In the digital age that we live in, when anyone with an Internet connection and a credit card can buy pretty much anything online, it’s no surprise that many have turned to the web to purchase their travel options. But as appealing as clicking your way toward your next vacation may be, going it alone certainly isn’t without its pitfalls – often consumers end up spending more time and money than if they had used a travel agent to begin with.
In fact, booking your own travel can present even the most web-savvy among us with a regrettable case of “buyer beware.” I learned my own lesson the hard way recently after I booked a hotel room using a popular online portal. I was just days away from my trip when I received this email from the booking engine that said that I no longer had a hotel reservation due to an error they had made in advertising the room rate – unless, that is, I was willing to fork over an additional $88 per night:
I wasn’t willing to pay that much more and so I ended up on a cousin’s couch for the duration of that trip – were it not for her, I would have had to cough up the extra coin because of the booking engine’s mistake.
Avoiding becoming suddenly stranded is just one of the many reasons why you should book your trips with a travel professional. When something unplanned happens, it can be reassuring to talk to someone you know and trust. On that note, here are the top five reasons why – contrary to popular opinion – travel agents are needed now more than ever:
With so many destinations to choose from, hotels to scope out, and deals to compare, it can be easy to get sucked into the research vortex; spending hours browsing websites and reading reviews before you ever even whip out a credit card. Never mind the time it takes to look up flight schedules, train times, car rental information, tour reservations and insurance plans…add to that the stress of dealing with difficult website navigation and presentation issues on some websites, and it becomes quite understandable if booking your own travel ends up leaving you feeling like you need a vacation from your vacation. Having a good travel agent, on the other hand, means that you get to focus on the fun stuff (like picking the place), while he or she takes care of all the time-consuming planning.
It may be discounted, but is it really a deal? That’s the question to ask the next time you find yourself browsing an online booking engine, because while a particular offer might be presented as a deal, only the expertise of a travel agent can tell you whether or not you are really getting one. The truth is that your travel agent can often score you bigger savings than what you could get for yourself online. This is because they’re aware of special promotions and industry-only deals that the general public doesn’t have access to. And, while they do make a small commission on booking your travel options, using the service of an agent usually ends up paying for itself – particularly when you factor in the time and hassle saved.
An agent’s livelihood ultimately depends on the value they can add to their clients’ travel. The best travel agents act as “consultants,” advising their clients on their options while also providing them with their own personal insights. When it comes to booking complex itineraries, the experience of a travel agent can be invaluable to finding the right hotel, car or tour that will accommodate your needs and the needs of those travelling with you. An experienced agent can also guide you through a trip to exotic destinations, as well as find options for those that want to venture off the beaten path. Planning a destination wedding or looking to book a scuba diving trip? Using a travel agent will go a long way to ensuring that your trip is a memorable one, for all of the right reasons.
When you book your travel with an agent that is registered with the Travel Industry Council of Ontario, the regulating body officially tasked by the provincial government for enforcing the Travel Industry Act (2002), you can travel with the peace of mind of knowing that your investment is protected by the Ontario Travel Industry Compensation Fund in certain circumstances. The fund, which is completely financed by the 2,500-member strong organization made up of travel retailers and wholesalers in the province, provides reimbursement to consumers in the event that their TICO-registered travel retailer or wholesaler, or an end-supplier airline or cruise line, goes belly up.
Information overload or Too Much Information: whatever you want to call it, you can avoid it by booking your travel with an agent. They cut to the chase, tell you what you need and don’t need, and can find you the best options for whatever your travel tastes may be – all while staying on-budget. When it comes to the nitty-gritty, like purchasing travel insurance for example, an experienced agent is able to advise you on what you should consider purchasing to make sure that your needs are fully covered. After all, travel agents are not in the business of selling you something you don’t need. Their success depends on ensuring that they have a satisfied client who will make repeat bookings with them. That means servicing the customer – you – is always priority number one.
Does all this talk of vacations and trip planning have you yearning to get away? Visit your nearest CAA Travel Store or contact our team of dedicated Travel Professionals by calling 1-800-267-8713, and start planning your escape today!