Travel is a constant conversation piece in my world. If I hear that planes, trains and automobiles are your go-to to get away, you basically have an instant best friend in me. So, when I was chatting with my co-worker Olivia about travel – specifically travel agencies – and she suggested I write an article about why you should, or shouldn’t take advantage of them, I couldn’t resist jumping on the opportunity.
Nowadays, travel is available at your fingertips – literally. You open your search browser, type in a destination and hundreds of options will pop up. Flights, all inclusive holidays, cruises, hotels, hostels, trains and more; available in seconds, at your disposal. So that begs the question; if finding information on travel is so readily available and seemingly easy, why bother using a travel agent?
Well, the simple answer is that similar to how a good wedding always needs a co-ordinator; a good trip needs a travel agent. Contrary to popular belief, going to a travel agent for information won’t cost you any more than booking a trip online by yourself would.
When you use the internet, you are still paying commissions to whatever website you use. Only, your hard earned money is going to an invisible person on the other side of a screen that did no work for you. At least with a travel agent your commissions are going to an actual person; a person who dedicates as much time and interest in your trip as if it were their own.
I’ve travelled a lot and no matter where I go I always consult my travel agent first. There is a certain ease of mind knowing that if I run into any issues on my trip, help is one phone call away. There is no holding, transferring and explaining the story eight times over to six different departments, which is something you might experience if you book through a big company.
I can remember being half way through my tour in Europe when I contacted my travel agent to ask if it was too late to change my plans. Originally, I had planned to spend two weeks between Belgium and the Netherlands. However, on a whim I decided to take a trip to Scandinavia instead. I didn’t have the time or resources to research my way to Scandinavia so one email to my travel agent sent the ball rolling and within the day my flights were rescheduled, I was booked on a bus tour and my hotels were confirmed. All this while I was exploring the Scottish Highlands and taking pictures of men in kilts.
There are always two sides to every coin and there have been times that booking with my travel agent hasn’t been worth it. Unfortunately for travel agents, the world of travel has changed over the last many years. Regulations on prices mean travel agents can’t offer you outrageously low prices like they once could. It’s true that a lot of the time they will find you the same prices on flights or holiday package that you can find yourself. So yes, admittedly, I have booked a few flights and hotels without their consult because it’s faster and instant. However, for the travel that involves more than just picking a flight, they do have connections and resources at their disposal to help the client with details that an untrained eye might gloss over.
When I was going to Cuba my agent spent hours researching various resorts, reviews and details I wouldn’t even have thought about such as distance from the airport, ocean tides and sand ticks. If you are anything like me, you’ll read a review or two and call it a day. I’ve booked myself into hostels after reading a few fun sounding reviews only to show up to a decrepit building with mold in the showers, broken bunk beds and unsecure locks. I’ve also been known to get a little too click happy and book the wrong dates – non-refundable – at hotels. I know my agent will be reading this and laughing because I called for counsel on what to do, but since I booked through an online site I was forced through the rungs of holds until getting a “too bad” in the end from the site.
That brings me to another rather important point about travel agents. Keep in mind that they are not miracle workers. Just because you’ve booked through an agent doesn’t mean you will have a flawless trip. Sadly, unexpected illness, injuries and cancellations happen. For that reason, always take travel insurance. The financial strains that such events can have are quite devastating. It only takes a quick search on the internet to find all the horror stories and hundred-thousand dollar bills from people who neglected to take insurance while on holidays. Your agent can help you find the perfect insurance for your trip and make sure you have that peace of mind when leaving home.
Travel agents have connections that you couldn’t get even if you researched your fingers numb. They are the first to know when sales are coming up. They can tell you about the underrated and overrated places to go. They speak from personal experience and from the experience of their clients which they use to make sure that your holiday is one to remember.
I’m not saying that everyone needs a travel agent. If you love to research and would rather take your trip into your own hands, there is nothing wrong with that. But, like I said, why take on the full responsibility of knowing and remembering all the details of your wedding when you know a planner will do a flawless job. You shouldn’t be stressing about the small details and worrying about the things that might go wrong. Holidays are supposed to be fun and relaxing and that is what travel agents are there for – to make sure you experience the pure joy of travel.
Check back next month to hear about what it’s like to travel on one of Viking Cruise’s Luxury ships. Are they worth the extra money? What’s the food like compared to your normal cruise ships? Will I come home with a spoiled taste of luxury or will I still be an ambassador for lines like Royal Caribbean?
Emily Wilson is still relatively new to the wonderful city of Medicine Hat, having moved here in May 2016. She was born and raised in Ontario and lived in Australia for a year and a half. Emily has visited 32 countries and will share some of her experiences and advice for globetrotters of all ages.