by Tori Ward, ROX Travel, Cruise and Resort Specialist

When my husband and I meet new people, the subject will eventually turn to occupations. As a travel agent, I have an exciting job that results in many questions. Many times the conversation will include statements such as:

  1. Low-price travel search engines offer the best prices available for travel. Why would anyone use a travel agent when we have the Internet?
  2. I’m already paying for the vacation. I don’t want to pay a travel agent too.
  3. There is no benefit in using a travel agent.

All of these statements are common misconceptions people have about working with travel agents. When I respond, I always start with the third misconception.

I think about one of my favorite couples for whom I booked a 50th anniversary trip. They wanted to go to Alaska on a cruise and also rent an R.V. and do some camping in and around Denali. I booked hotels going and coming, along with the flight from Chicago to Alaska and back; arranged an R.V. rental and four different campsites as well as a day trip through Denali. Three weeks prior to the trip, I received an early morning phone call telling me that the husband was seriously ill and would require immediate surgery. They had a huge investment in the trip and the cancellation period had passed, so the financial penalty could have been significant. However, by 10 a.m. that morning I had cancelled everything and had all charges reversed on their credit card. The thousands of dollars they had pre-paid were completely refunded and they didn’t have to make dozens of phone calls.

In today’s DYI world it is easy to sit in front of a computer and book a trip without ever talking to anyone. However, if something should go wrong or, you thought you were booking Florence, Italy for vacation and find out the day before you travel that it’s actually Florence, South Carolina, try to get someone on the phone that will actually help you. Don’t laugh. It happened to the mother of one of my friends.  Knowing someone has your best interest at heart is the best reason to book with a travel agent. We want your return business and will do everything possible to help if something goes wrong. It’s called customer service – something rarely seen as we increasingly use the computer for services.

Do you have to pay more to use a travel agent?  No. We are paid a commission by the cruise lines, hotels and other vendors who charge the same price if you book those arrangements yourself.  And, sometimes, as in the case with the Alaska anniversary couple, some of the items aren’t commissionable such as R.V. rentals and campsites. But, we want our clients to have a wonderful, stress-free vacation and that starts before you even begin to pack.

Another misconception is a travel agent will book the most expensive trip to maximize commission or won’t be able to find the best fares.  With so many online offers available, it would be foolish for an agent to think that the client wouldn’t be checking for themselves. As well, we receive updates and can log in to the same reservation systems vendors use. However, there are times when I will ask clients if they are really sure that the cruise they want to the Caribbean for $599 in June is worth the lower price when it will be the good ship lollipop with children out of school, meets the love boat with young people celebrating graduation with a suitcase full of hormones. A call center would just book a trip like that with no questions asked.  A travel agent working for the client would either recommend different dates or a ship that caters to more mature people.

Finally, after the trip ends, we continue working for our clients if we discover a problem. Recently, I found out a client was injured while on a cruise in October.  A fellow traveler just happened to mention the fall. Even though the trip was booked a year ago and the travel was complete, the client had forgotten she had selected trip insurance to supplement the cruise. Yesterday, we filed a claim for reimbursement of the medical expenses she had while on board.  Details, persistence and continued service – it doesn’t cost more to use a travel agent; they have your back.

Victoria “Tori” Ward is a cruise and resort specialist with an interest in traveling and seeing the world since she first began to crawl. For more information on these trips and others, contact Tori at tori@roxtravel.com or 928-254-9968