The value of a travel advisor
Do travel agents still exist?
That's a question that was not uncommon just a couple years ago. In an age of Expedia, TripAdvisor, and Google who would use a travel agent or travel advisor?
Then came the pandemic, and so many people with trips planned were left chasing refunds or credits, trying to rebook, and basically figure out what the heck was going on.
Unless, of course, you had booked with an experienced travel agent or travel advisor.
The pandemic was a travel agent or travel advisors chance to shine and prove our worth.
While the average traveler was spending hours on the phone or online trying to salvage what they could of their dream vacation and hard-earned money, people who booked with an experienced travel agent could wait for their travel advisors to call them and let them know what the next steps would be.
We spent the hours rebooking trips, claiming future cruise credits, and pursuing refunds and airline credits while the travel industry was turned upside down. We were a constant, calm presence for our clients. We saved their time, money, and, most importantly, their sanity.
Are you still asking if travel advisors exist or why you should consider working with one?
For more reasons why it may be the best vacation decision you make, keep reading.
We can help you choose the right destination
Take a second to google "must visit cities in Italy".
Go ahead, I'll wait.
If your results were the same as mine you got 141,000,000 results. That's almost 150 million different opinions on the places that you absolutely must see if you're planning a trip to Italy.
But the fact is, not a single one of those opinions is from someone who knows you. They don't understand anything about how you travel, what you want to see or do, or anything else about you.
Plus, a lot of them will tell you the same thing. You must go to Rome. And Venice. And Florence. How about Milan, Capri, the Amalfi coast, Naples, Cinque Terre, and the list goes on.
There's no way you can fit those into one trip. But you feel like you need to, so you plan a trip where you're hitting a city a day for 10 days. You rush through, planning tours and times to hit the "must see" sites, running for trains and dragging luggage through streets and over cobblestones.
And you're miserable. It's crowded, you're hot, you're tired, you're hungry, you're stressed, and this is nothing like the "Dolce far niente" (sweetness of doing nothing) that you thought Italy was known for.
Now, imaging you'd had a travel advisor help you plan the trip. If you contacted me I'd ask you some questions to get to know you.
What do you like to do? Where have you been that you loved? What did you do there? What did you love about it? And just as important, where have you been that you didn't like as much? What do you prefer to avoid?
Let's say you told me that you love history, museums and architecture. You like to have time to explore, to really experience the things around you. To sit and watch the world go by sometimes, and to be busy other times. You enjoy food and wine and would love to learn more about Italian wine tasting. And, most of all, you prefer to avoid crowds whenever possible.
Instead of spending 10 days running through Italy like a crazy person, I would tailor everything to what you've told me.
If you want to see Venice you'd see the city with a local. They'd take you to the places most tourists never see. You'd see the high points, but with exclusive access and expert guides.
Lines and crowds? Not on your trip.
You'd stay in beautiful, historic palazzos. You'd take a traghetto across the canal like a local, visit the markets in the morning, and avoid the tourist traps selling cheap masks made in China.
In Rome you'd tour the Vatican with an art historian, who could give you a deeper understanding of the works you're seeing. You'd access the Sistine Chapel without the crowds. You'd stand on the floor of the Colosseum late in the evening after most people have left, gazing up at the stands and imagining what it must have been like during the height of the Roman empire.
And then there's Florence. You'd stay in a beautiful hotel away in the hills, a piece of history with a facade designed by Michelangelo.
You'd learn about leather goods with an artisan in Santa Croce. You'd go out into the countryside to taste Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino in the vineyards where the grapes are grown. You'd eat pecorino in Pienza, sprinkled over local pici pasta that was just made that morning.
You'd come back refreshed, with so many memories of exquisite experiences you'd only dreamed of.
You have a single contact if anything happens
Let's face it, even the best planned vacations can go off course. Flights and trains get cancelled or missed, luggage gets lost, your phone that had all your confirmations and itinerary gets dropped in a toilet, etc.
When you work with a good travel advisor you don't have to worry. Your flight was late and you're going to miss your connection? There's a message waiting for you when you land that you've been rebooked, so you can head to the lounge and wait for your new connecting flight.
Your luggage is lost? We'll help you track it down and arrange for the airline to deliver it to your hotel, where staff is expecting. They can put it in your room for you and it's waiting when you get back to your hotel after exploring the city.
Your phone fell in the toilet? We'll call the concierge at the hotel so they can help you get a replacement if needed, and in the mean time we sent them your itinerary and confirmations to print and place in your room so you have a backup copy of everything.
The true value of a good agent or advisor really comes through when a client has a problem. We may not have dealt with exactly that problem before, but we excel at finding solutions.
I once heard a story from an advisor who received a call from a client in the middle of the night. The client was on a river cruise in Europe and got locked out on their balcony. They couldn't get anyone's attention to let them back in to their room. All they had was their phone, so they called their travel advisor.
What did their advisor do? They called the cruise line, who got in touch with the ship, who opened the stateroom and let the couple back in from the balcony.
Who knows what you may need your advisor to do for you!
Experience and expert knowledge
Most people only plan one or two trips per year, if that.
An experienced advisor, on the other hand, can plan one or two trips per day. If we average a trip per day that means we're planning over 250 trips per year.
That's a lot of experience that the average person simply doesn't have.
We've seen what works and what doesn't. Not only that, but we have first hand experience that can benefit you while you travel.
Because that's the other thing about a good travel advisor. They should have on-the-ground travel experience and knowledge of the destinations they specialize in.
For example, I book a decent amount of trains for my clients when they're traveling in Europe. Most countries have extensive rail networks, and trains can be much less stressful than renting a car.
But did you know that it's important to know the final destination of your train, not just your stop? Depending on the station, the schedule board may only list the departure time and final destination.
If you're getting off somewhere along the route and there's more than one train leaving at the same time it's quite easy to get on the wrong one.
That's why I always make a point to include the final destination of the train in my client's itineraries.
It's little things that can make all the difference.
Perks and benefits
When people talk about travel agents you hear a lot of statements like "they don't cost anything and can find you great deals!"
While that's what some budget travel agents do, that's not what many of us do.
A true travel advisor may cost you money. Actually, they should cost you money by charging you a fee.
That fee is what gives you access to their time, expertise and connections, and there's a lot of value in those.
I'm not in the business of finding a client the best deal. If that's what they're looking for they can go go Google or Expedia and book the cheapest rate or travel package they can find.
I am, however, in the business of providing my clients with as many additional benefits as I can. I'm a Virtuoso travel advisor, so at many luxury properties I can arrange extra amenities like breakfast, food and beverage credits, early checkin or late checkout, room upgrades, etc.
Which would you rather do? Stay at a beautiful hotel at a lower rate but have all those additional charges that you have to pay at the end of your stay?
Or would you rather be greeted by name when you arrive because they were expecting you. You're shown to your room, where a chilled bottle of champagne and a welcome note from the manager are waiting for you.
At breakfast the hostess remembers your name and asks how your stay is going. After a morning exploring the town you return to your hotel, where you have a complimentary afternoon tea in the garden. And tonight you'll have dinner in the Michelin starred restaurant, which another couple checking in was told is booked solid for the next two weeks.
How did you end up having such a wonderful stay? You worked with a travel advisor who has connections.
The Bottom Line
The value of a travel advisor doesn't come from their ability to book you a great deal.
Our value comes from our expertise and connections, our knowledge and our advocacy on behalf of you, our valued client.