Don't you wish you had a travel expert who could help you plan the experience of lifetime? Someone who knows the best way to get off the beaten trail, has insider's information on the best places to eat, stay, sail, fly, have adventures, relax? A pro who can tell you what to miss, skip, what's not worth your time and money? The most wallet-friendly way to get away from it all?
Get your travel planning questions ready! Answering your queries in our new ASK A TRAVEL AGENT column is, Susan Kelly, a 25-year veteran travel agent, who has spent the better part of her life helping travelers plan memorable journeys and discover the world.
She has her finger on the pulse of worldwide travel, has access to exclusive deals for our readers, and we are thrilled that Susan is bringing her expertise and passion to our YourLifeIsATrip family.
We’ve experienced first-hand how Susan’s attention to detail, global resources, and industry connections can save you money, time, and emotional distress, but thought we'd start the dialogue with the question everyone is asking these days…
WHY DO I NEED A TRAVEL AGENT? Hasn't the Internet made them obsolete?
The Internet is for Looking. Travel Agents are for Booking.
President Obama came under attack by the travel agency community recently when he said: “One of the challenges in terms of rebuilding our economy is businesses have gotten so efficient that -- when was the last time somebody went to a bank teller instead of using the ATM, or used a travel agent instead of just going online? A lot of jobs that used to be out there requiring people now have become automated.”
Never mind that I just got back from Virtuoso’s annual meeting in Las Vegas where 1,605 suppliers (hoteliers, cruise lines, tour operators, airlines, tourist boards) came from 80 countries to meet with 1,680 travel agents because they know that travel agents bring them business. And Virtuoso is just one consortium of travel agents. In the US alone there are over 120,000 full-time travel agents.
If everyone is booking their trips online, how can that many travel agents be so successful in booking travel?
Because, time after time, it has been proven that travel agents can save people time, money and the hassles of booking travel on their own.
Okay, there may be that once in a lifetime occurrence when you’re on-line and all of a sudden there is a web error and the airfare that was $400 goes down to $40. But how are you going to catch that? Be on-line 24/7 forever? I often test myself by looking at airline and on-line booking sites to see what they offer and it is very frustrating to try and get the schedule I want at the lowest fare. With access to agent-only Computer Reservation Systems, agents can look behind the curtains and find out what's really happening with the airfares, routings and inventory. They can suggest that if someone leaves a day or a couple of hours earlier or later, they can save money.
A simple example: A new client contacted me for a trip to Las Vegas for a convention she wanted to attend. She had been online and found airfare for $214.00 and the hotel she wanted for 5 nights for $375 plus tax. Fortunately, she remembered to call me before she bought her ticket. I found a package for air and the same hotel for $521.00 total including air and hotel taxes so she ended up saving over $100.
Another example: A corporate client decided to look online for air for a trip to Europe he wanted to take. He contacted me for help because he was finding airfares of $3,600 into Rome and returning from Gothenburg, Sweden. And this didn’t even include the leg from Rome to Gothenburg. I found a great schedule and the total cost ended up being $1838.90, including the inter-Europe flight.
Yes, you can use the internet to book your travel and get your questions answered, but how long will that take you? And are you confident that you’re choosing the right hotel/air/cruise line/tours for you?
- An agent has intimate knowledge of the hotels, resorts, cruise lines, tour companies, and destinations they recommend.
- Unlike most online booking sites, an agent is there to help, and knows who to contact, if something goes wrong.
- And an agent can often get you hotel upgrades with breakfast included and resort credits or shipboard credits and other wonderful amenities on board deluxe cruise lines.
So which is it? The Internet or a Travel Agent/Advisor? Could it be both?
Do you have a travel planning question for ASK A TRAVEL AGENT columnist, Susan Kelly? Submit your question and look for answers in a future column.
Daughter of an Army officer whose duties took the family across the U.S. with extended tours in Germany and Japan, the now Seattle-based travel agent, Susan Kelly, was born to a life of travel. A 25-year career professional, and Virtuoso Travel Advisor, Susan is passionate about travel and helping people plan their dream vacation getaway. For personal travel planning services, travelers can contact Susan directly* at 866.318.5396.
*For access to exclusive deals available only to YourLifeIsATrip.com readers, be sure to tell Susan we sent you.