That might seem like a strange title for a blog, but I am often asked, "Christine, why would I book with a travel agent when I could just book direct?" So. Many. Reasons.
I also get one of my favorite comments, "Do travel agents still exist?" I'm pretty sure I exist. I put on pants this morning.
Seriously, though, why would people choose to work with a travel agent in a time when you can just log on to a million different sites and book it yourself.
Well... The truth is, you need a travel agent now more than ever.
One of the reasons that travel agents are needed now more than ever isn't because there's a lack of information available - the fact is that there's just too much!
There are so many resorts, packages, booking options, tips, reviews, and on and on, that it's just too much to sift through - unless you'd like to make planning your vacation your full-time job.
A quick Google search for "Caribbean vacation" brought back 370 million search results.
Okay, so let's narrow it down to "all-inclusive Caribbean vacation." That brought it down to 20.6 million results.
What about narrowing it down to a single island? "All-inclusive Jamaica vacation" still brought back 5.6 million search results. I mean, it's better than 370 million, but still not easy to sift through.
Do you have time to wade through all that?
People who book their own vacations spend an average of 4 hours just doing research.
Guests who book with me spend an average of zero hours on research (unless research is their thing and they do it just for fun).
More than Just a Booking Agent
In most cases, online booking services do exactly that - they allow you to book the vacation, and that's it.
But, there's so much more to planning a trip than just booking the resort or cruise.
Do you have the right documentation for your trip?
What is there to do at your resort?
Do you need to make dinner reservations, or get show tickets?
Is there a dress code?
Do you need transportation from the airport?
Is there transportation to get around, or do you need to rent a car?
What should you pack?
What's the weather like when you're visiting?
Try calling Expedia or Travelocity and asking these questions. There will be a lot of silence on the phone as the overseas agent you are talking to (who has never visited the destination) tries to find the answers.
But, with an experienced travel agent (like me), one quick email or phone call will get you all the information you need.
In fact, you probably don't even need to make that call because I've already given you all that information plus some additional information that you didn't even think to ask about!
Value Over Price
One important point that experienced agents know well is that there's a big difference between value and price. I know that you're spending your hard-earned dollars and want to make the most of your vacation budget and I know that you want to get the best possible price.
But, one of the things I always stress to my guests is that the cheapest option is not necessarily the best value. This doesn't mean you have to break the bank to have a great trip. Rather, what I help our guests do is find the best combination of amenities and price that offer the best value for your vacation dollar so that you make the most of your money.
Experienced and Specialized
The best travel agents don't book every destination - they book destinations that they personally know and have experienced, so that they can pass on up-to-date, first-hand knowledge to their guests.
That's what I do! By only booking destinations I know intimately, I can guarantee that the resort or cruise you choose doesn't just look great - it actually IS great! I am continually visiting, training on, and re-visiting my specialty destinations so that I can provide the most current knowledge and best insider tips to my guests.
While there are certainly a lot of reviews, blogs, and videos out there from people who have also visited destinations, one of the things to keep in mind when reading reviews online is that they don't necessarily have the same vacation goals as you do.
One person's idea of the perfect hotel, cruise, restaurant, activity, and so on, won't necessarily be the same for someone else. Check out my blog on why you will hate the resort your friend loved.
I Care About You and Your Vacation
Last but not least, one big thing that an online booking site still can't match is personal care and attention.
I truly care about our guests and their vacation experience, and I'm here to assist and support you and your vacation goals. It matters to me, personally, that all of my guests have an amazing experience. As a small business owner, each client matters.
Do you think one person really matters to Expedia, Travelocity or Hilton?
I'm here for you throughout the planning process, all the way until you return from your trip, and whenever you have questions or concerns I'm here for you - plus, you get to talk to the same agent every time who's already familiar with your trip and your needs.
I'm also here to put that extra special touch on your vacation, from creative ways to celebrate a special occasion to making personalized recommendations and arrangements for your adventure.
I'm passionate about travel, and even more so, I'm passionate about you having a great travel experience.
And that, my friends, is what I do.
Call me the next time you travel.