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Why Use a Travel Agent?

"Do you find that you’re losing business to the Internet?"   Is a question I’m asked frequently –

the answer?   "Yes" and "no". Thankfully, I have a base of loyal clients who continue to use my services as well as refer me to friends and family. Without them, I wouldn’t be in my 15th year of business. They know that every client is important to me – without my clients, there wouldn’t BE a business.

I know what it’s like to have a limited amount of time for a vacation — sometimes I have clients who haven’t been on a vacation in years; they’ve been dreaming of their trip and counting the days, so arranging it is a responsiblity I take seriously.

Why Use a Travel Agent:

  1. Distilling Product Information.   Through a time-consuming process of years of education, customer feedback, personal and business travel (many times with a Tourism Board), an agent becomes a travel expert.
  2. Supplying Competitive Information.   No supplier is going to advise a consumer of a better fare from a competitor – travel agents are unbiased; they are YOUR agent, working for you.
  3. Staying Abreast of Promotions.   Via daily faxes, agent-only emails and relationships with sales mangers, agents obtain current information.
  4. Analyzing Promotions.    The cheapest price isn’t always the best.
  5. Clarifying the Fine Print.   A professional’s experience can save you money and headaches.
  6. Recommending Travel-related Options.   Agents share their experience and knowledge they accumulate – from where & what to eat in a country, to what to pack and where to shop.
  7. Simplyfying the Research and Transaction.   Just like a personal shopper, travel agents provide one-stop shopping for air arrangements, rental cars, cruise accommodations and hotels with suggestions that are in the best interest of the client – not the supplier.
  8. Enchancing the Trip.   Agents can add to their clients’ experience by customizing the trip to suit your  individual needs – you don’t have to be stuck in a "cookie cutter" package that doesn’t really fit what you’d like to do on vacation. 
  9. Using Clout.   Agents have more buying power than an individual consumer. We have a personal history with a supplier, (hotel, cruise line, tour operator, etc ); and/or we work with consolidators and wholesalers who do large volumes of business.
  10. Resolving Problems.   The travel agent serves as the client’s advocate in case something goes wrong. People use outside service providers for many transactions, such as tax preparation. If you’re going to spend your time and money, it makes sense to use a professional. Try getting a refund or a problem resolved for your one booking via the internet – they already have your money!

The Internet’s a great tool – I use it constantly; however, there’s nothing as good as years of personal experience. Let’s say that you’re planning to go to Las Vegas for the weekend, and you book the MGM online — BUT do you really want to plan a two-week trip to Italy that way?   Anyone can put attractive pictures on a website.   Hotels are famous for advertising themselves as a 3-star when they’re really not — that can be a nasty surprise when open the door to your room!

A good example is this scenario:  (which prompted me to write this).

A gentleman went to the Australian Tourist Commission’s website where he saw me listed as an Premier Aussie Specialist. He called and told me his travel dates (which were in two weeks).  All he was wanted were hotels and some information because he’d booked his airfare online — his flight was $900 – Los Angeles to Sydney.  He thought he found a pretty good deal. He wanted to visit the Great Barrier Reef, and possibly one other city; so he needed domestic Australia flights and the hotels.

I had to tell him that it was too bad that he hadn’t contacted me first because:

  1. He still needed flights from San Jose to L.A. and then back from Los Angeles.
  2. He’ll would also need those domestic flights between Sydney and the other city he wanted to visit.
  3. There was a special running that would have included his airfare from San Jose to Los Angeles, then to Sydney, and the other citiy he wanted to visit, PLUS 4 nights hotel accommodations in each city, for $1574!

His internet deal looked good, but he didn’t know anything about the package which would have saved him money.

I want to help you avoid that mistake.

Should You Buy Travel Insurance?

The answer depends on your preferances and your specific type of travel, but here are some guidelines to help in your decision making proces:

  1. Determine your existing coverage – you don’t want to purchase travel insurance and duplicate coverage you already have. Check if your household policy covers personal possessions when travelling and what the exclusions are.
  2. Travel accident / health emergency coverage is available. Determine if your health insurance includes doctor visits, hospitalization, or emergency transport outside your home area. Most regular health plans cover inside the US. Many regular heath plans may cover you while outside the US, but you might find exclusions. Medicare does not provide coverage outside the US, but supplemental plans may. This is a topic that you need to research. Medical policies, (some include personal property too) typically cost 3-4% of the total trip cost for people who are in their early 40’s, and go up in percentage as the age of the traveller increases.
  3. Next, determine your financial risk if you have to cancel or re-schedule your trip. Check the cancellation penalties on major pre-payments, and how much, if any, you can save. The biggest risks are for vacation rentals when you pay months in advance; they may be non-refundable. Cruises, package tours and airline tickets have stiff cancellation penalties, especially if you have to cancel within a month of the departure date. "Non-refundable" air tickets can sometimes be "re-useable"; and while you can’t get your money back, you can retain most of the dollar value and apply it toward a future trip. If you’ve booked with a travel agent, they can advise you. If you purchase online, you will have to find out through the airline. Once you’ve determined the amount, if it’s more than you can afford to lose, you need Trip Cancellation Insurance.
  4. Assess health risks – for yourself, a travelling companion, and family members at home. The chance that you may have to cancel or postpone a trip due to a medical emergency is the primary reason to purchase Trip Cancellation Insurance.
  5. Try to assess the risk of where you’re travelling – not always so easy. Some policies allow you to cancel if an "act of terrorism" occurs in one of your destinations within 30 days of travel.

If it’s comprehensive insurance you want, which covers both accident/health coverage and trip cancellation, I don’t recommend buying insurance from a wholesaler or a cruise line. The prices look good, but if the tour company or cruise line goes bankrupt you won’t be covered at all.

If renting a car, what you need isn’t really trip insurance. Find out what your auto policy covers, and what geographic and time limits it has, if any. Most auto policies will cover a rented car anywhere in the United States only. Also – see if your credit card includes no-cost collision coverage for a rental car. Many of them do, but in some countries, such as Italy, you still must purchase CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) as a matter of local law.

All rates listed above are based on availability. All rates quoted are per person, based on double occupancy. Airline rates are subject to change. Please remember, until an airline ticket is actually purchased and ticketed, the rate is not final.