Editor’s Note: This post has been updated with new information.
If you’re a points-and-miles-savvy traveler, you might not immediately think of using a travel agent to book your getaways. However, there are times and situations when using these services can be very beneficial.
A good travel agent can be a game changer when it comes to helping you book your ideal trip and receive the best services when you arrive at your destination. Travel agents can also be a big help when things go wrong, especially during this summer of excessive flight delays and cancellations.
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Agents can often book the best room in a hotel or the top cabin on a cruise ship. Sometimes they can even get free upgrades, breakfast perks or food and beverage credits, and free spa treatments during your stay.
When it comes to making the right decisions about when to travel, what sites to see, and which guides to hire, agents can act as advisors. A great travel agent can make the difference between a decent experience and the trip of a lifetime.
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Here are four situations in which you may want to use a travel agent:
Book a hotel with extras
Your travel agent can become a trusted friend over time. Before you’re ready to hand over all of your trip planning to a travel consultant, test the waters by collaborating on a simple travel request. You will want to see how the agent operates, communicates, and organizes additional benefits and offers. Avoid a complex or elaborate request in the first round.
Start by asking a travel agent to book your hotel reservations with a few specific requests for extras, such as airport transfers or spa services.
Start with an agent that is part of a major travel consortium such as Virtuoso, Travel Leaders Network, Ensemble Travel Group, or Signature Travel Network. Each of these networks offers a series of benefits to travelers who book with them. If you know the benefits of the American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts program or the Chase Luxury Hotel & Resort Collection, you’ll know what we’re talking about. Additional booking benefits may include upgrades based on available space, complimentary breakfast, additional food and beverage credit, complimentary spa treatment or round of golf.
Related: This New Travel Company Will Match You With Local Experts
You can work with a travel agency that matches your style. It could be someone from a large company based in a big city with dozens of agents, or it could be someone from a more boutique option such as family-run company Ourisman Travel. (Ourisman Travel is a travel consulting firm affiliated with Brownell Travel, one of the oldest travel agencies in the United States, and also a member of the Virtuoso network.)
The great thing about Ourisman and any Virtuoso agency is that you can leave all the work to your travel agent. You can also use the Virtuoso reservation tool to make quick and easy reservations. Once your reservation is in the system, your agent springs into action to notify the hotel that a VIP is on the way and arranges any extras, whether it’s a Virtuoso perk or a credit card.
It is also possible to combine the benefits. If you book your trip with The Platinum Card® from American Express, your agent can secure your Amex FHR benefits; you may also be entitled to additional benefits from the agency, its travel consortium or the hotel, cruise line or travel agency.
When you’re running out of time
Not everyone has weeks to dedicate to crafting the ultimate itinerary and monitoring every flight offer (although TPG can help you here). Luckily, you can count on a savvy travel agent to step in and plan your vacation when your time is at a premium. Otherwise, you may not be able to organize your trip yourself or you risk spending more than you should on your trip.
When you are faced with a lack of time to plan, look for an agent who specializes in the type of trip and destination you have in mind. If you’re looking for a beach villa on a Caribbean island, find a travel consultant who has experience booking this type of trip.
An example is Villas of Distinction, which has been around for over 25 years and has an extensive network of properties. Your travel consultant can advise you on which properties are best suited to your needs, what is available and how to book the villa. You can also use your American Express Membership Rewards points to book a villa through the agency, an added bonus to finding a good points app.
Villa rental agents usually have strong on-the-ground networks, so they can help with things like stocking the villa with groceries, booking a chef, or finding the best masseuse on the island for massages. poolside treatments.
Related: Everything You Need to Know About Homes and Villas by Marriott
When your travel plans are specific and complex
The more complex and specific your travel goals, the more experts in that destination or travel style can help you.
For example, every year, travel guru Wendy Perrin prepares a WOW list which brings together experts in the field of travel booking. Agents, advisors and destination specialists on Perrin’s list don’t book budget cruises and all-inclusive vacations for people as a side hustle. WOW listing agents are the real deal with a lot of expertise in their fields.
Suppose you want to explore Africa and go on a safari, but you don’t know where to start. Check the WOW list and you will see that it recommends people with an encyclopedic knowledge of the continent.
The WOW List offers advisors who can create custom safaris in East, Central and Southern Africa as well as niche destinations like Madagascar. The website provides a summary of agent expertise as well as links to reviews and insider guides written by Perrin and his team.
It’s a great resource for learning about top attractions, cutting-edge travel trends, or discovering out-of-the-ordinary experiences, and shows how contact with local agents, rather than reviews of anonymous trips, can be a great advantage in planning a trip. travel.
Related: Everything you need to know about safaris in Africa
When looking for value
Travel agents often have access to room rates and cruise fares that are not available to the general public. This is especially true for agents specializing in specific cruise lines. When a cruise line needs to fill a crossing, they can contact their best agents to offer special rates to their customers. You’ll only hear about these deals if you have a top agent selling cruises on the lines you like.
Related: Why now might be the cheapest time to plan a cruise
For example, Keene Luxury Travel, a member of the Signature Travel Network, has relationships with all the major luxury cruise lines, especially Regent Seven Seas. As a result, your agent can offer onboard credits, special fares for solo travelers, offers for families traveling with children and more. The agency also has its own KLT rewards program. With KLT Rewards, you’ll get cash back on every sail, approximately 10 days before you sail. Also, if you book a trip organized by the owners of the agency, you will get an increase in the amount of your reward for booking with them.
The best part of working with specialist agents like those at Keene Luxury Travel? You can stack offers. For example, you can book a group trip to get the usual 5% KLT booking reward, plus an enhanced reward for booking a group trip. On top of that, you could also receive onboard credit which is a benefit of Signature Travel Network.
At the end of the line
Whether you’re booking a weekend getaway to an American city or planning an around-the-world extravaganza that includes a African safari, cruise in Antarctica and stay in an igloo hotel, consider using a travel agency. An agent can help you make the right trip, at the right time, and at the right price.
They can help you find the best rooms, book services you didn’t even know existed, and tie all the rooms together on a complicated itinerary.
A travel agent can be especially helpful if you don’t have time to do all the research yourself or if you’re looking for help getting the best deal. It is also worth using an agent if your trip is targeting destinations or routes that can benefit from local experts,
If there’s a problem over the holidays – which seems to happen more often than not these days – it’s great to have a problem solver who’s only a phone call away or a E-mail.
Additional reporting by Bill Fink