As a member of the travel industry, I spend a lot of time in travel-related online communities. In such communities, there is a divide as deep as the sharks and the jets – those who use a travel agent and those who don’t. I find the ones who don’t use a travel agent don’t understand how a travel agent works (or thinks it will cost them more money) or have had a less than ideal experience working with an agent.
If you have any questions about how a travel agent works listen to this podcast interview I did for the vacation mavens.
But for many, once they have found “their” agent will never go back to DIY. What makes the difference between a good experience or a bad one? The right fit. It is important to understand how a travel agent works, what the process is, and what you can expect. It is even MORE important that you enjoy working with them. It is so much easier to create a perfect itinerary with someone you feel comfortable with.
So how do you find the perfect travel agent?
The emergence of the internet changed the travel industry forever. No longer are agents just an intermediary to write your airline tickets. Agents have taken the role of advisor to help guide you through the booking and planning process offering personalized recommendations, time savings, and so much more.
You will want to find someone who specializes in your destination or type of travel. Find out what certifications they have and how many times they have traveled (or have had clients travel) to your destination. If you have a special circumstance like a traveler with food allergies, special needs, or military associations there are agents that specialize in exactly what you need.
I specialize in family travel. I focus on destinations like the US, Caribbean and Europe. Would I love to still help you with your adults-only viking river cruise? Of course! But I spend most of my time finding kid-friendly hotels, engaging activities, and destinations that offer something for every member of the family.
Don’t just call one travel agent and pick the first person you find. Call or email a few to find the best match. You want to find someone looking out for your best interests. Look for someone who asks questions to get to know you personally and not just your dates and budget.
By no means do I mean to request a quote from multiple agents and go with the lowest price. Agents do not get paid until AFTER you travel so it is certainly frowned upon to ask multiple people to spend time quoting. BUT they would all be more than happy to answer any questions you have about their style, process, and selves.
During your search make sure that the agent’s process lines up to the planning experience that you envision. Decide upfront if you are looking for someone who is hands-off and just a number you can call if there is an issue or if you want daily communication – or a balance of the two.
Have them explain what their typical process is for your destination, how long it will take, and how often you can expect to hear from them.
I always recommend working with the person you would most like to travel with! Follow them on social media to get a feel for where they like to travel and what they like to do when they get there. Scroll through the comments, what are their other travelers saying about them?
Some travel agents still work in an office and are available during business hours. Many are part-time agents who only work with travelers when they aren’t at their other job. Some are only accessible by phone, others only by email. Some like to plan via Facebook Messenger (I am not one of them)
And one, in particular, is a work from home Mom who focuses on their travelers during naptimes and after bedtime. They may be faster to respond to emails, but may have to restrict phone calls to times that their toddler is not around.
What works best for you?
In order to make sure everyone has a wonderful experience it is important to make sure you both are aligned in planning style. It is not enjoyable for either you or your agent if you have different expectations.
For example, I provide my Walt Disney World clients weekly emails with tips and tricks throughout the planning process – occasionally there is an email I need them to respond to which I mark in the subject line. I once worked with a client who wanted me to take care of everything, didn’t respond to any of my questions and then complained about the whole trip. As part of my process, I require a back and forth with my travelers to make sure I truly understand their needs and my planning is aligned with their interests.
I am not a go with the flow type of person. I like to encourage all of my clients to have a plan. Not a minute-by-minute itinerary but a loose guideline for how to approach the day. If you want a strict no flexibility itinerary you may be better off with a different agent.
This is where finding an agent today varies most from travel agents of old. Many pre-internet travel agents never went anywhere. Today, you will find more and more people becoming agents because of their travel experience. Ask if they have ever been to your destination. If they haven’t, make sure they are well-versed in planning it for others, have a trusted supplier in that location, or have completed a destination certification.
Again, this is all about what is important to you. If it is important to you that they have been to the destination annually, then ask them!
It is important to ask some questions about them. What do they love about travel? Why did they choose to start a career as an agent? It is in these personal questions that an agent’s passion really shines and you will know if you click.
If you are ready to have the family vacation you’ve been dreaming of, without spending time researching, planning and making it happen, schedule a call today. I’m here to help busy working Moms plan, organize and book the perfect family vacation. With me, all you have to worry about is enjoying your well-earned time away with your family. If you are ready to stop trying to do everything on your own and see how I can help you schedule a complimentary trip planning session now.
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