Have you ever purchased something on sale just because the price was so cheap? We all love to find great deals, but if an item you purchased at a bargain price disappoints later, have you really received a deal? Some consumers will use this strategy to purchase travel, but many of those “deals” you find out there on the internet can turn into costly mistakes. A cheap vacation is often just that- cheap. And cheap usually doesn’t contain value. All vacations are NOT created equal, so using a travel expert who can distinguish price vs. value is a smart idea. Now that our society relies so heavily on finding information from the internet, many people forget that travel consultants can quickly provide the answers you’re looking for, find the same good prices you’re seeking, and keep you from purchasing a trip that turns into a disaster.
Consider for a moment that you and your family would like to go on a cruise. There are many cheap cruises out there, but did you know that the price you see advertised is always the lowest priced stateroom on the ship? These cheap staterooms are always in the least desirable locations and often offer obstructed views. In addition, you will find if you click through on the site as if you’re really going to book, the price will almost double. That is because the lead in price contains no government taxes, fees, or gratuities. You should also be aware that every cruise line has its own personality and each ship in the fleet offers different amenities. To find a cruise that truly works for your family, you have to take all these things into account. Travel consultants are familiar with the cruise lines and ships, so they can help you find the perfect match. No on-line site can do that. We can find you the right cruise line, ship, itinerary, and cabin type for your personality. The result is usually a satisfied customer who almost always wants to cruise again. Because agents are paid commission by the cruise lines, we don’t have to charge you, the customer, a fee for our services. You will pay the same price whether you book it independently or with an agent. However, the agent can usually find you an upgrade or on-board credit. We can also inform you of a senior, military, or location discount that would apply. The cruise line will not usually offer these rates to you unless you ask, and they’re usually not found online. In addition to saving you money, a good agent will act on your behalf should something go wrong. They can get a problem resolved quickly and it takes the burden away from you, the consumer.
This same advice applies to hotels and resorts. Booking a hotel on-line is pretty straight forward, but do you want to choose based on price alone? A real travel agent brings value to your purchase by knowing the differences between hotels in the city you’re visiting. Of course an agent can’t possibly visit every hotel in every location, be we have a network of connections and can get unbiased information from other travel profesionals. In addition, we often have package deals and offers that don’t show up on-line. Why is this the case? Because hotel, resorts, cruise lines, etc. are constantly trying to get us to sell their product, so they will offer some good incentives that we can pass along to our clients. Most good agents also belong to a consortium in order to bring even more benefits to their customers. For example, Trip Quest Travel Services belongs to Ensemble Travel Group, which negotiates with hotels and cruise lines on our behalf to allow us to pass along some free perks and credits.
If price is not enough to convince you to consult a travel professional, consider these facts also. Having the help of an agent means that planning your vacation will be stress free. Sorting through all the information on-line can be a major task which consumes hours and hours of your time and can be very confusing. Additionally, agents are aware and knowledgeable of passport and visa requirements and can help you get all documents in order. An agent can also help you decide on vacation protection or insurance coverage during your travels. They can help you navigate the various policies and have you covered for any situation that may come up. Travel agents are well versed on booking transportation and accommodations for your pre or post cruise travel arrangements. Inexperienced travelers often make costly mistakes, such as booking a flight to Europe without taking the time change into account and missing the ship. If you’ve booked a trip on-line that gets delayed or cancelled, you are on your own. However, if a travel agent arranged your trip, they can work on your behalf to make alternate arrangements and solve the problem. They also have more power to fix a booking mistake because of their relationship with the cruise lines and resorts.
How do you find and select the best travel agent for your needs? Start by looking in your local area. Talk with several agents and go with your instincts. You can usually tell if someone knows what they’re talking about and if you have good communication with them. Ask if they have any certifications or specialist titles. In some states, such as Georgia and South Carolina, there are no seller of travel laws, so anyone can become an agent. Being a member of a consortium or a professional association is a key factor in finding a knowledgeable agent. Accreditation from an established institute confirms that you have found someone who is dedicated to the profession. Also take into account whether that agent seems to be interested in building a relationship with you. They should spend time asking you questions so they can find the best vacation to fit your needs. They should also return your calls or e-mails promptly and stay in touch between booking and traveling.
Ultimately, you don’t have to stop using the web to find your vacation information. Check sites for great deals and then call your agent. They may be able to offer you the same price or explain why the deal isn’t as good as you thought. Today there are simply too many choices for consumers to make. More and more travelers are beginning to see there is a big difference between price and value. An agent can make your whole experience more pleasant and less time consuming. And you’re going to get much more for your money.
Share the knowledge
Ann Jones, CTC, MCC