When it comes to your visiting Walt Disney World or other theme parks in Orlando, you don’t need any advice.
You know it all.
If that is the case, good for you.
Don’t read on.
But no, of course that is never the reality.
Not for any of us.
But there are reasons why you want to go beyond internet research, the helpful and well-meaning advice of friends and more information sources even before you get in your car or board a plane to the theme park capital of the world
There are a lot of misconceptions about agents. And a lot of assumptions about travel in this internet-age.
Online air not always best or cheapest
For example, many people think they will always get the cheapest airline ticket when booking online.
Keep in mind here that whatever your experience-background, and no matter your age…or even if you have already been visiting here many, many times….there is a lot to think about when vacationing in Orlando.
Tickets, sure. The cheapest is not always the best, either.
There’s also lodging, which eats up the largest part of any budget. Should you stay at a Disney World hotel or elsewhere such as someone’s sofa?
Then, there’s where you eat. Yes, everyone has to do that.
And when to go, of course. The best time.
The least expensive time.
And this list of what to consider goes on and on.
Not long ago, the internet question came up from Roberta who posted a good question: Whether it was cheaper to book her own vacation….or use a travel agent.
The best answer…and you might not have to search too hard for it on the internet…is to use an agent.
But what is not always included is this fact:
If they are free, of course.
That does require some further explanation.
Even in today’s times, not everyone knows the truth about paying or getting free advice from agents.
They had their peak of popularity (and income stream) years ago when they charged air carriers for tickets for their passengers.
Agents in those times were even courted by the airlines, who depended on them to fill their airplanes.
Agents can tell you of elaborate parties they attended, hosted by the business-seeking airlines.
But times change.
And so does travel.
You have to have a small sense of history here.
Smart agents saw this coming: the airlines decided to take matters into their own hands.
They hired people to take reservations directly.
The common phrase applies here: eliminate the middle man or woman. Agents.
Agents: no more automatic airline commissions
This cut out the biggest source of income for many agents: airline tickets.
Since then, there have been predictions that agents are a thing of the past.
Do-it-yourself- booking sites via the internet have also combined to made them obsolete.
As endangered as the dinosaurs, you might say, and about as useful in these times.
But guess what?
Agents made a comeback
Many these days make their living by booking luxury travel where travelers really don’t care what a trip costs. And an add-on service from an agent is worth the price (if price is no object).
Other agents have reduced office expenses by working at home or specializing in niches.
Some even specialize in airline tickets.
They can buy in bulk and re-sell the tickets at marked up prices, for one thing.
They have found other ways to make money, either through airline tickets or some other form of personal service that includes a charge.
All of this brings us to what they can do for you.
For free, anyway.
Even if you are a born planner, and love to plan…and even if you have all the time in the world to carefully, painstakingly work out your trip…an agent can be of use.
Many travel agents these days are simply paid by the travel provider.
That could be a hotel chain, to cite just one example.
But did you know, for example, or consider:
They can book your entire trip, from start to finish. --> dial 888-WDW-CHEAP for example
No effort on your part except to ask them.
That is certainly among their major advantages.
Disney and other parks offer numerous deals. But unless you are a full-time person looking at which are the best, you have disadvantages. Specialists can sort through this often bewildering array of offerings to find the best for your particular situation.
Keep in mind that the best specialists will not only search for your best deal, even if their commission is less, but they will also continue to watch for deals after you have already booked your trip.
But you don’t want to just ask anyone, do you?
You want someone you trust.
So you do have to make some effort in finding that particular person, don’t you?
Once you find them, however, they can do most of your work prior to going to the particular park of your choice.
And don’t forget this either: a long-standing advantage of an agent is when things go wrong.
They can help when the airline overbooks and denies you the last seat on that day’s flight or the hotel lost your reservation and sorry, all rooms are occupied at this busy time of year.
Agent advantages seen even by online providers
We all know how things can go wrong on even the best planned trip.
It’s not just us that say agents have their uses.
In fact, the number of travel agents is on the rise.
Which should tell you that there is still a demand for them.
And even Internet travel sites these days are more inclined to add them.
CheapAir.com is a fine place for what they advertise. But they are among sites that advertise they provide travel advisers for ticket-buyers. These advisers not only take care of your ticket issues, but also can be used for other issues such as hotel reservations.
So all of this brings us back to agents
So how do you know who to pick?
You don’t want to spend a lot of time on this. That’s for sure.
So let’s just reduce it to six considerations or questions.
No. 1: The first question to pose: fees. After your travel professional supplies you with a vacation package estimate, make sure to ask if there are any additional fees. And is the cost of an agent's service is included in the quoted vacation price? A small footnote here: If the sight of "service fees" has you rethinking the use of an agent, keep in mind that an agent's on-ground contacts and affiliations can possibly get you more free extras and discounts that you wouldn't necessarily be eligible for if you made the travel plans yourself.
No. 2: Certification. The long-standing and generally reliable American Society (of) Travel Agents (ASTA) is the only professional association representing travel agents. They are well-grounded in ethics and other issues (you don’t want advice from an agent who is also getting paid by a hotel chain, for one example) and other issues. So you know to know about their membership, which is easy to determine.
No. 3. Friends. Their advice. Ask them.
You certainly know some who have used agents in the past.
Good agents try for long-lasting relationships. That is the case simply because it is good business. And referrals are to their advantage, of course.
No. 4: Check credentials. Say you don’t have anyone who has ever used an agent. You can go beyond ASTA to the accreditation system from Certified Travel Counselors. Agents get this through the Travel Institute (which without getting too confusing….designates destination specialists in certain areas). This is not a guarantee but it could help you decide on an agents.
No. 5: Business codes of conduct. Don’t like or trust ASTA or other agencies?
Go back to old fashioned times. Check the old reliable: the local Better Business Bureau.
They may have a new name these days but they are still often associated with the local chamber of commerce.
So you should have no trouble finding them. Or whether one agency or another racks up a suspicious number of complaints.
Do some of your own thinking
No. 6. Do some critical thinking.
Travel agents should demonstrate reliable characteristics, so ask them questions. Consider their answers. Do they seem to have the answers? Even more critical: Do they know enough or are they honest enough to say when they don’t know?
But if they don’t know, will they find your answer? That is a reasonable request.
So if you wonder why agents might save you money, the answers are not complicated.
They (agents) often have many connections and relationships with vendors and others for discounts…though these can even extend to theme park tickets.
They also are aware of barely-promoted deals, some of which may be advertised locally but not online.
They are also aware of your travel budget and can help you stay within it, which is not as easy when you are doing this all yourself.
Travel agents may not be utilized as much due to the ease of the internet, but just because something is easily accessible doesn’t always mean it’s better.
Are human beings better than the internet?
So at this point, you may wonder why agents may at times be better than online travel options?
One example is airline tickets. With online agencies, you can’t guarantee your seat and price until payment is made. Agents can put your tickets on hold, which reserves them. It also guarantees the price until your departure. No charge.
When you book online, your space or price is not confirmed until full payment is made. Prices can change. What if you change your mind or are forced to by outside circumstances (such as a car accident or illness for example)?
Does this also save you money?
Because basic marketing principles are such that when supplies start to run out, demand goes up…and so do prices. But your agent has locked you into the available inventory. Online agencies usually don’t offer that option.
Booking online also requires you to pay in full at that time. Using an agent eliminates that requirement because of deposits. Your space can be reserved.
So as we said at the start of this article, you may not really need an agent…but you might want at least to try one…if for no other reason than to get a second opinion.
In the end, no one knows it all. ###