Think of a travel agent as a guide for your vacation planning journey. They are at your service to help you make the right decisions, consult, customize and help you avoid any pitfalls with your vacation plans.
In most cases, travel agents offer their expertise to clients that book with them for free. They earn their keep by sales commissions. Some will charge a small fee upfront for research, large groups or very complicated itineraries that take a great deal of time. In many cases, these fees are deducted from deposits due when you book your trip with them.
BUT...do you need to use a travel agent every single time you travel?
Probably not. If you're booking a flight to visit a friend or need a hotel room for an overnight roadtrip stay, this is an easy enough DIY travel booking best left to an online website.
HOWEVER....There are several types of trips when you should absolutely, POSITIVIELY should call upon the expertise and support of your favorite travel agent:
International Travel- If you're heading overseas you definitely need the help of a travel agent. Everyone will need passports and no doubt you'll have lots of questions about this process.. If you are unfamiliar with international requirements you may end up forfeiting your entire trip as well as all of the money you've invested. Small issues like time zone changes, VAT, foreign address formats, distant connections, schedules and local customs can quickly snowball into costly mistakes. Having an experienced agent that you can rely on means peace of mind to enjoy the journey. Many agents have access to industry fares and discounts that you'll never find online. In addition, those with first hand knowledge of your destinations can offer suggestions on local experiences that will certainly enhance your overall enjoyment.
Travel With Kids - Smart parents know if the kids are happy and engaged then everyone will have a fun vacation. Unhappy kids = stressed out parents. Be sure to work with a travel agent that specializes in family vacations. These agents will be able to offer you the right fit of age appropriate activities and experiences for your kids. They will know how to create and customize the right balance of activities so that Mom and Dad actually get a vacation experience too. This is especially true when it comes to Theme park vacations. A Family centered travel agent can not only help save you money on reservations but help create daily itineraries, dining reservations and even get you sale prices even after you make your deposit.
Baby Vacationkids - If this is the first time you're traveling with your new bundle of joy or if it's been a while and you need a refresher, a travel agent can save you a bundle of hassle. You're probably exhausted anyway and desperately need some rest. Let your travel agent help wth all the planning while you take a well deserved nap. While you may be new to traveling with a baby, your travel agent does this all the time for hundreds of families. They know the most baby and toddler friendly resorts and cruise lines, travel tips, even spots that offer free baby sitting so Mom & Dad can get the break they deserve (and probably need).
Escorted or Guided Tours- Escorted tour groups offer vacationers access to all the highlights a destination offers along with the hand-holding expertise of a guide to help you every step of the way. It is a wonderful opportunity to relax and leave all the travel details to someone else. While these are fantastic travel experiences, the fine print in these tours can create many costly potholes and detours for DIY travel planners. Different rules and expectations apply to these types of vacations that differ from other types of travel. Again an experienced travel agent can insure that your dream trip goes beyond your initial expectation.
Family Cruise - Port, Starboard, aft...the lingo alone is confusing enough. Everything is different at sea so no doubt you have questions. Then there are all those decisions - the best cruise line, the best ship, the best cabin, the best sightseeing. Mix in different rules as far as identification and in just a few google searches you will probably need a life boat.
Group Travel - Business meetings, Family reunions, Special interest groups, Fundraisers are all examples of specialized group travel events. Each situation comes with a different set of requirements, fine print, logistics, negotiating and organization. A travel consultant that specializes the large groups can help you create profits, minimize expeditures while maximizing the fun and comradery that group travel events offer.
Destination Weddings or Honeymoons - Congratulations! If a destination wedding or honeymoon is in your future, you'll definitely need professional help! First of all these are the type of events that happen once in a lifetime. They are far too important to leave to google searches or serendipity. A travel agent can help you create the honeymoon of your dreams while taking one less thing off of your long "to do" list. Destination weddings come with all the logistics of planning a travel event for a large group but in addition you have ceremony planning. If that isn't enough stress, add in well meaning family members and the downright crazy relatives (yes, every family has those ;-) and you have a powder keg of possible stress factors. Travel agents can help you plan organize and plan this event while acting as your right arm, confidant, diplomat, juggler, host and cop when necessary. A really great travel agent will make all of this behind the scenes chaos look easy.
Do yourself a favor and treat yourself to peace of mind. Find yourself an experienced and reliable travel agent to be your new BFF. You may not chat with them every single day but when you need them, you know they will have your back!