travel agents – why use one?

I know what you’re thinking… are travel agents even a thing anymore? Can’t you just do everything online? What do travel agents even do any more?

I had all the same questions. The idea of paying someone else to do the legwork of my own trip seemed ridiculous until I started counting up the hours I was researching (comparing, stressing). I wouldn’t mind getting a few of those hours back. I also had no idea how travel agents got paid, or if they truly would help me in any way. I could understand someone reaching out for Honeymoon help; after all there are so many places you could pick. Or… if you’re doing a family reunion or some big international trip – those can be a lot to handle. Disney too – that’s a monster of a trip right? Ok, so maybe having travel buddy isn’t such a bad idea.  

Now that I am a certified Travel Advisor [TA], I see the value more than ever. Sure, I’m a bit biased since I love the industry: but I do think it’s time we shed some light on the utility of the service.  So let me answer some of the biggest questions I had myself: 

1. Are travel agents still a thing

Absolutely! Travel is BACK and it is in full force. Unfortunately, a lot of the portals of travel (air, train, cruising) are NOT back in full force. There are limited flights and dates to choose from, and getting from point A to point B isn’t as easy as it once was. Gas prices are bulging, and many destinations require reservations since they rapidly reach capacity at any given time. Thus, travel agents/advisors to the rescue. Not only can we help you navigate the [very] muddy waters of transportation, we can help with budget, itinerary, tours, travel insurance, and my personal favorite: restaurant recommendations. Whether you’re looking for a weekend away or need help planning a group in two years – we’ll be your travel buddies for life. 

2. Am I going to get fee’d to death with a travel agent? Are they expensive?

This probably depends on what you would call “expensive”. What is worth the investment for you? Travel agents get paid on commission, AFTER you travel. This means that all our planning hours are put in before a single dollar gets transferred. Now does that mean you don’t have to pay fees at all? Certainly not. We still have to keep the lights on, and if your trip gets cancelled for any reason that’s a paycheck we go without. A mark of a good travel agent will be total transparency. Fees will vary from agency to agency, but in my personal business you know up front what is required. Currently we do only ONE fee at Honey and Spice and it is a Planning Fee.  This allows two things: 1) knowing your trip will be planned well because an initial investment and contract has been made, and 2) knowing your travel planner values both your time and their own. You want someone who is as considerate with their own wellbeing as they are with your trip! 

3. Why is this better than booking online?

Have you ever sat on a customer service line for 20 minutes, 30 minutes, even hours? When you use a big box online vendor to book your trip, they are pocketing the TA fees and not answering service lines. A travel advisor is a REAL person with a REAL personality and understands what it’s like to feel like just a number. We are invested in your trip as much as you are, and we want you to have the best time! With TA services you’ll have someone to call/text/email and get an answer (not a bot). Travel agents also have access to package deals, bulk flight pricing, and can get you real life reviews for places you want to go. If you like the idea of having someone in the States while you go international, then a Travel Advisor is the way to go.  Having  a second pair of eyes and ears is always helpful when you’re going long distances. 

4. Do you get to travel for free? 

Yes and No. This one is a little more difficult to answer. Is travel ever free? I do feel like I am more free to travel with this job. Since I can choose when and where I work, I have way more flexibility to check off my bucket list destinations. However there are definitely some major travel perks and I feel no shame in sharing them! Travel agents often build up lots of air miles and can earn free flights. You can also earn free cruises and resort stays when you are able to partner with vendors that you use frequently. Some destinations will offer what we call FAM trips (familiarization trips) in which you can visit for discounted or free to get to know the lay of the land for your customers. When your work is your passion, it can really pay off! All of these things come with a cost of course, typically in time and effort – and a the willingness to do things right. 

5. What happens if I have an emergency during my trip? Can my TA help me with that? 

You won’t find a travel advisor out there who tosses travel insurance into the wind and tells you to ‘bon voyage’ without it. We all know that any travel has it’s own level of risk, but your vacation will be so much better spent when you know you’re covered and have help on speed dial! Miss your flight? Your TA will likely already have a plan B for you. Sick and need a doctor? Your TA will have had medical services mapped out and numbers to call. Lost your important documents? Your TA should/will have photocopies to help you navigate back home. Each person and each agency will have their own ways of dealing with issues, so be sure to discuss any concerns you have with your own TA at the beginning and throughout the planning process. 

The questions I had were not exhaustive, I’m still learning a bunch about the travel industry and what changes I can be involved in to make it less stressful and better for our clients. What questions do you have about Travel Advisors? Leave a comment! 

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