10) They know things you don't - Through their own experiences, the experiences of other agents in their network, and their clients, they have a lot of really useful information that you may not know about destinations including weather patterns, crime statistics, travel restrictions, how long you're going to spend in the airport getting to your destination and home, etc. Sure...you can find all of this out if you'd rather spend your precious time researching, but why not leave the worrying to someone who knows?
9) They're available to help if something goes wrong - Your family is headed on vacation, and an unexpected weather cell pops up, causing your flight to delay landing and having to re-route to a different location all together to refuel. Of course, you've missed your connecting flight to your destination, and there's not another flight to your destination until tomorrow. You booked your trip online, and unfortunately, the 1-800 number you dial doesn't seem overly concerned about getting you a place to stay for the night so you're not sleeping in the airport or confirming a flight for the next morning. Travel agents, on the other hand, especially independent ones, make themselves available for their clients during travel for just such emergencies and know how to get things taken care of so you can tuck into a nice hotel for the night with shuttle service to and from the airport and confirm your family on the first flight to your destination the following morning. If, for some reason, they're not going to be available, they'll equip you with contact information and instructions on how to get help should you need it. (By the way, situations like this are when Travel protection insurance really comes in handy, but that's a separate blog.)
8) Travel Agents can, and often do, save you money - Sure, that $500 flight included trip to that all-inclusive resort in Mexico you booked last week looks great....until you read the fine print and discover that without additional costs, you have no way from the airport to your resort and back again...and that the trip is non-cancellable without losing ALL of your money. What's that? You found an even BETTER deal three weeks later? Maybe they'll have that same promotion when you book your NEXT trip. Any Travel Agent worth their salt is going to provide a discount monitoring service and will apply promotions that come up that will positively affect your reservation WITHOUT YOU HAVING TO ASK! Also, many travel agents don't charge you anything above the cost of your trip for any of their services.
7) You'll be supporting a small business - Independent Travel Agents own their own businesses and they are paid a small percentage by the vendors (hotels, cruise lines, etc) only if you book through them.
6) They have extensive networks - As I mentioned previously, Travel Agents just know stuff. They also love to travel, so there's a good chance they've been somewhere you want to go, or had a similar experience to what you're thinking of. If they haven't, chances are REALLY good they've got a close contact who has, plus they have "who's who" lists of vendors and people in positions of power to get in touch with in case you need help or just to add a little something special to your vacation.
5) They think of things you don't - Travel agents eat, breathe, and sleep details. They'll help think of that tiny stuff that you wouldn't...like what to pack in a day bag to make sure you can handle any situation, but not have to lug around a 40 pound bag or empty it out like a Mary Poppins carpet bag to find something.
4) Your time is valuable - Why would you spend hours and hours researching resorts, destinations, tours, and more when a Travel Agent can do it for you, and in most case, much quicker than you can?
3) Travel Agents give advice to keep you out of bad situations - As with many things, money isn't everything in travel. You absolutely get what you pay for when it comes to resorts, and if you're looking for the cheapest, bare bones resort, you're going to find it...and a room with a view of a parking lot or brick wall instead of an ocean, not that you want to stay in your room because you're sharing it with roaches and other crawly things, but stepping outside isn't any better because of the crime levels in the area the resort is located in. Travel agents who are truly interested in getting their clients a relaxing vacation that the client will enjoy will NOT put their clients in any situations they wouldn't walk into themselves and feel comfortable doing so. The tips on not playing leapfrog on the balcony of your cruise ship stateroom or wandering down dark streets in strange cities are just bonus tips.
2) Travel Agents are good with logistics, especially when it comes to groups - Imagine trying to plan an extended family vacation for 25 people, all coming from different places and all who want as much information as possible, not to mention keeping track of who pays what when and tracking them down for final payment by the deadline...oh, but you're not getting along with one branch of the family tree, so those phone calls/emails are going to be extra special. Have a headache yet? Travel Agents deal with groups and can get special pricing and amenities for groups, as well as keeping track of payments, answering questions, and more.
1) Travel Agents are Specialists - As part of their ongoing training, Travel Agents can elect to specialize in different areas of travel and/or focus on clients in particular demographic groups. These Specialist designations aren't easy to obtain and require continuing education, so most Travel Agents are pretty proud of them and will advertise they have them on their sites, business cards, and elsewhere. If you'd like them to specialize in something, just ask! They may be in the process of earning the specialization you're looking for OR are willing to pick it up and start work to earn it.
NOW - My Challenge to you -
In the comments below, I challenge you to tell me why you do or don't use a travel agent! Let's get a discussion going!