Think you can plan your own trip? You probably can. But you may not know what you’ll be missing out on if you don’t partner with a travel advisor. According to Next Avenue, over the last 15 years, the number of travelers arranging their own trips online has gone up significantly.
Fewer than 10% of leisure travelers use a travel agent, says industry research firm PhoCusWright. To plan your own trip, you’ll need to spend hours researching your destination and all it offers, deciding where to search for bookings (An online travel agency? A travel aggregator offering options from multiple sites? Direct sites for hotels, airlines or cruise lines? Review sites?), comparing prices, and finally booking.
Travel Advisors to the Rescue
Travel advisors today are not your grandmother’s travel agent. They don’t just book your hotel or flight. Instead, they’re your consultant during the entire trip process. They help you sort through all that information and make the best decision. Think of them as you would a financial advisor managing your money. Instead, they manage your free time.
Here are Next Avenue’s six reasons to work with a travel advisor:
1. You’re not a travel expert.
Professional travel advisors research and book travel every day. They’re well-traveled and well-trained. They have connections and expertise you could never match. They’ll know the differences among all the cruise lines, be able to guide to the hotel in Paris that’s perfect for your needs, or find you a guide in Florence who knows all about Renaissance art. They also have helpful tips for everything from restaurants to packing to timing travel to avoid busy seasons or bad weather.
2. You want to get it right.
Planning a complex trip is tricky: international travel, flight connections, multiple destinations, a celebration vacation, a big group. Advisors excel at these kinds of complicated arrangements. They’ll even help ensure you’re getting what you want with simpler bookings.
For example, you won’t be stuck in a hotel room that looked great on the web but fell far short in reality. And you’ll be spared headaches from trying to do it all yourself.
3. You don’t have advisors’ connections.
Travel agencies are members of large networks, which give them a great deal of influence with travel suppliers. Virtuoso’s 340 agencies with 8,900 advisors in 20 countries represent $12.5 billion in bookings. As a result, Virtuoso travel advisors can offer their clients complimentary perks such as hotel room upgrades, complimentary breakfasts, and dining or spa credits.
Virtuoso advisors also build bonds with suppliers all over the world at events such as Virtuoso Travel Week. It’s easy to pick up the phone and get you VIPed at a five-star hotel when you know the general manager personally.
4. You don’t have time.
To plan and book your own trip, you’d have to set aside hours of time online or on the phone. Even then, it’s like drinking from a fire hose. There’s simply so much information out there it’s hard to find what’s important. And you could easily miss a key detail. Travel advisors provide one-stop shopping for everything you need for your vacation.
“Travel advisors manage your most valuable and non-renewable asset: your leisure time,” said Matthew Upchurch, chairman and CEO of Virtuoso. He quoted Warren Buffett to sum up the worth of a professional advisor: “Price is what you pay, value is what you get.”
5. You want help in case of emergency.
Your flight gets canceled. A natural disaster hits the area you’re visiting. You get sick during your trip. Your passport is stolen. If you book online, don’t expect much help when an emergency hits. But travel advisors will be there for you (usually 24/7), and will be able to resolve the problem thanks to their experience. You’ll be worry-free.
6. You want a trip that’s designed just for you.
“What really sets a true luxury travel advisor apart are the little things that are unexpected,” Shawna Huffman Owen, a Virtuoso travel advisor in Chicago, Illinois, told Next Avenue. “We tailor-make experiences like arranging scavenger hunts for families in the Louvre or helping older travelers who need baggage assistance on trains. We create something that can’t be ‘Googled’ — a personal experience,” she says.
How You Can Find An Advisor
If any of these six reasons (or all of them) resonates with you, it’s time to find your own travel advisor. Look for one who has experience in the geographies or travel styles you prefer. Click here for more advice, as well as information shattering myths about travel advisors.
And seek advice from family, friends or acquaintances. “The best way to find a travel advisor is to ask a friend for a referral,” said Huffman Owen.
Another great way is to visit virtuoso.com, where you can browse a catalog of advisors accepting new clients, search for an advisor with a specific expertise or take a brief quiz to find an advisor that matches your needs.