Things to Keep in Mind When Looking for a Travel Agent
There's a good chance you are wanting to take a trip and have found yourself struggling with some component of the planning and / or booking process and have decided you might want a travel advisor for some professional help! You have probably started by posting on social media for recommendations, used Google for help or asked some relatives if they have a travel agent. Now it's time to choose a travel advisor you want to work with based on the many recommendations you've received. Ugh - we get it! Life and making decisions should be easier, right!? But trust us, if you find an amazing advisor - that's exactly what they'll help with when it comes to planning vacations. Here's a few tips on finding an advisor, questions to ask, etc.
Finding a great travel advisor is more than finding a "great deal". It's choosing a dedicated professional that you are building a long-term relationship with who will help plan unforgettable journeys for years to come.
Why Use a Travel Advisor
Choosing a travel advisor is similar to finding a realtor, financial advisor, accountant or hiring a housekeeper. These professional service providers are people you trust and in the long run will save you money and time!
Top Reasons People Use Advisors:
- They have run into issues or too many unknowns during the planning or booking process
- They don't have the time to research, book and manage their trip
- They want expertise, perspective and recommendations on a specific destination
- They want to protect their money and make sure they are booking with trusted sources
- They like having a real person available to take care of changes, cancellations and help when things go wrong
If you enjoy price shopping or really thrive on managing and controlling your own travel plans, having an advisor might not be the best option for you. Travel advisors are your partner in travel! We provide a luxury experience (but not at luxury prices). Advisors have access to the same pricing as consumers; however, a majority of the time we save our clients money because we know the ins and outs to the booking process, terms & conditions and have access to special promotions through our partners and networks.
Ultimately though, it's the knowledge and perspective that advisors can provide when planning a vacation. Do you want to book a trip based on your neighbor's opinion of the one all-inclusive resort they've been to once in their entire life, or work with an advisor that has inspected over 100 all-inclusive resorts, invested in education and training, and has the onsite sales manager of your resort saved in their phone??
You may feel well-traveled if you take a couple trips a year, but we're booking several trips every single day and have run into every situation out there. Whether we're proactively lining up positive experiences or reacting to get you out of negative situations, our expertise is unrivaled when it comes to booking clients' vacations.
Alternative Ways to Book Your Vacation We understand there are different ways to book your vacation, but having a dedicated travel advisor has its perks. Alternatively to using an advisor, you can book with any of the many online consumer sites like Expedia, Travelocity, Vacation Express, etc. There are direct booking options with hotels, resorts, airlines, cruises, etc. that you can stitch together. You might be roped in to booking with member-based Travel Service programs like AAA, AARP, credit card travel programs, Costco, etc. And our least favorite of all, time-share pitches! Each of these will present you with options of wildly different offerings, terms & limitations, transparency/communication, and transferability or refundability. They all come backed with millions of corporate marketing dollars telling you to book directly with them (more on WHY it's better for them in the last section of this blog) I can tell you, we almost always beat the pricing of most of the member marketed prices. Just because they have the marketing dollars to scream from the rooftops "lowest prices" or "exclusive member prices", that doesn't mean they actually are the best! I recently had some Good Trippers send me over a deal they received in an email from AARP and I was able to get their vacation for two for over $1,000 less. Prices usually aren't as great as they seem out there, purchases are very transactional, and little to no personal service is offered. As consumers, there is so much distrust in the overwhelming number of suppliers and marketers out there. That's where travel agencies and teams of professional advisors come in. We find so much joy in eliminating the confusion of our clients. Over time our clients come to understand they can trust our pricing and booking techniques and know that we are always working our hardest to provide them the best travel experience and value available.
What You Should Get Out of Your Travel Advisor
Not every travel advisor is created equal! There are really good ones and yes, there are some not-so-great hobbyists out there who might lack in some areas.
Your travel advisor should be taking time to understand your travel style, personality, budget expectations, special needs and more to help create the most tailored vacation experience for YOU! As you build your relationship with your advisor, they will continue to learn your likes and dislikes. They will have an instinct on what products will be a great fit for you and any special needs that need to be taken into consideration during your trip. That could be anything from knowing what style of hotel or resort you prefer, what seats you like on the airplane, which destination city best fits your travel vibe or excusion recommendations.
For example, after a few minutes of hearing a clients' Disney trip aspirations I can start to envision in my mind what resort I see them staying at, what parks they should visit, and the airline and dates they should travel. Find someone that is going to envision YOUR trip based on their expertise and knowledge and will plan your trip based on your needs.
Your travel advisor should be taking the time to the find you the best value, extra amenities and pulling all the strings to enhance your vacation in ways that wouldn't happen when self-booking.
Choosing an Advisor - What to Ask
Here are a few questions you should present to any potential advisor you are considering working with:
- What are your travel specialties?
- Have you been to the destination I am currently looking at?
- Does your agency have an office? Can we meet in person?
- What are your office hours? Are you part-time or full-time or is this just a hobby?
- What is your booking process and procedures? What is due at time of booking and are payment plans are available?
- What can we expect throughout the entire experience?
- Can you help book all of my travel components - flights, cruises, hotels, tours, rental cars, transportation, excursions and other activities? (Yes, there are many home-based agents out there who do NOT book flights).
- Does your agency have special discounts or promotions?
- What happens if I can't get a hold of you? Do you have a backup?
- Will you provide travel documents?
- What will you do to ensure I am vacation-ready?
- What ongoing programs or initiatives do you have in place for your clients?
- Do you charge any service/planning fees? What does this entail?
(FYI - based on recent industry surveys, advisors charge an average of $250 per trip in planning fees, $500 for Europe trips and up to $300 per day for Europe itineraries. Air is typically anywhere from $50 per person for domestic flights to $150 for international flights. Many advisors will waive planning fees in certain instances. If you find an advisor that charges no up-front fees, this may be a red flag that they are providing sub-par services or charging higher fees on the back end)
All of these questions are a great way to get started in understanding what a travel advisor and their agency is going to offer you! Most importantly, you want to know that they'll be there when you need them and that they always have YOUR best interest at heart.
What's In It For Us??
First of all, "no", we don't get a free trip when we book your vacation! Travel Agencies don't operate like Scentsy, Thirty-One, Amway, Pampered Chef or any of your other favorite (or least favorite) MLM/Direct Sales companies.
As I mentioned before, travel advisors provide a professional service. It's not as simple as providing an affiliate link for you to self-book with and then BAM - we are done with you. Advisors spend an average of 20-40 hours per trip and oftentimes more! It's not unheard of to have trips that take 80+ hours of our time.
So how do we get paid for our time? No matter how and where you book your vacation, agent commission is built into the price. It works like this. Say you booked a hotel with Expedia...
- You pay Expedia $200
- Expedia pays the hotel their published $200 rate
- Months later, you stay at the hotel
- After the hotel settles up their books, the hotel sends Expedia a commission check for $5-$15
It works like this across the industry. All of the online booking platforms have access to everybody else's prices, reskin them to match their website's look/feel and may or may not mark prices up. You book directly with Disney, they get the agent commission back from the Disney resort. They sell with the same prices that are available to everybody else, but they get to put the agent commission back into their own pocket and don't provide any services that you would get from an agent. (makes sense why they'd reinvest that income into more marketing persuading buyers to purchase direct, huh?)
Up-front planning fees ensure a client is dedicated to our services before investing 20+ hours in quotes and itinerary building. Because guess what?! Commissions don't get paid until AFTER our clients take the trip! Can you imagine working 40 hours and not getting paid until a year later? (or not paid at all if a customer doesn't book or travel?) That's what we do. I know, we are crazy! They don't call it a passion-based industry for nothing.
There are some travel components (like airfare) that are non-commissioned which is why advisors impose service fees. If we are charging a service fee on a particular trip, it's highly due to us making sure we are being compensated fairly for the work towards managing your trip.
I hope this article has helped you think about a few key characteristics to look for in a potential advisor and helped you understand just how it all works.
Good luck in finding your perfect travel advisor and bringing the reality of your upcoming trip to life. I hope you find a person that you enjoy working with, that answers the phone when you call, has your best interest at heart, and can truly enhance your travel inspirations and overall experience. HAVE A GOOD TRIP!
At Good Trip Travel Co., we're all about creating an amazing travel experience for our clients! During the inquiry and exploration phase, we won't hesitate to share why we will be a great fit for you or if you should look at alternative booking options to best serve a particular trip. While we look forward to securing and booking trips for all our Good Trippers, in the end we just hope you have a Good Trip!