Thanks to the proliferation of online trip-planning and booking tools, everyone can feel like an armchair travel agent. However, just because you can plan your own travel doesn’t mean you should. Recently, we spoke with Julie Arbelaez, owner of Peace Frogs Travel/Outfitters in Charlottesville, Virginia, who has more than 25 years of experience in the travel industry, about the benefits of working with a pro to plan your next getaway. From simplifying your life to saving you money to securing exclusive upgrades, here’s why you should enlist a travel professional.
Time is money. Even with helpful online resources and the right guidebooks at your disposal, it takes a substantial amount of time to thoroughly vet destinations, plan excursions, select hotels, book restaurants, and handle logistics. And whether or not you enjoy doing this type of research, the hours definitely add up. “This is work we do all day, and have done for the last 26 years, so we can get a terrific trip put together in a more succinct time frame than most novices,” Arbelaez says. Plus, the fee an expert charges for planning your trip is often nominal (they generate revenue from garnering the bookings), so you shouldn’t let cost prevent you from enlisting a pro.
There is such a thing as too many choices. People can be paralyzed by decision-making, and this can often become the main hurdle in booking a trip. Travel consultants can help whittle down the options by distilling ideas discussed during an initial trip consultation into an edited list of vetted options tailored to a client’s unique preferences, or even one or two iterations of a complete itinerary. Outsourcing some decision-making doesn’t mean foregoing input, mind you—it simply invites someone in to help you focus your vision and turn your destination dreams into a reality.
Access to upgrades. “When you use a travel agent, you’re tapping into a network of travel professionals around the world who specialize in specific areas,” Arbelaez says. They have a breadth of knowledge and boots-on-the-ground experience that can’t be matched. “Many of our most trusted vendors have passionate and dynamic guides and drivers, and that can really bring a trip to the next level,” she adds. These connections aren’t always the most mainstream resources, either, so it should be of comfort to know that they are tried and trusted vendors that your travel outfitter has relied upon over many years. Additionally, there are often perks and upgrades that are offered when a hotel, cruise, or package is booked through a travel pro who is a member of a travel consortium.
You can delegate logistical details. As pros who think through the total travel plan, travel agents can create seamless travel experiences and transfers. “I’ve found that the timing of getting from point A to B, or the time one should dedicate to a particular activity, is not something a client really understands or thinks about,” Arbelaez explains, adding, “Getting from the Rome airport to the central train station, then on to Naples and the Amalfi Coast can be a daunting task. Or knowing about how much time it will take to get between various locations for various travel experiences.” An experienced agent can work through the daily flow of any trip to make sure there is enough time for everything a client wants to do, plus allow for enough down time so that the client still feels relaxed and not over-scheduled. “Slowing down is an important aspect to most vacations,” Arbelaez says. “But we are programmed to want to get the most out of every minute of our time in a new destination.” An added bonus: if you have any snags along the way, a phone call to your consultant can ease your travel woes.
You’ll get help with pre-trip prep. Travel professionals tend to jet-set a lot themselves, so they are familiar with many aspects of trip-taking apart from simply booking the vacation. “At Peace Frogs Travel/Outfitters, all our staff members are also packing specialists and can share their tips for packing well for any type of travel,” Arbelaez says. Many travel experts can offer recommendations on everything from the best carry-on travel cases to the benefits of packing cubes, motion-sickness remedies, and anti-theft day bags—ensuring you are prepped and ready for every aspect of your upcoming adventure.