6 Reasons To Use a Travel Agent When Planning Your Next Family Vacation
Planning a big family vacation can be the pinnacle of excitement—until you're three hours into the process, thousands of dollars over budget, and only have three days of your week-long excursion accounted for. Time to call in the pros? We think so. But there is one tiny detail that might give you pause: deciding whether you're up for adding one more expense to your trip's bottom line.
Before you make the decision, it's important to understand exactly what benefits a professional travel planner or advisor can bring. To do just that, we tapped Christen Perry, owner and luxury travel advisor of Classic Travel Connection and Paula Twidale, senior vice president of travel for AAA for a roll-call of benefits that only come with a professionally planned vacation. Champagne, anyone?
1. They're Matchmakers
It might be tempting to jump onto one of the many travel sites, read a few reviews, and take the plunge, but Perry says that not only do those online sources not paint the full picture, but they also miss out on one of the most important aspects of planning a trip: you. "I spend time getting to know my clients, and I spend time getting to know the world," says Perry. "By doing so, I can create an experience that matches each person to the best destination, resort, and adventure. That can't happen online." Armed with your trip goals, budget, and objectives, a travel agent can target your ideal vacation destinations with likely half the stress and in half the time as us non-pros.
2. They're Well Connected
Cost savings are a big part of planning a vacation, and we're willing to take them wherever we can get them. It's tempting to save yourself on the upfront fee of a travel agent or advisor and just go the road alone, but one thing we all know is that time is money. "I tell my clients from the beginning that the return of the investment that they pay to hire me will far exceed its value," says Perry. "Time is such a valuable commodity and the time alone that a traveler can save by trusting their plans to an expert travel advisor is worth every dollar."
They'll certainly save your eyes from hours spent scouring the web for the best resorts, flights, car rentals, and more but, on a more exciting note, an experienced travel agent also has the expertise to hook you up with your dream vacation scenario. "Travel agents are well-connected within the travel and tourism industry and often they are travelers themselves," says Twidale. "Because of this, they know ways to save, hidden local gems, and other things that can really make a trip memorable."
3. They'll Navigate Family Dynamics
If you've ever tried to plan a multi-generational vacation or even a trip with numerous adult family members, you might be more than happy to pass the torch to a trained professional. Navigating tricky family dynamics is not for the faint of heart and, better yet, typically not best suited for someone personally involved in these sometimes complicated familial relationships—particularly if you're an in-law. Twidale says this is a time when a travel agent can "referee" the situation, making sure that all voices are heard so the end result is a vacation that everyone enjoys.
Her number one recommendation for large family trips? "Cruising is actually an excellent option when traveling with a big family. There are a variety of activities, both on and off the boat, that will appeal to a range of ages and tastes."
4. They'll Resolve Any Issues
Even if you use a professional planner, things sometimes go wrong on trips. It's inevitable. The benefit of having someone in your corner to squash the chaos though, might be the difference between a vacation that is a wash and one that only experiences a minor hiccup.
"This is really where a travel agent shines. They can contact the airline or hotel on your behalf and act as your advocate to get things back on track," says Twidale. "Since they deal with these kinds of issues regularly, they can quickly get things resolved without you having to get involved."
Whether it's a lost reservation, a misplaced passport, or even something as minor as needing to find a 24-hour pharmacy, an agent will be on the ball so you don't have to be. "When you are on vacation, you should be vacationing, playing, relaxing. You should not be problem-solving! Leave that to the expert that you hired to assist you!" says Perry.
5. They're Up To Date on Current Travel Restrictions
Now more than ever, traveling isn't what it used to be. It's complicated and restrictions vary from one country (and even state) to the next. Travel agents should be up to date on all of these variances, ensuring that you're more than prepared for your destination. "Life across the globe is different than it was three years ago and we have made it our priority to become familiar with these challenges and changes so that we can always provide the best advice and assistance to our clients," says Perry.
6. They're Masters of Surprise
Just when you think the trip couldn't get any better, your travel agent might have other ideas. "Travel advisors also have connections and relationships all around the globe that give us opportunities to provide clients with experiences that they might not be able to have, had they booked their vacation elsewhere. Sometimes that can be better pricing, and sometimes it may be the upgrade from a parking lot view to an ocean front view with a bottle of champagne!" says Perry. "There's nothing better than providing my clients with fun surprises along the travel journey!" This isn't to say that every travel planner will go above and beyond, but it might just inspire you to ask for a few surprises along the way when they set about creating that itinerary.