In recent years savvy travelers have been relying on computer technology to plan and book expensive getaways. Most do not realize that it does not cost more (and may actually be less expensive) to use the personal service of a travel agent. Agents are privy to information that is not always the same as what is published online or in print. They are constantly learning about the resorts and destinations they represent and often are given incentives to offer clients incentives such as upgrades or last minute special pricing. It is typically more cost effective to use an agent. Most people do not realize that an agent can sometimes get complimentary rooms when they are travelling as part of a group. Whether it be a large multi generation family getaway, a wedding or a reunion, when there are groups there are typically incentives to be had. These incentives depend on the resort or cruise line as well as the travel season. When planning such a large investment, a traveler wants a positive experience and memories that will last a life time. It makes perfect sense to have a professional travel consultant that is going to put effort and time into learning what each specific client wants, likes and desires in a trip. I often ask potential clients that are considering booking online, “who are they going to call when something unexpected happens such as a hurricane?”. A travel agent is watching out for their client and will be available for last minute changes or needs. Travel Alerts and Travel Warnings are issued by various government agencies. These range from security related information to health related notifications. Recently there has been a lot of news and warnings issued by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) about the mosquito born Zika Virus. The research and news regarding this continues to change and evolve. Travel agents can assist and guide a client through the entire travel process.
Some passengers require special needs. Over 30 million special needs vacations are booked per year. There are companies that are able to make arrangements to accommodate and make travel smooth and simple for this segment of our population. They can provide everything from scooters to large tire wheelchairs that are able to navigate through beach sand.
A travel agent can provide tips on luggage requirements. Did you know that bag size and weight limits differ from airline to airline? Some airlines will charge for luggage while others will not. There are newer products and methods to make packing more efficient and organized. There are those who pack light and those that need to pack the kitchen sink. The trick is to pack what is NEEDED in the least amount of space. The agent can advise on what is really necessary to bring. Do you really need the hair dryer or 5 pairs of shoes? It may be necessary but typically what you need can be provided at the resort/ cruise line. The climate may seem predictable at a tropical destination but there may be a need for warm or waterproof clothing especially during certain seasons. It is always wise to pack at least a change of clothes and any necessary medications on the carry on bag just in case the luggage is lost or delayed on arrival.
What will you do once your arrive at your destination? A travel agent can research options and actually book excursions with private companies at each destination (such as zip line adventures or sunset sailings). I personally prefer the adventure drive. I often rent a vehicle and explore off the beaten path attractions that offer a more unique and private experience. This requires a bit more research, often with the locals that are native to the location. To find a waterfall in the rain forest in Costa Rica or a cave with a swimming hole in Bermuda requires that the adventuresome explorer is willing to risk getting lost. It is not uncommon for a GPS to guide a traveler to navigate a road that can only be accessed seasonal (on a four wheel drive vehicle). A good travel agent can advise on how one might succeed at discovering these hidden treasures with the least amount of mishaps.
It can be very time consuming to navigate through the potential destinations, hotels and airline schedules. It has become very complex and can be frustrating. The agent will do all that research at no cost to the traveler. It is a free service that can relieve a lot of vacation related stress.
Tony Mariotti is an experienced traveler and travel planner. His company BucketList Adventure Planning, is located locally at 193 Lake Avenue in Saratoga Springs. He can be contacted at BucketlistVactationPlanners@twc.com or (518) 250-1111.