Vacation can cure a lot of stress, but the planning phase can cause a lot of it too! Using a travel agent can alleviate that stress and more. Many folks get caught up in not knowing what to expect, so they just don’t use one! I’m going to break it down for you!
Here’s everything you need to know about using a travel agent!
Do I need a travel agent?
Forgive me travel agents, but my answer is no. You don’t need a travel agent. But you probably want a travel agent, especially during these weird travel times! The pandemic is affecting every aspect of travel and travel agents are staying up to date.
How much should I expect to spend?
Zero extra dollars. Yes, zero. Most travel agents are compensated by the destination, not the client. (See why I said you’d probably want one?)
Travel agents can also help identify potential discounts and sometimes even extend discounts that aren’t available to the general public. They also can help assess the best “bang for your buck” between destinations, cruise itineraries, or date windows.
What if I enjoy planning my own trips?
Travel agents work for you and want you to be as involved as you want to be! If you want to plan the details, they’ll likely be happy to hand over those tasks to you. You can still benefit from them reviewing your plans and identifying any potential issues or missing details!
What should I look for in a travel agent?
All travel agents are not created equally. While they should all provide the same minimum level of service, they each have there own planning style and level of detail.
Friends and family (or your favorite blogger!) are a good place to start asking for recommendations. When it comes to services, I always think a referral is the sincerest form of flattery.
Before committing to using a travel agent, I suggest taking a look at their business social media presence and website. There are “MLM travel agencies” now that are more focused on recruiting new members than actually booking you a dream vacation. I suggest staying far away from them. If you see them sharing a lot of memes with copyrighted images, character clipart, and blog links, they are violating companies like Disney’s policies and may not be the professional agent that you’re looking for.
Using a Travel Agent for Disney Vacations
It’s important to ask your agent about what they do and don’t handle for you. All travel agents should handle your resort reservation and tickets, at a minimum.
With Disney’s brand new park day reservation system and COVID-19 waiver, you’ll need to make those on your own to officially sign the waiver. While some travel agents are doing this for their clients, they shouldn’t be. In fact, it can be a warning sign that they don’t play by the rules (and that’s not a good thing).
As you look towards the future, I hope that we’ll see the return of our familiar dining plans and the advance dining and FastPass reservation system. If so, most travel agents handle your fast passes and dining reservations, but they aren’t required to. So, make sure your agent is prepared to help with these details, unless you want to be the one stalking the Disney website at dawn when your windows open!
Some travel agents will also write a touring plan for you, but, again, they aren’t required to. If you aren’t familiar with the parks and how to make the most of your time, these plans can be invaluable. Ask about this service (and how the plans will be delivered to you) too. Their expertise can make magic happen, like catching a parade right outside of the restaurant you have a dining reservation at.
The rare, magical travel agent will also help you book any “extras”. Extras are non-commissionable and above and beyond their obligations to you as a client, since they won’t be compensated for that time and effort. These are things like first haircuts at Harmony Barbershop and Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique appointments. If you can find one of these magical unicorns, book through them. These agents are deeply invested in your vacation and making sure every detail is handled.
Using a Travel Agent for Other Theme Park Destinations
Most other theme park destinations require less intensive pre-planning. Your travel agent should still handle your hotel reservation and tickets, at a minimum.
They should also be knowledgeable about and willing to assist with VIP access, special tours, special events, dining, and other special offers. Most travel agents will also offer touring plans for other theme parks too.
Using a Travel Agent for Cruises
Many travel agents have associations with consortiums and other groups that can provide wonderful discounts for cruises. They can also help you price monitor your cruise for potential discounts and help you navigate any required documentation.
Using a Travel Agent for International Travel
If you’re headed abroad for the first time, I can’t recommend using a travel agent enough. They can help you identify destinations (“somewhere tropical, please!”), handle transfers (for instance, getting from an airport to a train station), help select the best location within a new city, identify respectable tour groups, and help you know what to expect in a new country.
Using a Travel Agent for Domestic Travel
With the current pandemic situation, more and more people are looking to travel more locally. Travel agents can still help with self-drive vacations, hotels and resorts, tours, dining suggestions, and even National Parks vacations.
Different agencies have different vendors for international and domestic travel, so don’t rule out agent shopping a little bit to find the right fit for your trip!
How do I book through a travel agent?
Each agency works differently, but generally, you’ll speak directly with your agent, either by phone or in person, about your trip. They may want you to have decisions made about travel dates and Resorts, but a good agent will help you figure out these details. In fact, if they don’t offer suggestions or seem open to flexible plans upfront, you might take it as a sign to keep looking!
Most agencies will have their own system for processing payments. You should make sure that they have a secure payment system in place to protect your information (ie, not just taking your payment information over the phone). Your agent should be processing your payments directly with the vendor. If they ask you to pay them directly, run!
Do you have any suggestions for a travel agent?
If you’ve read this post and feel like a travel agent is right for you and would like a recommendation, feel free to email us for a recommendation at firstname.lastname@example.org.