The last fifteen months has been a huge period of learning for me not only personally, but from a professional perspective too. While it wasn’t always easy, and I’ve decided to step away from that path, it gave me a greater understanding of travel, the travel industry, and how things work – and let me tell you, it’s not always black and white. During my time as an international travel consultant (aka travel agent), I picked up a few tricks of the trade and made some observations that I want to share with you!
- Just because you know how to use the Internet doesn’t mean you can do it better yourself.
Often times when you book through an agent, they have access to private rates or nett rates that you can’t see online. Most airlines like supporting travel agents and big agencies have buying power- hence they are able to get better private rates than those you’re seeing online. While the Internet has made it very easy to book online – there are things that you may not even realize you’re doing wrong.
- Many agencies are vying for your business; offering lowest price guarantees, price beats and price matches – why wouldn’t you book with a human? One of my biggest pet peeves was that people would just assume that agencies are more expensive. Some (not all) agencies don’t even charge a booking fee. Since the Internet is the biggest competitor to travel agents- many agencies have policies where they can match or beat any price you’re finding (except perhaps those on auction type sites- or those where you book but don’t know where you’re staying – such as hotwire). Besides, isn’t it nice to be able to know you’ve helped support a human being and not just a massive company- since most travel agent jobs are at least partially (if not fully) commission-based.
- Tripadvisor isn’t the be all and end all – but even agents consult it. Tripadvisor is a great tool – but if you’re reading into every little negative thing that people have to say, you’re not utilizing the site properly. Sure, resorts/ hotels/ restaurants/ etc. sometimes have areas of improvement – but my advice is to not read into the individual reviews too much. Sometimes people are terribly nitpicky and there is simply no pleasing them. My advice, look at the overall satisfaction – if you read a negative comment in a review, seek out a couple more just to ensure that it wasn’t a one-off unhappy customer.
- Most agents refuse to book their friends and family. I love you –but if you expect me to cut out my commission just to make the sale, you can book it yourself. This is my job, this is how I pay my mortgage – and while I love you, I’m not going to discount you. Its nothing personal, but if you’re able to reach me outside of business hours – times I won’t be able to really help you – then I likely do not want to have you as a client. (That being said, I did book many of my friends and family and only on very rare occasion ran into issues with people not respecting the work/life balance or the whole discounting thing).
- Going to an agent and getting them to put together a fantastic dream trip for you, then taking the quote and booking it yourself online is an absolute asshole move. Don’t do it, it’ll piss them off.
- To ensure they get the booking, tour companies may be willing to sweeten the deal a little more by sometimes throwing in freebies, or even a small percentage off. This isn’t ALWAYS the case- but worth a shot, especially if you’re going to be doing it anyways. Often times, tour companies and travel agencies have exclusive partnership deals they offer clients- so it could be worth checking out if your travel agent can get a better price.
- Book flights well in advance. Flights do not go down in price unless there is a random seat sale and those do not happen as often as you would hope.
- Last minute deals are (more often than not) a thing of the past. If I had a dollar for every time someone came to my asking for a last minute deal (some not even caring where they ended up) I would be a rich woman. The last minute deals I’m referring to are typically those having to do with all-inclusive resorts in the Caribbean. At some point in the last couple years, suppliers realized they were losing more money than it was worth by offering ridiculously cheap sell-off deals, so they stopped offering them.
- When booking please take a look at your passport first. Make sure you know exactly how your name is spelled and what order your names appear on your passport. Most airlines don’t allow complimentary name corrections – so make sure you get it right the first time. Also look at the expiry date, and make sure your passport has sufficient validity. A lot of countries require you to have 3-6 months validity on your passport to even enter. Not having this can result in you being denied boarding in your home country.
- Be realistic. It’s all well and good that you want to go to the Maldives and stay in an overwater bungalow for two weeks for your honeymoon but only have a $2000 budget… travel agents are good at finding you great deals- but they’re not miracle workers. Be a little more realistic with your requests, be flexible and willing to negotiate on certain requests if your budget doesn’t meet the reality.
Do you use a travel agent when you book your travels? In the comments below tell me why or why not.
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