You Get More Without Paying More
If you weren’t aware, using a travel agent for booking trips involves no additional cost to you. Travel agents are compensated strictly by commission and their booking charges are exactly the same as if you had booked through an online travel site or directly with the travel supplier (resort, cruise line, tour company, theme park…). The costs of resort rooms, cruise cabins and airline seats are always in constant flux as availability and demand changes. If you do find a different price it is simply that the cost has been adjusted by the travel supplier after your recent quote. Also with a travel agent you have a better chance of benefitting from those typically shifting prices (more on that later).
Another thing that most people aren’t aware of is travel agents don’t get paid their commission until you actually take that trip. You may have booked that cruise a year ago and made your final payment months ago but until that ship sails, with you on board, no commission is paid. The same applies to resort rooms, tour bookings and other travel products.
The reason this is important to understand now is, in this age of the epidemics and travel cancellations your local travel agents income has probably gone to almost zero. In many cases over a years worth of work and income has simply vanished in the last few months. We’ve literally had almost seven months of cruise reservations alone disappear as sailings have been cancelled. Once the world opens up again many travel agents will be starting to build commissions from scratch all over again.
More Reasons To Use A Travel Agent
First, and this is one that hadn’t occurred to us before the recent collapse of the travel industries. If you had booked a cruise directly through the cruise companies website and cruise itineraries began to change and cruises started getting cancelled what were your options? From experience we know – not because we booked with the cruise line but because we needed to deal directly with the company as our long itinerary began to change. On average we spent two hours on hold and often got a representative who didn’t have the information and couldn’t offer anything but a call-back.
Once we got past the emergency information regarding flights and ports phase we turned everything over to our travel agent. She told us she was spending hours on hold too but when she reached her contact she had numerous cases to discuss.
Secondly, travel agents know what they’re talking about. Overall they are people that love travel. Often when they offer advice or make suggestions they have first hand information because they’ve already been there. Also most travel agents have a speciality like cruising or resorts and you should have a conversation about your interests before settling on an agent. While all agents can sell the whole world of travel products you should try and match your interests to the agent.
While there are more considerations in using a travel agent another big reason is they can actually save you money. Most travel agents are independent contractors but a majority also affiliate with large “super agencies” for support and the ability to take advantage of their buying power. They go by a number of names like American Express, Cruise Planners, Avoya but they all represent advantages for you and your agent.
One is that issue regarding the constantly changing prices on travel bookings. After you book a cruise what happens if the stateroom price comes down? If you find out about it you can contact the cruise line, but if you used a travel agent most have systems that track your reservation against changing prices and will let you know that you may have an opportunity for additional savings. Another way you can benefit involves group bookings. Most time when you book with an agent affiliated with a super agency there is a fair chance that they will book a number of people on the same trip. This allows them to combine all those booking into a group and get a bigger discount. The common practice today is for the agency to provide you with an additional credit or an add-on feature for your trip.
Selecting A Travel Agent
You need to find the right fit in an agent and that means asking friends, calling around and doing some research. Almost all travel agents can book any type of trip, but the best ones bring travel experience knowledge about their specific segment. Organized land tours, cruising, resort destinations and major attractions. There are agencies that specialize in cruises and some that focus on Disney vacations so start by knowing what your needs will be.
Don’t just find a listing and call one agent. Call a few to find the best match for your budget, bucket list or places to see and things to do. Keep your search local if possible and identify someone who is preferably independent with solid travel affiliations (a large franchise, American Express, a mega agency). They are most likely to be unbiased in what they offer while looking out for your best interest.
It’s important to understand the affiliation arrangements and to select one that has a connection with a larger organization. That arrangement allows them to take advantage of increased buying power, technology and website management and group travel discounts. Some affiliations to look for are American Express, Liberty Travel, and Avoya. Be sure and ask about the advantages of their affiliations and professional relationships. There are also franchise owners that are good choices in an agent. They include Expedia, Cruise Planners and Dream Vacations. There are links below for quick access to some of the better known agencies.
In conclusion we would like to say that, if you are a traveler, travel agents need your help. Maybe you’ve been furloughed and expect to get back to your job and salary in the near future. Travel agents don’t have that to look forward to. As independent contractors they won’t take home a paycheck until they book your trip and after that not until you actually travel. If you are planning a trip in the future, you’ve got nothing to lose contacting a travel agent and probably much to gain.