You never realize just how valuable a travel agent is to your vacation until disaster strikes.
A few years ago, I was traveling to South America to take a cruise around the Antarctic Peninsula. This was the first time I had done something like that so my travel companion and I planned for eventualities. We booked our tickets with the cruise line (not recommended, because the travel insurance does not cover weather, which we thought it did) and planned to arrive in Argentina, a day ahead of boarding.
The cruise line booked us to fly north before heading south. It seemed extremely dumb at the time because we started at an international airport (MCO) and there was another south of us (MIA). Weather turned and we got stuck and then stranded in Atlanta as first our flight was delayed and then cancelled. We were shuffled out of the secure part of the airport to rebook and that was when having a travel agent worked to our advantage.
Our travel agent was booking us on flights as soon as one cancelled (and many did). She figured out how to get us out of the US when other travelers were giving up and figuring they’d get refunds on the cruise. Long story short, we managed to board a plane the next day and get to our cruise for a fabulous adventure at the bottom of the world.
I learned from that experience what to look for in a travel agent and the five most important items are:
- Knowledge: A knowledgeable travel agent is the first step for any strategic vacation plan. A good travel agent will know basics about areas where you want to travel, but a great agent will recommend places to go, things to do, what to pack, what to expect, etc.
- Willingness: If you have a knowledgeable travel agent, but your travel agent isn’t willing to work for you, then you are better off using Google to search the Internet for your travel needs. A travel agent willing to get you the best deal, to ensure you make it to your destination, or to assist in an emergency is worth her weight in gold.
- Ability: If willingness doesn’t match ability, you’re sunk. Your travel agent no matter how willing to help you also needs to have experience in her field. She should excel from start to finish concerning all aspects of your booking.
- Out-of-the-Box Thinking: When everybody else is stymied by the unexpected, your travel agent should remain cool, calm, and collected. She should be three steps ahead, coming up with alternative solutions while everybody else stews.
- Friendship: If you are friends with a travel agent, I would recommend using your friend at least once. Nine times out of ten, your friend will treat you better than any other travel agent you could find. They will go the extra mile for you and these are the miles that count!
If you find a travel agent with all five qualities, do not let her go! I know I haven’t!
Share your best/worst experiences with a travel agent!