OK, I have to admit… I book my own travel. I’ve been vacillating back and forth for months and months on whether to add a travel agent (aka travel consultant) to my team of experts that help make my life easier and I just haven’t done it yet. Now don’t get too impressed that I have a ‘team of experts’ – the list is short. It includes the lawn guy who’s also now the pest control guy, the maid, my hair stylist, my all-important driver to and from the airport, and that’s about it. But they’re all people who can save me time, save me money and can make recommendations based on their experience with me and my preferences. Hmmm… sounds like a travel consultant also.
So to help me make my decision, I thought I’d pretend that you’re asking me questions and I’m giving you the answers. It makes the writing so more interesting than just talking to myself.
Q: So why in these days on online booking of everything should I use the services of a travel consultant?
A: Online booking of travel may be the best way to go if you have a simple flight to book, have no long list of special needs, and know what you’re doing. I like to go to Travelocity or Expedia and search out my options and prices, but then I book my ticket on the airline’s direct site. I just trust that if I have any issue with my ticket that their airline will be more helpful to me.
I’ve only ever booked a ticket on one of these online sites when I needed a flight that had one airline on the outbound and another airline on the return.
Because I routinely fly to the same city, I just jump on that airline’s site and can have a ticket booked within seconds. But when my husband and I are both flying and we’re originating in different, then a travel consultant makes much more sense. I spend an excessive amount of time searching multiple airline sites trying to get us to arrive and depart at somewhat the same time.
If you have special needs (allergic to peanuts, pets, people, etc.), then a travel consultant can help ensure that your seats and/or flights are suitable for you. If you’re traveling internationally and are concerned with connecting flights, tight connections, passport or health requirements, go to the expert on your team.
Q: What can a travel consultant really do that I can’t do myself?
A: Besides what I just mentioned above, they can also:
Scout out lower prices than you may be able to find.
Help you with recommendations and prices on cruise bookings and most other forms of travel packages (guided tours, all-inclusive resorts, safaris, etc.) based on YOUR needs and desires.
Keep you in the know about luggage fees, luggage limits, TSA, travel rules in other countries, best times to travel based on weather and more.
Help resolve travel issues (cancelled flights, oversold hotels) and complex travel itineraries.
All with personal service and expert knowledge.
Q: What does a travel consultant charge to use their services?
A: The fee depends on the consultant. While some of the more luxury agencies have higher fees, the average fee is quite marginal. Some travel consultants will even drop the fee or offer a discount once you have finalized your trip with them. Plus, you can always ask an consultant upfront what their fees are and decide for yourself if it’s worth it. Your time is valuable also… so consider the value of the hours that you’re searching for your own travel and the fee for the travel consultant then looks very reasonable.
Q: So what are the requirements for a travel consultant to become part of your ‘team of experts’?
A: Just a few minor requirements to fulfill:
- They recognize who I am when I call and say “Hi, it’s Carol.” I do not want an agency where I speak to someone different each time I call.
- They know my preferences and my type of travel. When I say “Bruce and I both want to get to New York City around 6pm on a Thursday,” they’ll know to put me on Continental, him on Delta, and get us both aisle seats (exit row for me, any row with a power outlet for him).
- They know our 1,000 places to see before we die, know where we’ve already been, and call us when they see a great deal to a place we’ve yet to go.
- They book our cruises and our hotels and airfare. No more cruise-only people that leave the rest up to us.
- They provide recommendations for places to see, things to do, restaurants, etc. because they’ve already been there!
- If they’re not an expert in a certain area, such as finding us a house to rent in Santorini, they’ll find someone who is.
- They offer reasonable fees and throw in a freebie now and then because we use them so much (is that too much to ask??).
Q: So are you still going to book all of your own travel?
A: Heck no! I’ll take resumes starting today from any travel consultant who can meet my requirements! — I’m interviewing!