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Six reasons for having a travel agent book a trip
By Ed Perkins
Tribune Media Services
Published October 22, 2006
Every week, I receive at least one or two e-mail questions that I can best answer by saying, "See a travel agent." Although I defer to nobody in my enthusiasm for the Internet as a source of travel information and as a booking tool, there are times when many of you would be better off using a travel agent--especially if your trip is complicated.
First, let's clarify what I mean by travel agent. Theoretically, any intermediary that sells travel to the public is a travel agency. Online giants Expedia, Orbitz and Travelocity are travel agencies, as are Hotwire and Priceline.
But here, I'm not talking about those outfits; I'm talking about local retail offices staffed with real agents with whom you can sit down and have real conversations. And the personalized service these agents can give you is often worth far more than the modest fees they charge. Here's why:
Good deals. Get over the idea of great online deals that somehow travel agents can't get: Travel agents can get anything you can get for yourself. But they also have sources the typical consumer doesn't: deals limited to computer reservation systems (CRS) that the public doesn't access; cruise and tour deals distributed directly to agencies or through their consortiums; and (often) the best consolidator airfares.
Booking savvy. Online sites are a snap for buying simple trips, but online booking of complicated trips can be--well--complicated, and your chances of missing out on the best deals increase. On multi-stop overseas air trips, for example, a savvy travel agent knows booking tricks that can sometimes cut your costs by a lot. Similarly, an agent may well be able to cut your hotel bill by throwing in a half-day sightseeing trip and booking you as a tour package.
Upgrades. If you buy cheap online, you get cheap. But even when you buy cheap, a good cruise agent can sometimes score a one- or two-level cabin upgrade. Similarly, when you select the bottom-end "from" hotel on a tour package, a good agent can sometimes get you upgraded to a better property.
Travel counsel. Good travel agents know destinations, they know deals available from their home areas, and they can draw out from clients what they really want to do.
Efficiency. Online booking can take lots of time. I do this stuff for a living, and I still find it sometimes takes two or three hours to zero-in on the best option for a given trip. There's a reason so many businesses use travel agencies: If you value your time, a 10-minute call to an agent will get you what you'd take hours to find.
Help in a pinch. When something misfires on your trip, there's no substitute for having your travel agent working on a solution while everyone else in your predicament is waiting in line for an airline or hotel to find a fix. Serious difficulties don't hit you often, but when they do, an agent is your best ally.
Readers often ask, "How do I find a good travel agent?" My answer is, "The same way you find any other good professional: word of mouth." A travel agent is a professional, just like your stockbroker, dentist or plumber, and the best way to find one is through other satisfied clients.
Majesty of the Seas - 10/03 & 02/07 & 11/08
Enchantment of the Seas - 10/04 & 10/11
Mariner of the Seas - 10/05
Vision of the Seas - 10/06 & 09/07
Carnival Liberty - 10/07
Adventure of the Seas - 9/08
Ruby Princess - 12/09
Voyager of the Seas - 9/10
Carnival Spirit - 11/10
Oasis of the Seas - 9/13