Picture this: You just landed in an exotic location that has been on your bucket list for years. The weather is perfect, and despite being a little jet-lagged you’re ready for a day filled with experiences. You wheel your suitcase over to the check-in, hand them your ID, only to be told that even though you booked and paid for a deluxe suite, the system has placed you in a standard two-twin room on the side of the hotel furthest from any amenities. Would you rather:
A) Call the online booking site you used for your getaway, and wait in a two-hour queue before receiving nothing but an apology and an attempt to get you in your preferred room the following day.
B) Get into a heated debate with the receptionist who says she can do nothing for you as the system says you booked a standard two-twin room.
C) Phone your travel agent who will work on rectifying the issue while you take a deep breath and go have a meal.
Whenever I mention working for a travel agency, nine times out of ten I’ll receive a confused look followed by “people still use travel agents?” For some reason, the rise in technology and convenient online booking services like Expedia and Booking.com have led people to assume that travel agents are obsolete. However, statistically, while old-fashion storefronts boasting travel agencies may have decreased significantly the number of independent agents working from their homes or remotely has almost quadrupled in the last decade. Working remotely is a benefit in itself, as you can now have one agency of five different agents working and knowledgable about five completely different regions.
For many such as myself, planning a trip is almost as fun as the adventure itself, and I have a complete method to madness which often begins a year before I plan to travel if traveling domestically. And yet, there are several locations where I would most likely turn to a travel professional to make sure I get the most out of my time away.
It seems too frequently I have to dispel the myth that travel agents are irrelevant, but honestly, that debate never gets too far due to the significant amount of benefits that come from booking with a travel professional.
While I find that many clients look for a travel agent because they aren’t sure where to begin in terms of research, there is a decent size group that either does not have the time to plan a trip or simply does not want to spend their time stressing over putting a trip together. Travel agencies give clients the option to say “Here is where I’d like to go. These are some of my interests. Help me plan something amazing.”
Knowledge and Experience
Knowledge and experience are developed in a variety of ways. Some agents have extensive travel experience, both internationally and domestic; have a strong understanding of a specific region or multiple regions, have a degree or educational background in the travel and tourism field, or any collection of the three. While it’s easy to do a Pinterest search and throw together an average itinerary, in the end, I’d prefer a trained or experienced pilot driving my plane than someone who has simply watched planes fly.
Cost Savings and High-Quality Ratio
Any agent you are booking with should have a grasp on common cost-saving methods, even ones as minor as knowing which day of the week to search for a plane flight, to which weeks to avoid traveling to which areas. However, most agents will also prioritize quality; meaning they will aim to plan within your budget while still piecing together a trip that will meet or exceed your expectations.
If you’ve ever booked a trip package or planned a trip piece by piece, you have most likely experienced the frustration of being stuck on a phone chain as you’re transferred from department to the other. If you’ve booked with an accommodating travel agent, you should expect to not only be able to rely on them before your trip but during your trip as well. While the agent handles any discrepancies or issues, you’re free to begin your trip the minute you arrive.
At Map to Magic Vacations, there is an emphasis on personalized client experiences. Map to Magic Agents will get to know each client and their travel party as much as possible during the first days of correspondence from travel preferences and interests, to specifics like “Grandma loves rides that spin but hates rollercoasters” or “Jenny loves to fish but is strongly allergic to shellfish.” Similarly, having multiple agents with varying niches allows the opportunity for a perfect client-agent match. While some agents have more experience traveling with young children, another may focus on traveling with allergies or traveling with handicap accommodations. While it can be difficult to entrust your entire trip in the hands of someone else, the aim of any good agent will be to get to know the client almost as much as they know themselves.