Monday, May 23, 2011

Travel Agent Virgin: Part I

Michelle and I had our first travel agent experience earlier today. We met with Casey from Ambassador Travel* in Lee's Summit. Casey was expecting us, so when Michelle and I wandered in with the realization that between our two crazy calendars we only had two weeks in common before December, she was cool under pressure. As Casey looked through the possibilities, it became clear that it was going to be very difficult to swing a cruise in our narrow dates to places other than Mexico, which we've both been to.

Since I am always in pursuit of a new country, I was all in when another idea got suggested. Check out the blog tomorrow for the details on where Michelle and I are headed!

Through our meeting with Casey, and with some additional tips from her fellow travel agent, Cheryl, we learned some great things to pass along to all of you. You can of course book things on your own, and I will probably still do that for regular things, but it could be fun and a better trip with some expert advice - especially if you don't like to do research. (I have to confess that I was a little nervous before the meeting that I wouldn't enjoy it and I would still need to say something nice, but I have really enjoyed the process so far - and we were there for two hours!)

Reasons to utilize a travel agent:
  1. Pay in installments - kind of like lay-away. Book a trip, put down a small deposit and pay along the way prior to your trip. No interest, no hassle.
  2. Agents have access to travel tools that you don't. They said, "Would you go to a dentist who didn't have dental tools? Why go on a vacation without the help of an agent?" Touché!
  3. When you get in a jam, stuck, have problems in general, etc. your agent will deal with the hassles for you. Nice!
  4. 9 times out of 10 you pay nothing to utilize their services. Only to book a single plane ticket would you pay them anything - and even then it's small ($20 domestic, $25 international). All the online services are charging you booking fees too and everyone pays the taxes so it's no loss to book through an agent. I am thinking about using this for group travel to Liberia next summer.
  5. If you ever need to file a claim with your travel insurance, they'll take care of the paperwork. We all hope to never need to do this, but it happens and if it does who wouldn't want some help with this?
  6. Even if they don't know a lot about where you want to go, they have an accessible network of people who do who can provide recommendations.
  7. They help you through the info overload out there. When I started looking through cruise info originally, I was totally overwhelmed, this is a much easier option if you know the basics of what you want - and even if you don't, that's fine too!
  8. Price matches - in many cases they can match the prices you find online and give you the real bottom line price of what everything will cost. They have access to agent versions of many of the online discount travel search engines we all use.
  9. Promo codes - they can save you a little extra money with a magic code! I always like an extra coupon code!
*Special thanks to Ambassador for being open to this idea. They book all travel, not one thing in particular, so check them out if you need some help!

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