1. If you’ve already been everywhere once.
If you already have a pile of passports filled to the brim with stamps, a travel agent could probably turn to you for advice (or maybe you should consider becoming one yourself).
2. If you’re only interested in the cheapest option for everything.
That’s what Expedia is for. Travel agents are not human discount machines. We’re in this work because we’re creative and we enjoy designing itineraries that our clients wouldn’t be able to design themselves. We don’t have a magic wand to make everything cheaper.
3. If you’re only interested in the top 10 things on Trip Advisor for every destination.
Trip Advisor is a wonderful “Step 1” when researching a new destination. As a travel agent, I’m not ashamed to have a look, because it gives me a general overview of a new city and tells me within 5 minutes if I need one day to explore, or four.
But, these websites fail tremendously when it comes to restaurants. They’ll typically only send you to the ‘good’ restaurants where all the tourists are hanging out. They also don’t fair that well when you have a particular interest that you want to look into while traveling — for example if you want to geek out over archaeology or World War II history. There are a plethora of incredible places to visit for travelers with particular interests that won’t make these top ten lists written for the masses. Travel agents exist for those occasions in which you’re looking to experience something beyond what everyone else is doing.
4. If you want the cost breakdown of every dollar you’re spending.
This used to be me. Travel agents work with a range of hotels, destination specialists, tour operators, and service providers. We often work together within a consortium which means that we have access to contracted rates and special benefits. The details of these rates can often not be shared. Other times we know the exact breakdown but don’t want to share it with you because we know that if you see that one hotel that is $600 per night, you’ll freak out and make us change it. But we promise, it’s worth it!
It’s true that some travel companies mark up prices so much that even other agents feel it’s not an honest business practice. But, that’s business. That’s why we want to build a relationship of trust with you so that we can focus on the big picture and not the nickels and dimes. Just as you build relationships with your financial advisor, yoga instructor, and hair stylist, build a relationship with your travel agent. You likely wouldn’t go into your favorite restaurant and demand a breakdown of their food costs, building rental, management fees, salaries and wages, and their eventual profit, so don’t do it with your vacation either.
5. If you can talk your way into anything.
This is a skill that some people truly have and others just don’t. Thinking of this scenario takes me back to that episode of Friends when Monica and Chandler fail to inspire the airport representative to upgrade them to First Class when going on their honeymoon.
6. If you hate free stuff.
Early check-ins and room upgrades are just the beginning of where travel agents get the credit for an assist in the big game that’s better known as your one-vacation-a-year. But not everyone enjoys the added benefits or likes their name to be pulled out of a pile of reservations for a little extra special attention.
7. If you love getting the last-sell hotel room next to the overnight kitchen.
All hotels have that room — the one that they don’t sell unless they absolutely have no other choice but to send you to their competitor down the street. They check you in and hope for the best. But this room isn’t offered to guests who are loyal and stay often, it will be offered to the guest who booked the cheapest rate through Expedia because the hotel knows what you paid for the room and they know that you aren’t loyal to their hotel or their company.
8. If you love sitting in the back row of a 747 next to the bathrooms on a 14-hour flight.
Again, see above. Discount websites are wonderful when we are pinching pennies just to arrive at the destination. With that said, don’t expect the best when you’re paying the cheapest price. Basically, you get what you pay for. Hotels and airlines forgo their favorable profit margins in order to be present on these booking engines. Often, if you go directly to their website, the price is similar, if not the same, and you won’t get the short end of the stick when checking-in. (And if you do, you should complain that you booked direct and don’t deserve anything less than a standard seat on the plane or room in the hotel).
9. If thoughtful gestures and attention to detail just isn’t your vibe.
I have come to understand which details make or break my personal travel experiences. One thing, in particular, is simply just getting to my first destination. It usually goes like this: after kicking myself in the security line at LAX for not enrolling in TSA Pre (another 45 minutes of my life gone), waiting on the plane for one hour with no explanation as to why we’re not taking off, shuffling through immigration, customs, and baggage claim, searching for the ATM that will give me the best exchange rate… comes my favorite part, figuring out how the hell I’m going to get to my hotel.
Because I’ve experienced all of these things myself, I advise clients who are traveling 4 or more times per year to buckle up and invest in TSA Pre. And I always arrange for a pick-up upon arrival to get them swiftly and hassle free to their first accommodation. Maybe private transfers throughout their vacation is a little too luxurious, but that first one is worth it. We get to know our clients so that we know which details will make a big difference in their experience. These are the details that allow you to relax on that hard earned vacation and that are often overlooked.
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