Is Hiring a Travel Agent a Good Idea?

Montreal skyline by Trodel (Creative Commons)

Montreal skyline by Trodel (Creative Commons)

On a trip to Montreal, an acquaintance was marooned for two extra days due to a blizzard. Montreal is not a bad city to get stuck in; there are lots of great restaurants and things to do even in knee-deep snow, but the added costs and stress of the unexpected delay takes a toll. Weather is unavoidable, but the frustration of unexpected travel woes is not. With a travel agent’s number handy, that acquaintance could have had an alternate flight out of the city that may have saved time, or the agent could have made arrangements to save money on the extra food or lodging costs.

These kinds of negotiations are not what you want to be doing on vacation, or on a business trip. Hiring a travel agent solves most of these complications.

Planning a Complicated Trip

The purpose of a travel agent is to help you plan a stress-free adventure. Even if you’re going on a business trip, a good agent will think of things that you have not. Like scheduling a flight so that you can sleep on the plane and you’re up in time for morning at your destination. Agents may also have connections with hotels and attractions to simulate a certain type of experience. What about visiting destinations you know nothing about?

The Internet is a good source for a broad survey of how people feel about restaurants and bars in the area, but an independent agent like Jeff Bartel will have specific recommendations and offer packages tailored for the city you want to visit.

Having a Backup

A good agent also helps ease the burdens of travel, like unexpected car troubles or delayed flights. Keep your agent’s phone number handy in case something goes wrong, or for spontaneous changes. They may have advice for you if you find yourself going off the itinerary too. An agent of the Automobile Club, for instance, might supply you with a map for road tripping that highlights gas and car maintenance stops along the way. Call the company on the road for towing and other services.

Selecting an Agent

You should interview a few different travel agents to find the best one for you. Many people do hire agents in a bind, so call up acquaintances for a word-of-mouth recommendation if possible. You will want to make sure your agent has done travelling, preferably to your destination, and you will want to review any and all paperwork that comes your way. Carefully read the terms to each package deal, and be sure to inquire about how to obtain refunds if your trip does not pan out the way you want.

You may be subject to fees for cancelling if you book a trip, but it’s important to vet your agent for integrity before you book with someone.

Safe Guards

Compare fees between different agencies and be wary of any agency that charges you in cash. The Better Business Bureau recommends that you review their website to see if the agent belongs to a reputable agency as well. You should come up with a budget before speaking with an agent, it’s the agent’s job to make that budget work for you. Also, it may seem like a given but you should actually visit the agency. The last thing you want on a trip to Cancun is to find out that the agent that booked your stay operates out of a studio apartment in the bad part of town.

Not to say there aren’t plenty of deals for travellers online, but booking with an agent can remove much of the stress from travel.