You know taking a vacation is great for your long-term job performance, stress levels, and overall health, and you finally got your spouse to agree to take a trip. But, you google your desired destination and suddenly planning a trip becomes a second full-time job with the stress to go with it!
Is there a better way to plan a vacation and save money while you’re at it? I recently sat down with Nancy J. Dries, a travel expert with 20 years of experience, to get some answers and advice.
With the plethora of information available to anyone with a computer, people are often surprised that the travel agent industry is booming! When using a travel agent to plan a trip, what is the first step in finding the right agent and what traits should people look for before hiring one?
I obtain most of my business through personal referrals. People go on a fabulous vacation that I planned and then post about it on social media or tell their friends over coffee! So, start by asking your friends and family who they used. Then, interview the agent: remember, an agent works for YOU! You want someone who listens to what you’re looking for, who understands your personality and lifestyle, and who respects your budget. If you aren’t looking to spend $20,000, don’t hire someone who is pushing a luxury European extravaganza.
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Also, many agents have specific areas of expertise. I have colleagues who have traveled the world on various cruise ships and can plan everything from an Alaskan cruise to a European river cruise, but they don’t plan ski trips! Ask the agent where they have been, what is their specialty, and if it isn’t what you’re looking for, ask them for the name of a colleague who may better be able to help. Many agents have more than one specialty. Share your ideas with them and listen to what they have to say. A seasoned travel agent is well traveled and knowledgeable about everything from the best seasons to visit certain regions of the world, to the best excursions once you arrive.
Doesn’t using a travel agent to plan a trip cost a lot? Traveling is expensive and I don’t want to pay extra fees! Won’t using a travel agent cost me more money?
While there are a few agents who charge extra for their services, most get paid by the vendors (hotels and other businesses) we book. Travel companies purchase hotel rooms and other services at wholesale prices in bulk. In turn, agents sell those rooms at a discounted rate to clients. You, the client, save money by paying below retail, but above wholesale. It’s that simple.
Why shouldn’t I just spend the endless hours in front of my computer planning a trip? What makes using a travel agent to plan a trip better than planning and booking online myself?
The simple answer is using a travel agent to plan a trip saves time and reduces stress. But it is more than that. As an agent, I have traveled the world and have spent the last 20 years learning the tricks of the trade. You get the benefit of my knowledge and expertise without it costing you a dime. In addition, when you book a hotel through a discount website, if there’s a problem with your room, you have no recourse.
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If a hotel overbooked and you’re stranded in Copenhagen without a room, you’re at the mercy of the local front desk. But if you book with a seasoned agent and there is an issue, the hotel goes above and beyond to make it right. They want me to send my clients there. They want my clients to tell their friends. You call me, and I handle getting them to make it right. None of the stress and anxiety of planning a trip and all of the fun!
What do travel agents book? Just airfare and hotels? I want someone to do it all for me: soup to nuts! Will an agent do that?
Yes, they can do everything from airport transportation to meals and activities. Travel agents can book as much or as little as you would like. Is your spouse a foodie? An excellent agent can get you reservations at the greatly-sought-after restaurant during your stay! When it comes to activities, agents will vet the vendors and ensure five-star experiences! You will never show up expecting a yacht and getting a dinghy.Yes, they can do everything from airport transportation to meals and activities. Travel agents can book as much or as little as you would like. Click To Tweet
I usually arrange a few surprises along the way for my clients, like champagne in the limousine if they use one, or a welcome basket at the hotel filled with snacks for tired, hungry travelers. I want my clients to come back relaxed and refreshed with fabulous stories to tell about their adventures; I want them to call me when they get back and say, “Where to next?”
What is one piece of advice you could give to your clients or others planning a vacation?
Let an expert help you. Ask your travel agent for help/advice for everything from what to pack to what is a don’t-miss excursion. And then listen to what they have to say. If an agent tells you it’s the rainy season and not a good time to visit, then consider alternative suggestions.
Life is short and research continues to show that taking vacations is excellent for your overall health and for your bottom line. Employees who take vacations are healthier! They make more money in the long run and display better job performance upon their return from trips. So, my advice to you: take the trip. Use your vacation days. Invest in yourself and live a longer, healthier, more prosperous life while having a little fun too.
Mercedes is a business owner and Executive Consultant with Rodan + Fields. In addition, she works in the field of behavior analysis for children with autism and their families, specializing in preschool aged children. She also has her Masters in Science from University of California at Davis.
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