If you’ve never used a travel advisor (also called a travel agent), or are otherwise unfamiliar with what they do and how they can help you plan a vacation, you might want to familiarize yourself with the benefits of using one.
Travel advisors or travel agents are skilled professionals whose career is to help plan the best vacations and trips for their clients. With years of experience, expertise with specific destinations, tour operators or cruise lines and personal experience traveling wherever their heart takes them, travel advisors are some of the most knowledgeable people a traveler can turn to when they need advice, tips or some extra help figuring out their next trip.
Common Misconceptions About Travel Advisors
There are a few common misconceptions about travel advisors, and these are all untrue.
The first is that they only do everything you as a traveler can do: search for flights, book hotels and car rentals, or compare different cruise lines or tours to find the one that fits best. But they’re so much more than that!
Travel advisors have connections that travelers simply don’t: whether it be with a cruise line, hotel brand or destination, advisors have the expertise that comes with planning travel for years.
They also make connections that go beyond knowledge and translate into perks for their clients. Whether it be a free room upgrade or a welcome gift upon check-in, travel advisors can make a trip feel even more special. Advisors can also help plan those special moments: destination weddings, surprise proposals and more.
“Our industry partnerships bring an endless stream of amenities, benefits and knowledge that the average traveler won’t personally have access to,” said Miki Taylor, Founder and CEO of Taylor & Co. Travel. “Travel advisors have agency-only deals the general-public are not privy to…”
Another common misconception about travel advisors is that they’re expensive to use, but oftentimes, they don’t even charge for their time! Most travel advisors are paid in commission via whatever accommodation or cruise line or tour they book for you, though some will ask for a small fee for their time as a promise that a client is serious about planning a trip with them and not just fishing for free advice before booking their own travel.
As an example, if you use a travel advisor to book a cruise with Oceania Cruises, you won’t be directly paying your travel advisor for their work. Instead, the advisor is paid a percentage of what Oceania has earned from your trip. The more expensive trip means the advisor generally earns more in commission.
So What Do Travel Advisors Actually Do?
We’re glad you asked!
“First and foremost, we are service providers,” Vinal Desai Burbeck, Founder and Chief Experience Officer at Wanderlark, explains simply. “I like to compare travel advisors to financial advisors. Instead of helping clients manage money and increase wealth, we help clients manage time and increase happiness by facilitating their travel experiences.”
Travel advisors can handle all the moving parts that come with planning travel, but they often specialize in different types of travel, including tours, cruises or specific cruise lines or even travel to a specific region of the world. When you find the right advisor for whatever trip you want to plan, you’ll be in good hands.
No matter what specialty an advisor has, though, they always work with a client to curate the best options for them for their budget and preferred travel style, leaving clients to rest assured that they don’t have to spend hours of their time ironing out all the details.
“So much of what we do happens behind the scenes leading up to a client’s departure and when they are in-destination (hopefully) enjoying themselves,” explained Burbeck. “For example: checking (and double- and triple-checking) destination entry requirements, coordinating with suppliers/sharing client preferences and keeping tabs of flight statuses. These tasks contribute to a more seamless, stress-free travel experience and in many cases, result in clients receiving VIP treatment.”
“Lastly, we are advocates for our clients in that we always have their best interests in mind, and their wellbeing is of utmost importance,” said Burbeck. “That’s become crucial in the COVID-19 era when anything can happen; clients could become sick while traveling and/or unable to return home, in which case a travel advisor can help navigate.”
Travel advisors, especially ones who own their own independent agencies, do so much more than plan travel.
“If you are an agency owner, you have a business to run, agents to train and grow so that your staff can offer the best service possible. We are always researching and testing new software and platforms that will enhance our clients’ experiences,” said Taylor.
“We manage our websites, social media and have a full back office that we have to manage. Agents are continually learning about new resorts or destinations and networking to bring our clients not only knowledge, but the best rates and experiences.”
Why You Should Work With A Travel Advisor
There are so many benefits of working with a travel advisor, including the expertise that comes with specializing in destinations and travel styles, saving time and stress during the planning process and more.
But there’s also another one: when you plan your next trip with a local travel advisor, you’re most likely supporting a small business, which in turn impacts your community in a positive way even as you have your mind on traveling to a different one.
If you’re thinking of taking a trip this year or the next and haven’t yet begun utilizing a travel advisor, it might be the perfect time to begin doing so.