Remember when sites like Kayak and Travelocity entered our lives and everyone was all, “This is the end for travel agents”? At the time, that was kind of true—why would anyone spend the time to talk to a real live person to plan a trip when you could do everything online? Now, though, travel agents are making a major comeback. I’ve heard from a few people over the past couple years how happy they were to have used travel agents to plan big vacations, so I decided to give it a shot. Last week, we met with an agent to discuss our honeymoon (we’re pushing it to the winter in an attempt to escape a polar vortex or two), and I’m officially a fan. Aside from the fact that her services are free (she gets paid by the airlines and hotels), there are so many major bonuses to getting the help of a professional for the big, post-wedding trip.
They can get deals you’d never even know about
Travel agencies, as expected, have strong relationships with airlines, hotels, and pretty much the rest of the hospitality industry. Which means they have access to all sorts of special promotions, deals, and money-saving secrets that you’d never find on Kayak. Yes, please.
They can take your vague idea and turn it into a full-fledged concept
We went into the meeting with our travel agent knowing we probably wanted to go to Southeast Asia, definitely wanted to be somewhere with beaches that are so nice they look fake, and most likely wanted to hit up a few destinations. Other than that, we planned nothing, knew nothing, and expected nothing. Which is where the travel agent came in. She asked all sorts of questions—from how many flights we’re willing to take to how high-end we want the hotels to be—to hone in on our ideal honeymoon, and then started to build an itinerary based on that.
They save you hours of researching and agonizing on Kayak and TripAdvisor
Sifting through costs, photos, and reviews on travel sites can seriously drive a person mad. I’ve spent hours researching hotels, zeroing in on ones that seemed perfect, only to find that one awful review (with photos for proof!) that made me question everything and go back to square one. It’s beyond frustrating and exhausting, and I couldn’t be happier to do absolutely none of that for our honeymoon.
They make it personal
After the initial round of questions our travel agent asked us, we starting getting more into the nitty gritty. Like, “We’d love to have some sort of animal experience, but only if it’s in a setting where the animals are protected and cared for (think: elephant sanctuary).” While it’s certainly possible to seek out very specific locations, experiences, foods, and sites to incorporate into our trip on our own, there’s no doubt it’d be stressful. From finding the reputable places, to scheduling everything in a way that makes sense and keeping it all within our budget, the process would basically be like a full-time job. Fortunately, there are people who actually do these things for their full-time jobs: travel agents.
They prepare you for the unexpected
It’s easy to get tunnel vision when you’re planning and heading into your honeymoon and only focus on the fun stuff: Pack a bathing suit, book an excursion, delegate a souvenir fund. But there are other things to keep in mind, especially if you’ll be honeymooning in a foreign country. Do you need a visa for that country? Do you have to get any shots in advance? What kinds of fees are associated with changing currency? What are safe modes of transportation? The travel agent can prepare and remind you for all that kind of stuff.
They can step in when things go awry
I have a friend who planned a perfect honeymoon with the help of a travel agent, only to find out one of the hotels she was going to stay in was wiped out by a hurricane shortly before the trip. For most people, that would incite at least a bit of travel panic. But for her, it was no big deal—because the travel agent found a new hotel, made the reservations, and adjusted all the necessary details that went along with the change. And the agents can even help once you’re on your trip: The woman we met with assured us that, should something go wrong, we can reach out to her during her business hours or to the company’s 24-hour hotline to get things squared away.
They budget for you
It’s easy to decide how much you’re willing to spend on your honeymoon. It’s near impossible to plan everything, from the flights, to the hotels, to the excursions, to fit nearly perfectly within that budget. I’m thrilled to pass that task onto someone else.
Original by: Emma Sarran