What is a Travel Agent Good For, Anyway?

As a travel planner for over a decade, the question I hear most is “why should I book with you when I can do it myself?” So, I thought this would be a good time to remind the general traveling public exactly what I do as a certified travel agent and how I get paid. Here are a few FAQ to consider when planning your next vacation:

First, Booking Methods 101

There are basically three ways to book a trip – here is a brief comparison:

  • Self-Book directly with a travel supplier. Fine, if you know what you want and don’t mind dealing with inexperienced or unqualified customer service agents should something go wrong.
  • Book with an OTA (Online Travel Agency), also known as large warehouse-type, impersonal travel planners. Prices and amenities may look attractive, but generally they are staffed by 1-800 order takers with no benefit of service or solving problems that come up later.
  • Book with a qualified Travel Advisor. Experienced, trained and certified. Handles every detail and aspect of your trip, from the day you leave the house to follow-up at the end of your trip. Does all the work so you don’t have to.

You Charge a Fee, Right?

To be honest, some agents do charge a fee. After all, just like your doctor, your plumber and your auto mechanic, they are providing a valuable service and, rightly so, should be compensated if they so desire.

But you’re asking ME, right? The answer is yes and no. For most trips, I do not charge a fee. The exception would be a case in which a trip consists of a complicated itinerary with multiple components and destinations, taking a lot of time to plan, where a “planning fee” is only fair. Other cases where a fee would be charged would be specialty hotels, a flight-only reservation and similar services where I am paid little to no commission.

Okay, so when you don’t charge a fee, how do you make any money?

I rely on commissions from cruise lines, resorts, hotels, resorts, vacation/tour suppliers, car rental companies and excursion providers. Keep in mind that not all suppliers pay the same. I might get paid a decent percentage from a tour provider but just a few dollars for a one night budget hotel reservation. And flights? Airlines pay us nothing – NADA – ZIP (and this is why I seldom accept air-only requests.) Travel suppliers pay agents commission rather than pay someone to answer an 800 number. They know that I love my job and will use care, consideration and knowledge to sell their product.

If you don’t charge a fee, and I can get the same trip directly with the cruise line, then why book with you?

  • It’s all about service and value. In the case of a cruise, for example, the cruise line will sell you the cruise. We can agree on that. And, yes, you can package a hotel, air, transfers and insurance with the cruise line. Not that there anything wrong with that. But did you know that you can save money by adding them separately and have more choices in hotels and flight schedules than the cruise line will offer? I will find a pre-cruise hotel/flight/transfer package that fits with your budget and preferences. You can even book your own flight for maximum control; in fact, I encourage it.
  • Most importantly, in the case of a cruise, for example, cruise ships are not one size fits all. Ships and cruise lines come in different sizes and styles of cruising, and the cruise should fit the cruiser.
  • More often than not, a travel agent will end up saving you money. Using our expertise, insider sales and your preferences, we research every trip to make sure you are getting the best value and experience. All you need to do is sit back and enjoy your vacation!
  • Perhaps the best reason to use the services of a travel agent is the invaluable point of contact should something go wrong during or after your trip. For instance, travelers who booked their own trips for 2020 and 2021 are facing steep hurdles and tremendous hold times in dealing with cruise and vacation suppliers in order to secure refunds or credits. An agent does the work for you.

What’s the bottom line, then?

Simply put, I do the work so you don’t have to. Planning a trip can be time consuming and overwhelming, so don’t be shy about passing the task over to an expert – a qualified travel advisor. You’ll get that personal touch that you can’t get through a warehouse vacation outlet.

Don’t leave your dream vacation to an order taker or risk getting things wrong. Reach out to me, your qualified travel expert at Seven Sea Journeys for your next vacation.

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