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Planning a trip? Tips and tricks for working with a travel advisor

by SuperiorInvest

Decades ago, your vacation most likely began with a visit to a travel agent, who relied on a combination of experience and connections to find you the best deals on airline tickets, hotels, tours, and more. Since then, the Internet has turned most of us into our own travel agents, and artificial intelligence software is making it even easier to search and book on your own. But on some trips, that special insider knowledge can still make a big difference.

So when should you hire a professional and how does it all work? Here are some tips.

It's easy for a traveler to do the research for a standard trip, said Chris Anderson, a professor at Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration, “so they should look for a specialist for the type of tour they're looking for, e.g. a bicycle tour”. trip to Ireland, who can really add value.”

The inside knowledge that a travel advisor offers can add the most value to trips that have multi-city itineraries, involve travelers of a wide age range, are very important (such as an anniversary vacation), or go to destinations with the unfamiliar, said Gary R. Johnson, who has run the Woodside Travel agency in Seattle for nearly 30 years. An advisor could help you decide, for example, in what order to visit European cities based on local events and transportation options.

Travel advisors can help you find the best destinations, accommodations or activities for your particular group and travel goals, offering specific advice that may be difficult or time-consuming to find. Those who specialize in cruises may know which cabin to choose if you're prone to motion sickness, while a safari planner could help you decide which park would be best for spotting specific birds or animals, such as rhinos.

Travel advisors often have relationships with tour companies, hotels, and cruise lines, sometimes through networks. Those connections can allow advisors to offer additional benefits like late check-out, free breakfast, airport transfers, a welcome basket, or a credit to spend on a cruise.

“A good travel agent will manage your travel budget better than you will,” said Guy Rubin, CEO of Imperial Tours, which organizes tours in China.

When bad weather or other circumstances disrupt your itinerary, travel advisors often have direct lines of communication with suppliers and can do the work of rebooking and changing plans, saving you time and stress.

Networks like the American Society of Travel Advisors and Travel Leaders have websites that can help you start your search for a travel advisor by answering a few questions about the trip you want. Once you have a few to choose from, contact them by phone to discuss what they could do for you, how they charge, and the level of service you can expect. Special trips can cost thousands of dollars, so it's worth investing the time up front, Rubin said.

Be sure to read travel agent reviews and any user-generated social content that mentions them, Dr. Anderson said. “If there's no external validation, that's a red flag.”

Advisors receive commissions from vendors, typically 10 to 15 percent of the price, when they sell cruises, accommodations and excursions. They also sometimes charge travelers a planning fee, ranging from a few hundred dollars, which may be credited to the final bill if the reservation is completed, to tens of thousands of dollars a year for a luxury concierge trip planner to whom they can call. all year. Johnson said he charges a planning fee the first time he works with clients. If they return for other trips, he waives the fee.

Advisors may be tempted to sell you something that will earn them a higher commission, Dr. Anderson said. But, he points out, the same goes for big online services, which promote hotels that pay them higher commissions. Travelers can ask advisors about the specific commissions they receive or how they are affiliated with the products they recommend, he said.

Sometimes a local travel company packages transportation, accommodations and experiences for an advisor, who adds a percentage before passing it on to the client. But a bill that isn't itemized can make it harder to make trade-offs (between a more expensive hotel and a special experience, for example). If price transparency is important to you, discuss it with the advisor from the beginning.

While new technologies allow travelers to create their own itineraries online based on their individual preferences and post questions directly on travel websites, advisors are also taking advantage of these technologies to improve their services. Joan Roca, CEO of exclusive travel planning company Essentialist, said her team “uses technology to enhance the human touch,” using artificial intelligence to choose options from a database of curated travel deals. human team. If a couple wants to take a walk after dinner, for example, Essentialist's app will offer ideas of where to go, based on what part of the city the travelers are in and the conversations they've had with their travel advisor.

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