation on your own and a promotion is released, it is not automatically applied to your vacation. However, as your travel agent, we monitor on a daily basis for discounts and promotions and automatically apply them to your vacation.”
Saving money: “Many people might be hesitant to work with a travel agent because they think it costs too much money,” said Antonelle. “The traveler doesn’t pay any more for vacations than they would if they booked it on their own. With that, because of our expertise, we often are able to find you the best deals at the lowest possible cost.”
“More than 98 percent of hotels are parity priced,” said Andrea Crowther of Susan Peavey Travel. “That means the cost is the same whether you book it yourself online or have Susan Peavey Travel do the work for you. You can spend hours on the internet or get the best of the high-tech world, in a high- touch environment.”
Saving time: “Having a travel agent in your corner allows you to look at many more vacation options and get insider tips to make your vacation extra special,” said Steve Griswold, owner of Pixie Vacations. “A travel agent also can save you time and time is money when it comes to your vacation. What's the quickest way to get through customs in Jamaica or the best way to get to the Grand Floridian Resort from the Magic Kingdom? Your travel agent can often offer time saving advice from personal experiences.
Connections: “A travel agent knows from experience the best resorts in the Caribbean for a honeymoon and they know the differences between the properties,” said Griswold. “Your travel agent, in most cases, also has a contact at the resort or property so they can let the resort know about special requests, dietary needs, and room preferences.”
Tom Karnes of La Macchia Travel doesn’t care how much time a traveler spends researching their own vacation, he said they will never come close to the experience and exposure a travel agent has year-round. “Add to that the other agents in the office (or affiliate) and the experience continues to grow,” he said. “If you could consult the best lawyer, doctor or accountant for free and then choose who you want to work with, wouldn’t you? So the real question should be “why wouldn’t you use a travel agent?’”
Personalization: “These days anyone can post anything they want on the internet, and sometimes what might seem like a good deal, might be too good to be true,” said Liz Loftus, Luxury Trips. “When we design trips, we incorporate our personal experiences and relationships with our hand-picked partners. We assure that when people invest their money in a trip with us, it will be exactly what they want. When working with a travel agent, we take care of everything; from the moment you set foot in the destination to the moment you touch the ground back home.”
Keep up to date: “Travel agents keep track of hotel and cruise line promotions and can advise on the best time to book,” said Hazel Boone, Luxury Travel Advisor, Someday Vacations. “For example, wave season for cruise lines, when most cruises are booked, is generally the most advantageous time to book a cruise. Cruise lines now start advertising wave season rates in December - instead of the traditional January rollout date.”
Fritz also said that a travel agent will know when to suggest joining a hotel company's premium frequent stay program and help you calculate the value of what you will receive. “Certain credit cards offer additional cruise and hotel amenities - a knowledgeable travel agent will make sure that you are signed up to receive all of these benefits,” she said.