How many hours have you toiled away online trying to plan your next vacation? Personally, it’s been too many to count. It’s a rabbit hole, researching the best places to visit and comparing airfares, hotels, dining options and attractions. With so many comparison sites and options out there (a Google search for “hotel in Italy” comes up with more than 400 MILLION results!), vacation planning can inflict a serious case of option paralysis and lead you to book the same vacation year after year, or worse, to bag the vacation altogether. So what’s a travel-hungry gal to do?
Have you ever considered using a travel agent? Neither had we. They’re intriguing, those travel agents. But the intrigue can often be clouded by the intimidation factor. They’re so mysterious. Seriously! Is their fee going to be more than the trip? What can they really do that I can’t do for myself? They’re just backscratching big airlines and hotels for their own personal gain. Haven’t you ever thought at least one of these thoughts? Us too! But then we met someone on the inside, at Brownell Travel, who set us straight.
Newcomers to the world of travel agents (they actually like to be called travel advisors. See? You learned something new today, too … ), we were astounded to learn some of their insiders-only skills. They have the power to kick a vacation up a few notches in ways that a layperson could never do. But lest we keep these secrets to ourselves, we’re bringing you into the inner circle. Behold, 10 reasons you should consider a travel agent — or advisor — to plan your next vacation.
1. TRAVEL LIKE A CELEB
We can’t all be Beyoncé, but we can travel like her. “When you use a well-connected travel advisor, you get special amenities and VIP status at the world’s leading hotels,” says Brooke Drinkard, social media assistant at Brownell Travel. For example, you’ll get a personal welcome from the general manager of the George V in Paris or, possibly, a FREE upgrade to the Presidential Suite in Hawaii.
2. AGENTS ON CALL
The Internet doesn’t answer the phone in the middle of the night when your flight’s been canceled or if the rental car agency runs out of cars. If you run into a snag and you’ve used a travel advisor, guess who will help you out? Call your new travel advisor BFF, and she’ll get everything squared away before you can say “one tall glass of pinot noir” at the airport bar.
Remember this episode of “Seinfeld?” Jerry reserved a car, but they ran out. Your new BFF wouldn’t let that happen to you.
3. PROFESSIONAL STRING PULLERS
Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey), the Sistine Chapel, the Louvre—what do all of these have in common? Let’s just say that you’re not the only one who’s trying to get in to see them. And who wants to spend their vacation waiting in line? Not you, girlfriend! Your new BFF knows this and can pull a few strings to get you in ASAP. What’s that? You want a behind-the-scenes tour of the Crawleys’ abode or a private dinner in the Sistine Chapel? Consider it done! “Only a luxury travel advisor can even offer to pull these kind of strings for you,” says Brooke.
4. PREFERRED STATUS BY ASSOCIATION
When you stay at a Ritz-Carlton, Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental or another luxury hotel, the service is going to be outstanding, regardless of who books your stay. But when you book one of these hotels through a Preferred Partner travel agency, the level of service, added amenities and benefits will blow you away. “You can’t get it on your own,” Brooke explains, “no matter how hard you try.”
5. NEVER FEAR “SIGHT UNSEEN” AGAIN
Spend a little time on Travel Advisor or Yelp, and you’ll read horror stories of hotels that looked so great online, but failed to include minor details that would have otherwise steered you away from booking. Would you really want to stay at a hotel that charges extra for clean sheets? Or that is surrounded by “crack heads and prostitutes?” Neither would we. Using a travel advisor helps you bypass worries like that. “They’ll make sure your hotel is in a prime location that fits your needs,” says Brooke, “whether it is in the hippest part of town or in a charming, quiet neighborhood.”
6. MULTIGEN TRAVEL MADE EASY
If you’re planning a trip for the entire family—including Granny and Gramps, crazy Aunt Priscilla and even cousin Eddie—the thought alone can be stressful. Trying to book places and activities together for a large group? Yeah, that can send even the most seasoned traveler over the edge. But a travel advisor can make things happen behind the scenes so all the group has to do is just show up to enjoy it! “Whether it’s a barbecue on the beach just for your family, a private dining room in a top restaurant or a chartered catamaran cruise, a travel advisor will make it a trip to remember,” boasts Brooke. Traveling with the entire family? It’ll be memorable alright.
7. TIME IS MONEY, BABY!
Your time is valuable, yes? You can spend eight hours researching your trip and end up more confused and overwhelmed than when you started. But spend 15 minutes on the phone with a travel advisor, and you literally just have to make a few easy choices between preselected options they have already made on your behalf. Easy is so nice, isn’t it?
8. IT’S NOT A TRIP. IT’S AN EXPERIENCE!
Anyone can book a flight and hotel, but a travel advisor is at your service to create a memorable experience. As nonindustry folks, we may think about each piece of a trip individually: book the flight, rent the car, make hotel reservations, etc. But someone who specializes in travel has the experience and expertise to think of the entire package … the big picture, if you will … and can plan it accordingly. It’s like an interior designer being able to pull a look together for an entire home, versus looking at each room individually. “From a transfer from the airport to the hotel to a private guide or dinner reservations, an advisor knows what needs to be planned ahead of time so that you can simply relax and enjoy your vacation,” says Brooke.
9. YOUR HIP, CUTTING EDGE COMRADE
Want to stay at the hottest new property at the most popular new destination? A travel advisor is in the know, so to speak, and has her finger on the pulse of the newest places that are being built or are newly opened. “They see photos and get updates of the progress, and are notified when the property is open and truly ready for business,” says Brooke.
10. ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL
There is no one-size-fits-all trip. A hotel or cruise won’t tell you that their competitor is actually a better fit for your needs, but a travel advisor will. Think of her as your sister who you know, without a doubt, will tell you that the new dress that you just love and just shelled out big money for actually looks terrible on you. Yeah, they’re that role in your life. And don’t we all need a few more sisters in our corner? Amen!
- Travel advisors can answer questions about international travel, like when to renew your passport, whether you need a visa, whether your hair dryer or iPhone charger will work in Italy, etc.
- They don’t work for free. Fees vary, based on the length and complexity of the trip. Ballpark? Most charge $150 per week of travel. Ask your travel advisor for specifics.
Ready to travel? Yeah, us, too!
To find out more about Brownell Travel, our inside source for all this scoop, please see their website.
Want more travel tips? Check out our article on how to rent the perfect vacation home. And if you’re headed to Nashville or Memphis for vacation — or enjoying a staycation here in Birmingham — make sure you download the new SB App. It’s free, and it’s fabulous!