By Shivani Vora
Most people assume travel agents do little more than charge you money for booking trips, something most people are comfortable doing online. However, they can do a lot more beyond planning your vacations.
“Of course we specialize in building travel itineraries, but good advisers can help you in all sorts of ways that most people don’t realize,” said Rob Karp, chief executive and founder of MilesAhead, a luxury travel concierge service. Here are a few things that may make an agent worth the additional cost.
Help For Bumped Trips and Other Snafus
A travel agent may be able to help resolve the snags that can happen on any trip, just by picking up the phone and calling them. Mr. Karp said that experienced agents, for one, can assist with rebooking flights in the event of cancellations or lengthy delays.
They can usually do this even if they haven’t booked your flights to begin with. They can also help find last minute accommodations in case you’re stuck somewhere and can track your lost luggage for you. “Essentially, we can take the travel headache off your hands and make it ours,” Mr. Karp said.
A Whole-Trip Concierge, at Your Service
Yes, advisers can book your accommodations and arrange airport transfers, but they can also manage every aspect of your trip including handpicking guides who match your interests, making restaurant reservations, securing theater tickets and booking skip-the-line entrance tickets to museums. “Basically, you adviser can be a substitute for a hotel concierge,” Mr. Karp said. Some advisers charge a fee for this service that ranges from $50 to a few hundred dollars, depending on the complexity of your requests, but, unlike a hotel concierge, they don’t expect a gratuity for their services.
Let Them Get to Know You, and They’ll Personalize Your Trip
The better your travel agent knows you, the more he or she will be able to customize your trips to your tastes. If you’re a vegan traveling in Italy, for example, an agent may be able to arrange a vegan pizza making class, or at least offer dining options where you’ll feel welcome and have tons to choose from.
Having a sense of who you are can also mean surprises on your getaways. Mr. Karp’s agency, for one, often arranges personalized welcome amenities for its clients: “One of our travelers is a big college basketball fan, so we had custom sneakers with his alma mater’s logo designed and left them waiting for him in his room,” he said.
They Can Even Handle Long-Term Travel Planning
If you have any destinations you really want to visit, an agent can help prioritize where you should travel and when, and help you get off the couch and visit those bucket list locales. Some trips may make more sense at certain times in your life: if you’re keen on gorilla trekking in Rwanda, for example, and want your children to go with you, it’s best to wait to until they are 16, the minimum age allowed. Similarly, if you have a set travel budget for the year, your agent can help determine how best to use that budget to get the most for your money.
They Can Help Even When You’re Not on Vacation
Your agent can come in handy even when you’re not traveling, Mr. Karp said. For a loyal client, he or she can make last-minute restaurant reservations, get tickets to sold-out concerts or even book a boardroom for business meetings.
The caveat, however, is that agents expect loyalty in return for exceptional service. “The more you stick with an adviser, the better you’ll be taken care of,” Mr. Karp said.