7 Reasons Why You Should Use a Travel Agent to Book Your Next Trip
By AAA Travel Editor Laurie Sterbens | June 01, 2023
AAA Travel Agents explain why you should let a travel agent book your next trip.
1. Travel Agents Save You Time
Travel agents can take the guesswork out of researching and evaluating the many options available to travelers, saving you time and the hassles that often come with vacation planning. With years of experience and knowledge about destinations, transportation options and vendors, an agent can eliminate hours of online research time.
“The options come to my mind quickly as we speak about their trip vision,” said Allison Walker, a AAA Travel Agent in San Clemente, California. “I can create a short list that only includes reputable, quality options that are appropriate to their trip destination objectives.”
“Travel is my job, but for my clients it’s a passion or a hobby,” said Lisa Landay, also a AAA Travel Agent in San Clemente, California. “Sometimes they only know about the vendors that have the most prolific marketing. It’s my job to listen, listen, listen to what my clients want. And then, cut to the chase by recommending a vendor that would be a good fit for them. This way, they don’t end up wasting time and money on a bunch of ‘trial and error’ experiences.”
Agents don’t just save time researching and making decisions. They can also handle changes and other issues that may pop up before or during your trip.
“I was able to quickly handle a hotel closure, rebooking and flight schedule change for my client’s upcoming trip to Palm Springs while they continued on with their day,” said Ashley Andrews, a Travel Agent with AAA Oregon/Idaho. “We are here to do the work so you don’t have to!”
iStockphoto.com/Sam Barnes Photography
2. Travel Agents Take the Stress Out of Planning
Agents help clients with all types of situations and are immersed in travel full-time, so they’re aware of details you might not think of when planning on your own. Their knowledge and experience also gives them the foresight to prevent potential problems.
“‘You don’t know what you don’t know,’” Walker said. “Sometimes consumers don’t realize there is something really important for them to include or arrange. Thankfully, experience has taught me most of these things and when I’m not certain, I know where to check and who to ask.”
“We take care of all the details — those little things that are not fun to plan like transfers, checking in, etc.,” said Melanie Manzi, a AAA Travel Agent in Providence, Rhode Island. “We’ve got you covered from A to Z — reminders about what to pack, temperature, side trips, adventures, where to get the best coffee, or that Instagrammable spot to make your friends jealous they are missing out!”
“My job is to make my clients’ travel vacation seamless,” said Melinda Sue Platero, a AAA Travel Agent in Newport Beach, California. “If someone comes in and wants to go to three countries in Europe in seven days, I will generally go over travel days, amount of physical time one would be in each city, to show them that itinerary may be too ambitious, and then we can create an itinerary that will work in their time frame and will be more manageable. Travel planning can be overwhelming when there are so many choices online. A travel advisor has quick access to pricing a package with airfare, hotels, tours, transfers, rail tickets if necessary — in one visit.”
A travel agent can also take the stress out of planning for large groups, said Felicia Troy, a AAA Travel Agent in Westwood, Massachusetts. “We can be the middle man. We can handle each person’s needs while still coordinating with the group, and for those honeymoons, we take the stress out of the trip planning so that the couple can focus on the wedding.”
Grand Canyon Railway/Grand Canyon Railway
3. Travel Agents Offer Expert Recommendations
A knowledgeable travel agent will make personalized recommendations and offer tips on destinations, what to see and do while on vacation, the best and worst times to travel, and much more.
“I may suggest to take a train for a certain portion where I know the driving is too difficult or it takes too long and their vacation time is not being best spent,” Walker said. “Or because the sights en route are so amazing, they will want to watch the view and not the road. Cost versus time versus experience — all need to be in balance.”
Agents don’t just gain knowledge from their own travel. Their knowledge of destinations is also constantly updated by their clients.
“As each traveler returns, we get up-to-date info on that particular destination, resort or cruise,” Troy said. “First-hand experiences from trusted sources are crucial to planning the best vacation. This is especially true right now. The world of travel has changed and we are out there getting current information to give to our travelers. This can range from which restaurants are open to the tourist attractions that now require reservations when they did not previously.”
4. Travel Agents Have Been There, Done That
Travel agents are often well-traveled, having visited the destinations and experienced the vacations they recommend to travelers.
“First-hand experience is immeasurable — and extremely important depending on the needs of the client,” Platero said. She has clients who are in wheelchairs or mobility challenged, so when traveling she always checks to make sure hotels, attractions and restaurants are truly accessible before recommending them.
“At AAA Northeast we like to say, ‘We know because we go’ — and you are not limited to only the destinations I have ever traveled to,” said Mindy Hardaker, a AAA Travel Agent in Salem, New Hampshire. “We have a large community of advisors that willingly share their expertise, feedback and recommendations with each other so that we are all providing the highest level of service for our members.”
“When I can give them details about everything from currency to adapter plugs to local transportation, it makes their trip more enjoyable and less of a struggle,” Walker said. “I’ve had clients come home to say, ‘We knew exactly what to do because you taught us before we left,’ or ‘the European hotel room was small, but you told us what it would be like there, so we were happy with it.’”
5. A Travel Agent Can Handle the Unexpected
Between weather delays, natural disasters, flight cancellations, lost luggage and much more, a lot can happen on vacation. Travel agents act as the traveler’s advocate in the event something goes wrong, helping navigate the challenge of making any necessary itinerary changes.
“As travel agents, we have seen it all,” Troy said. “While the traveler may have never had to deal with a weather delay, we have. We know the details and the best way to handle the situation. We can talk to the airlines, resorts, etc., to make sure you are fully taken care of in the best way possible. We will find the best possible solution for the given situation whether it means changing dates of the trip completely or just rebooking them on the next available flight.”
“My clients have my cellphone number and at times I have gotten a call in the middle of the night,” said Ashley Knebelsberger, a AAA Travel Agent in Dayton, Ohio. “When a couple was accidentally left behind while a tour bus went from Prague to Berlin, I was able to recommend train transfers to Berlin and secured a taxi ride to the appropriate hotel to rejoin the group.”
“If their flight is cancelled, I get them another flight out and secure it while there are 50 people waiting in line to talk to the customer service person,” Platero said. “I have had clients put off ships into the hospital and I have coordinated a hotel for the loved one and flights home when needed. (I) also helped clients cancel tours and hotels when they have been injured in the middle of their trip so they won’t be penalized.”
When clients of Landay’s on their honeymoon had their flight to Hawaii canceled, they were told the next flight wouldn’t leave until that evening, so they wouldn’t arrive until 10 p.m. Distraught, they called Landay.
“I looked up the flight schedules for that particular airline and saw that they actually had three other flights, all of which left earlier than 5 p.m.,” Landay said. “The reservation agent was simply pushing all passengers to later flights indiscriminately.”
Landay told her clients to get in line to speak to the reservation agent. When they reached the front of the line, they gave the agent their cell phone to speak to Landay.
“I told her that I could see two seats on their 1 p.m. flight in our live air system,” Landay said, “and I expected her to honor their tickets on that earlier flight instead. She did. And they got to Hawaii four hours earlier to start their honeymoon.”
When a group of clients on their way to Rome had their flight canceled, they were so discouraged they were ready to cancel their trip, but Teri Reilly, a AAA Travel Agent in Northfield, New Jersey, was able to get their trip back on track using her travel experience and contacts. She quickly found her clients a hotel near the airport with a free shuttle, then turned her attention to their Rome itinerary. Spotting another unpleasant surprise, she called a friend in Italy, where she has traveled numerous times.
“She is a tour guide in Rome and had always offered to help me and my clients if I ever needed her. Well, this time I really needed her,” Reilley said. “I found out that there was a transportation strike going on and I needed to get my clients to their hotel somehow.”
Reilly’s friend picked the clients up at the airport and even called their tour conductor at the hotel to say they would be late and find out when and where they would meet for their Vatican tour the following morning.
“My clients were so happy and raved about my friend and all that I was able to do to get them back on track,” Reilley said.
6. A Travel Agent Can Help You Navigate Changing Travel Conditions
Keeping up with the details of planning a trip is challenging enough. Now travelers face pandemic-related restrictions that change frequently and vary across borders, as well as hassles with refunds and penalties for cancellations.
“Here at AAA Northeast we are all SmartDepart Certified,” said Jeanne Miller, a AAA Travel Agent in North Andover, Massachusetts. “What that means is we have been trained to navigate the changing protocols and resources to take the stress out of travel planning. We have identified key resources to keep us on top of all of the changes. We will make sure you have all the resources, links and the phone numbers you need so that you are able to enjoy your experience knowing that we have you covered.”
“We get updates from vendors and destinations about the necessary protocols that are constantly changing,” Platero said. “We can give them current information, and if the situation changes — like it seems to daily — we inform them of the new rules and make sure they understand and can do the correct forms, documents or whatever is necessary to be able to go on their vacation.”
“When my client was uncomfortable going on their trip to Croatia in September 2020, they were faced with a penalty since it was a voluntary cancellation,” Andrews said. “I didn’t stop there. I worked my travel agent magic and got that penalty converted into a credit for future use.”
Elizabeth Guy, a Travel Agent with AAA Oregon/Idaho, had clients vacationing in Hawaii when the state shut down early in the pandemic. Both clients were in a high-risk health category and needed to get home immediately.
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“I spoke with them in the morning [and] dropped everything to find a replacement flight to get them home on a flight that would fit their special needs,” she said. It took several months, but Guy was also able to secure full refunds for her clients’ unused return air ticket and rental car.
7. A Travel Agent Can Help You See the Big Picture
It’s easy to get lost in the details with travel planning, but travel agents can help keep you on track to have experiences you’ll remember for a lifetime.
“I always tell my clients the story of when I was in Hong Kong,” Landay said. “I was sitting in the breakfast room of my hotel … looking out at the street at 8 a.m., watching moms holding their children’s hands on the way to school, watching people carrying their dry cleaning over their shoulders, buying coffee, commuting to work. We are all the same on some very basic human levels. We work, provide for our children, worry about the same things, take joy in the same things. That experience made me passionate about travel. Travel can truly change the way you see the world. I want my clients to have that experience, too.”