Travel agents are known for their ability to put together the impossible—a vacation that fits needs, wants and budgets. There’s the added security of an expert in your corner when things go awry. For example, dealing with canceled flights, rebooking hotels or making sure you have a plan in case the storm of the century hits. A travel agent acts as your personal advocate if things go wrong or services haven’t met your expectations.
So, how do you find a good travel agent?
Talk to friends and family! See if they’re working with someone they love. You can also schedule a call or a meeting with your local AAA branch.
And when you do meet them, ask questions like:
- What is the agent’s area of expertise? Some agents specialize in Europe or safaris, others cruises and the Caribbean.
- What is your personal travel history? Find out how much “boots on the ground” experience this agent has.
- Have you visited my travel destination?
- How much experience do you have booking travel and excursions to this area?
I know you want to ask: How much is this going to cost?
Using a travel agent can actually help save money. Travel agents’ pay structures vary, but most of their income comes in the form of some base pay + commission—which is paid by vendors, like hotels, airlines or rental car companies. Some travel agents do charge a nominal fee for their services. However, it can often be more than made up in the savings and added value. In the case of AAA, most branches offer free trip planning services to members, as an added benefit of your membership.
You may think an agent who is commissioned by a third party doesn’t have your best interest at heart. On the contrary, it’s that agent’s hard-won relationships with the travel industry that you’re benefitting from. Agents receive special access to deals that you can’t find online. In addition to exclusive pricing, this could mean upgrades in a room, a free spa visit, included breakfast or any number of amenities that will be passed down to you, at no extra cost.
It’s also worth noting that agents wouldn’t survive without repeat business and referrals.
A good agent will work extra hard to get to know you and learn your travel style. They want to create the trip of your dreams so you’ll want to work with them again (and tell all your friends and family).
My advice? Consider bringing a travel agent into your life.
The trips we take with our families and friends are becoming too few, and therefore, far more important. When we do all finally manage to find time to get away with one another, it will be wonderful peace of mind to know you are in good hands. All you have to do is enjoy your trip with the ones you love.
This post was sponsored by AAA Travel, but all opinions are my own.
AAA Travel has teamed up with Samantha Brown and is a sponsor of Seasons 2 and 3 of Samantha Brown’s Places to Love on PBS. The series takes viewers on a discovery of the emotional heart of travel by highlighting the people who are changing, challenging and strengthening a destination to deliver a decidedly refreshing and enriching travel experience. Learn more at AAA.com/SamanthaBrown.