I get a variety of reactions when I tell people I'm a travel agent, ranging from "That sounds like fun!" to "Wait, those still exist?" It is, and we do - and today I'm going to tell you about some of the things your travel agent would like you to know!
The Internet is a Blessing and a Curse
"Why do I need a travel agent when I can book it all online?" We see this one a lot. Yes, you can book just about anything online, but the expansion of the Internet over the last few decades has produced a new problem - information overload. There's an endless amount of choices - and an endless number of opinions about those choices - when searching for travel information online that it's just too much to sift through - unless you'd like to make planning your vacation your full-time job.
Now, don't get me wrong - your travel agent knows that you're going to go Google things about your trip. The Internet can be very helpful! But, we only ask two things. First, take what you see on the Internet - especially if it's not from an official source - with a grain of salt. There's lots of information out there, but some of it is incorrect, outdated, or filtered through someone's else's experience and opinions. Second, if you have an important question, ask your travel agent! You don't need to sift through endless Internet search results for everyone - that's what we're where for!
Just Because Your Friend Recommended It, Doesn't Mean It's What You Want
Let me tell you a story. A couple of years ago, one of our agents went on vacation to Jamaica. They were looking for a simple, low-key vacation, and booked a small, boutique hotel in Montego Bay. There was a very small beach across the street, one small pool, and no swim-up bars, beach parties, or nightlife. Our agent knew this going in - they wanted a quiet, intimate vacation, and this resort was fine for that.
During their trip, the agent's husband struck up a conversation with a man staying at the resort. He innocently asked them if they were enjoying their vacation. The man became upset - when asked what was wrong, he said this wasn't what they wanted - they wanted a room on a beautiful beach, and the resort didn't have anything like what they expected. After a bit more conversation, the agent discovered that the man's brother-in-law recommended the resort for him, and without any other qualification, they went ahead with what he recommended.
It's totally understandable to want recommendations from people you know personally when you're trying something new - I get it! The thing you need to keep in mind when it comes to things like vacations, where there are so many resorts, destinations, activities, and so on, is that just because someone else liked it doesn't mean that it's what you want. Travel agents work to qualify the guests they work with to figure out what they really want, so that you end up at a destination you'll truly enjoy.
Last-Minute Deals Often Aren't Better than Booking Early
You've probably heard the phrase 'last-minute deal' plenty of times before. Those certainly do exist sometimes when, for example, a cruise line has some un-booked staterooms shortly before a sailing. There are a couple of things to know about last-minute deals, though.
First of all, these types of last-minute deals, especially for cruises, often have additional restrictions, and are only available for a limited number of room types or itineraries. If you have your heart set on something in particular, there's no guarantee that you can get it with a last-minute deal. Second, the best pricing, especially for cruise itineraries, is often when they first open, which is usually over a year in advance. If you want to truly get the best pricing on your preferred itinerary and stateroom type, you'll want to plan ahead. Planning ahead also makes it easier to pay for your cruise over time, if you like.
Value and Price Aren't the Same Thing
One important point that experienced agents know well is that there's a big difference between value and price. We know that you're spending your hard-earned dollars and want to make your vacation count, and we know that you want to get the best possible price. But, one of the things we always stress to our guests is that the cheapest option is not necessarily the best value. This doesn't mean breaking the bank - instead, what we help our guests do is find the best combination of amenities and price that offer the best value for your vacation dollar.
Another thing we do is help our guests find the best value for them. There are lots of great vacation options out there (and we mean that - there are so many destinations out there that offer great service, great food, great views, and so on), but not every vacation option is right for YOU. There are lots of destinations, resorts, and hotels online that offer great experiences, but a vacation isn't a great value if it's not what you want out of your vacation. We want to get to know you and what you want from your trip, so that we can truly get you the best value for your vacation dollars.
Travel Agents Aren't a Relic of the Past
Every now and then, I'll see article go around declaring that travel agents are history and the travel agency profession is dead. The travel industry has definitely changed over the years with the widespread use of the Internet, but travel agents are hardly a relic of the past - quite the opposite, in fact! Travel agency sales actually increased in 2019 - and travelers continue to go to travel agents for booking cruises, family vacations, and international adventures.
As I mentioned, the problem with the Internet as a travel resource is the sheer volume of information. Travel agents, in contrast, are specialized experts that can narrow down the best options for travelers. It's true that you can book just about anything on the Internet, but we're here to make sure that what you book is truly right for you. We're still here to provide you with first-hand experience, personalized service, and time-saving expertise.