To Travel (Agent) or Not To Travel (Agent)

“Wait, so you’re, like, a real travel agent?”

Often, when I hear this, I wonder if what I feel isn’t exactly how Pinocchio felt when questioned about his real boy-ness.

Yes,” I want to respond, “According to all the hotel chains, I am real. According to all the cruise lines, I am real. According to a long list of all-inclusive resorts, I am real. According to endless theme parks, I am real. According to a variety of tour companies, I am real.”

Instead? Instead I typically just smile and nod while I wait for the statement that will come next:

“I could never use a travel agent, they’re too expensive.”

There it is. 

What I want to say then is, “Hello? I’m literally right here.” What I typically say is “Yeah, that may actually be the biggest myth of all time.” 

Since transitioning to travel, I have spent hundreds of hours taking courses required by endless suppliers to gain accreditation to send clients to lounge poolside at resorts, relax seaside on cruises ships, snuggle into hotel beds, and so, so much more. Still, the thing that continuously surprises me how little the most travelers know about the benefits of engaging a real-live travel agent. And yes typically, when asked why not, the response is just that: “It’s just too expensive!

Digging in further, I then discover how few (as in most) people realize that engaging a travel agent is, um, free. “Free” as in the very opposite of “expensive.” How is that possible? How is it possible to have an expert handle the brunt of planning a stress-free trip off one’s plate and pay no more than one would have otherwise?  

It is actually the suppliers that pay travel agents, not the consumers (“Suppliers” as in whichever property you choose to visit and “consumers” as in, well, you).

Fun fact: The “expense” for engaging a travel agent is pre-built into whatever rate consumers pay for their hotel, cruise, all-inclusive resort, land tour, rental car, etc. 

Did you read that right?

Yes! You are already paying for a travel agent whether or not you use one. 

As you hand over your favorite credit card to pay for nearly anything related to moving your body from regular-mode to vacation-mode, you are paying a built-in commission that will either go back into the supplier’s bank or that will be transferred to the travel agent who submitted the booking.

This is not a case of hotels, for example, sneaking extra funds into their bottom line, though. This is a case of hotels, for example, reducing their own overhead by tapping into the land of independent contractors willing to put bodies into beds–ie, travel agents.

Some simplified math? Sure. If you book a hotel room for $100, a percentage of that $100 is bookmarked for whoever added your name to a reservation, whether that person works for the hotel or whether that person works as a travel agent. The only person who will not benefit from that bookmarked percentage is you, the consumer. This system is the same whether that $100 went to a theme park ticket or a rental camper or an airline ticket or a cruise cabin, etc.

Engaging a Travel Agent does not create a difference in price, it creates a difference in service–the personal touch, if you will (and you should).

Booking travel can be like navigating a corn maze on a moonless night. You may think you know where you are going, but instead, you spend hours getting smacked around before you finally give up and head to what looks like the easiest escape just so you can say you did it when, in reality, you took the most mentally painful route possible and were left with both zero joy and a personal mantra to never, ever to go through it again.

Every plane, train, or automobile website visited listed endless special rates that would only be good for sixteen more seconds and included reviews from people that may actually be bots and within minutes you had twenty-three browsers while trying to compare flights and arrival times while deciphering cabin classes while requesting password reminders and, for the love of Louis & Clark, maybe a staycation is a better option. 

Then, once you’ve put that credit card away? Radio silence. The next time you will hear about your vacation is upon check-in and, by then, you’ll likely have forgotten every detail–details that will come back to haunt you in the form of complain-y companions. The entirety of your vacation will be spend fending off the low-level stress camping out in your belly as you wonder which other balls you dropped. 

Option B?

Utilize a project manager to handle all of those endless details and take an amazing vacation that will end with words of adoration for your work. By “project manager,” I mean “travel agent” and by “hire,” I mean … there is no cost to you.

There are so many benefits to using a travel agent that I could never cover them all in one blog. Still, let me just slide out soap box suitcase for a minute and climb on up. 

  • Travel Agents have first-hand feedback on endless properties and personal resources delivering reviews. 
  • Travel Agents have access to secrets, yes, in the form of software provided to them by suppliers. Software that will eliminate your need to open sixteen browsers and create a CSI-worthy bulletin board of comparative options. 
  • Travel Agents are educated. Suppliers require them to become knowledge experts on each property before giving access to that secret software. Does that mean answers will be readily available at all times? No, Travel Agents carry way too much information in their mental Rolodex, but they do have a mental Rolodex ready to be opened as needed. 
  • Travel Agents do not disappear after booking. That right there may be the most beneficial reason to engage a Travel Agent. You have questions? Your Travel Agent will have answers. Need to shift your dates? Done. Special requests? Handled. 

Next August, my mother-in-law will be joining us on an Alaskan cruise. I’m not sure she’s ever been in a rowboat, let alone on a cruise ship. I can say, with no doubt, that if a Travel Agent was not involved in booking this trip for her, she never, ever would have taken it–a lifelong dream of hers that would have been left on the table had she not known someone with access to that mental Rolodex. Since booking, she and I have spent time looking at deck plans, perusing excursions, and taking virtual tours of the ship. We have even done walkthroughs on what it is like to board a ship, what a muster drill feels like, and how the restaurants work. She has gone back on forth on items she wanted to include in her fare and items she did not and it’s all been handled with a click of the buttons, by me. 

Had there been no Travel Agent, none of that follow-up would have happened and I have no doubt that she would have canceled the trip almost as quickly as she took the leap to book it. 

Instead of being riddled with anxiety, the months leading up to her first embarkation will be filled with anticipation and excitement. 

That right there? That’s the benefit of using a Travel Agent.

That’s why using a Travel Agent is worth every penny. And by “every penny,” I mean no pennies at all, but well, right.

Now how about those cheap flights … maybe I’ll save that for another day.

To read more about my zest for all things travel, head to the Bearly Home tab!

Leave a Reply