Booking your holiday can sometimes be so overwhelming that all you need to find is a decent and reliable travel agent to walk you through the seemingly daunting process.
Questions surrounding the authenticity of the websites you’ve been scanning, reliability of certain accommodation, airlines and restaurants, and safety of the areas you’ve been looking at staying in can generally all be answered by your travel wizard and their trusty computer.
They can get you out of hairy situations while abroad and can liaise with airlines, hotels and tour groups to ensure you get the best experience without you barely having to lift a finger.
However, I’m sure most of you reading this will know of either yourself, or someone close to you, that has had a negative experience with a travel agent. It can sometimes be like speed dating: someone giving you a whirl of information in two minutes that’s meant to impress but with no follow through. So here’s a rough guide to ensure you find your travel agent soul mate and get the most out of your holiday.
Honesty and transparency are the keys to building the right relationship between you and your travel agent. If they are willing and able to show you their computer screen, tell you their fees and charges, and thoroughly take you through the terms and conditions of your holiday, you are one step closer to asking for their number. Most travel agencies will charge change and cancellation fees, so make sure you’re aware of the costs before you book your trip.
The time and hassle a travel agent can save you in booking your around-the-world holiday will be worth the extra few dollars you may have saved on the airfares offered on Expedia or Skyscanner. The support agents can offer you while abroad if something goes wrong is priceless, plus many agents may be able to price beat/price match prices you see on the web. At the end of the day, your travel agent will save you the time and effort of searching for flights, which you can put into deciding what party shirt to pack in your backpack.
Forget the three-day dating rule: if your agent replies to you within 24 hours or earlier, you know you’ve found a keeper. Who wants to wait around while your flights are booking up or you’re stuck in LA airport with the most aggressive customs officials to grace the planet. You want your travel agent to be prompt with their responses and easy to communicate when in need.
Just as in speed dating, you want to talk to someone who is genuinely interested in you and your ideas. Forget order taking travel agents who mindlessly punch in your requests; seek out those whose faces light up when you tell them about your plans to see the Northern Lights or your rail adventure through South-East Asia. If they actively try and navigate your trip, offer alternatives or try to troubleshoot any issues you may be having, you have a potential keeper. Make sure they listen to what you want to get out of your holiday, and keep an eye out for agents that offer things that they want to sell rather than what you are asking for.
Your travel agent may not have been everywhere you want to go and, to be honest, I wouldn’t expect an agent to have a deep local knowledge of every city on the planet. However, if you can find an agent who has been to, knows about or is willing to do a bit of research for you on your destination of choice, then you know you’re onto a good thing.
For the younger travellers reading this, most of the youth orientated travel agencies around will be able to access fares and information that no search engine on your computer is able to find. This is where you will save money, providing the student rates are available for your destination, and where your travel agent can be your biggest asset.
While travel agents aren’t for everyone, I assure you they are not a dying breed and their knowledge and skills, if competent, can save you time and money and ensure you have a hassle-free holiday (or as hassle-free as travel gets).
Looking for someone to take the hassle out of flights, insurance and all that boring stuff? Give Intrepid’s friendly team a call. We’re a full service travel agent as well as a group tour operator. Nifty huh?
Feature image c/o Kate Ter Haar