Updated on Feb 3, 2021
By Anna Fishman
So what do you look for when you are searching for “the best travel agent near me”? Here are the top 10 services that the best travel agents offer.
1. You can’t return a bad trip, so we get it right the first time.
2. We save you time and money.
3. We offer expert advice.
4. We have your back – we work for you.
5. We have an eye for detail and logistics.
6. We are humans, not computers.
7. We are a text message away 24/7.
8. We are your personal advocates.
9. We offer protection for your trip.
10. We offer more value for less.
Hi! I am Anna Fishman, a boutique travel agent located in Bergen County, New Jersey. You are visiting the blog of my boutique travel agency, Olegana Travel Boutique. I want to tell you a little bit about me, my passion for travel and how I can make your next trip unforgettable.
- I have traveled through 27 countries, some of them many times over. When people ask me to pick my favorite, it’s like asking a mother to pick a favorite child, but I will have to say that Italy ranks pretty high on my list.
- I was born in Europe, studied in the Middle East, and lived in the US, which means I understand different lifestyles, mentalities, and know how to talk to people from different cultures.
- I was chosen as one of the 40 under 40 Future Leaders in Travel in 2018. Yup, I still can’t believe it myself!
- I received over 200 five-star reviews of my service in less than 5 years in business from customers that have safely returned from their trips curated by me. Wow!
Here are a few of my core values for my business:
- I go so you know! Meaning that I have been to almost all of the places that I send my clients. I have spent 45 days on the road the year before the pandemic traveling to conferences, first-hand experiencing travel supplier products, and inspecting countless hotels and resorts so I can share my experiences with you.
- I believe every family and couple deserves stress-free vacations that they remember and talk about for years to come.
- I can design a trip that makes sense logistically, gives you an experience of your dreams, and entertains the entire family regardless of age.
- One of my core beliefs is to always “wow the client” — under-promise and over-deliver. Period.
- I have personal connections with many service providers, so if you are traveling and something goes wrong (let’s face it…life happens), I will be able to help you solve the problem quicker and more efficiently than if you booked the trip yourself. No 1-800 support team putting you on hold for an hour!
- And after a crazy 2020 Covid19 pandemic year now I can say that I have experience working with embassies extracting US nationals from foreign lands after the international borders close and getting them back home safely to US soil. Ask me about that later!
For many, using a travel agent is not even worth a thought. Why bother when you can book flight tickets and make hotel reservations right from your bed. Besides, user reviews are easy to obtain. With an increasing number of do-it-yourself online travel planning tools, do you really still need a travel agent?
Now that you know a little bit about me, I would like to address some common misconceptions about travel agents and share the reasons why you need a travel agent when you book your trip!
A common misconception is that we don’t need travel agents anymore because they are a thing of the past. We think that everything we need to plan a trip can be done online these days. Think again of what happens when you are stranded in a foreign destination because of a canceled flight, closed border or airport or a positive Covid19 test?
In a world where technology helps us all become professional DIYers, many of us have learned to DIY our vacations and trips. We assume we can become experts on everything because the internet allows an endless amount of information to be at our fingertips. Because of this, we don’t see the need for hiring a travel agent because we believe we can use Google for everything trip-related. However, when that same DIYer ends up in Brussels with a canceled flight, finds herself in a hotel that looks nothing like the pictures, can’t get into that excursion she was looking forward to, or has a ridiculous layover that takes away an entire day she could have enjoyed while on vacation, this DIYer will wish she hired a travel agent!
However, that couldn’t be any more untrue! Well, not the “do everything online” part, but the part where “travel agents are a thing of the past!”
According to a report by the American Society of Travel Agents, travel agents still sell:
51% of all flights
87% of all cruises
81% of all tours & packages
45% of all car rentals
47% of all hotels
If travel agents were no longer used, the percentages would be much lower. There is a reason that hotels, flights, cruisers, and more love to work with travel agents! They believe in the value of that personal touch! In fact, many hotels leave rooms specifically for travel agents at a price they don’t inflate. This means when a hotel you call is “booked” there is a chance that would not be the case if a travel agent did the booking for you. Can you say, “special treatment?” *wink*
Another misconception is that travel agents cost too much money. But according to Travel + Leisure, “Agents make the majority of their money on commissions paid to them by hotels, airlines, tour operators, and cruise ships.” They also save the client money because of their expertise in getting the best deals and the best bang for their buck! Wouldn’t you rather spend about the same amount of money but receive so much more? That’s what hiring a travel agent can do! If you haven’t traveled to a location before, trust someone who has! The internet may be able to offer options, but it isn’t capable of listening to your desires the way a travel agent can. And a travel agent cares about turning your desires into a reality!
So why do you need a travel agent?
- Travel Agents Have An Eye For Detail
A typical trip consists of many different pieces. These little pieces come together to give you a complete vacation experience (or they don’t come together when you book a flight to Liberia in Africa, while your hotel is booked in Liberia in Costa Rica or your transfers are booked for Roma Termini train station in Rome, while your train arrives in Roma Tiburtina train station). Travel agents look at each piece, making sure they meet your specific needs and that you don’t find yourself in those nerve-racking situations.
- Travel Agents Save You Time and Money
Because you don’t have extra free 40+ hours to do the research on the destination and plan your own itinerary, figure out what is true and what is just a marketing gimmick — saving you time and energy for an amazing trip experience! You can count on an incredible itinerary with all the bells and whistles and every detail thought out that you may never have considered before because we get to know you and then deliver the experiences tailed to your interests and preferences.
Perks, upgrades, convenience, and constant support are just some of the ways travel agents save you time and money. Whether they charge a small fee or not, your returns always outweigh your expenses.
- Travel Agents Are Your Personal Advocates
Getting an upgrade on an already ordered package can be a tedious, sometimes impossible process as a loner. Want to upgrade to an ocean view? Your travel agent is your personal advocate, soliciting favors on your behalf.
- Travel Agents Offer Expert Advice
We are experts in what we do. Just because you have access to information doesn’t mean you are an expert. We have done the work and experienced a variety of travel opportunities that we are happy to share with you from our first-hand experiences. You may be able to book a flight, but how do you avoid a crazy long layover while not missing your connection? You can find a hotel that has beautiful pictures online, but you may not have gone to see it in person like we have and oh, boy, do our unphotoshopped pictures look so different?
You simply cannot do the work of a doctor, a mechanic, or a lawyer by yourself. As experts in their field, travel agents ask discerning questions, identify your needs and wants, and offer expert advice that makes your vacation incredible. Remember, there are no do-overs for a vacation gone wrong.
- Travel Agents Have Your Back
Things can and do go wrong. Whenever they do, your travel agent is your get out of jail free card (well, not literally!). Got your flight canceled? Didn’t get the room category you booked? A call to your travel agent, who is always on standby, will get it fixed much faster than waiting on hold with the customer service of an online travel agency.
- Travel Agents Develop Personal Connection With You
By knowing you, your family, your likes, and your dislikes, you become more than just another sale. You enjoy a personal connection with them, making every transaction more pleasant and meaningful. As a result, they shop for you, identifying the best experiences for you even before you make the request.
- Travel Agents Offer Customized Experiences That No One Else Can
We have access to exclusive experiences you wouldn’t find on your own because they will be custom created by our in-destination partners specifically for you. You can’t Google “What would I love to do on my honeymoon?” but you can have a conversation with us about it and we can turn that conversation into an experience.
There are circles and then there are insider circles. Travel agents belong to a tight group of insider circles of travel professionals that sell only to each other. Do you want to have dinner in the home of a private chef in Florence and have him teach you to cook? No problem! Do you want to have a private wine tasting in the castle in Bordeaux? No problem! Do you want to land on the side of a volcano in Iceland and have a picnic? No problem! Do you want to tour Tuscany in a vintage Fiat? No problem! Your imagination is the limit!
- Travel Agents Protect Your Investment and Value Your Safety
Planning a trip is an investment. But things can go wrong. It could be a minor problem of a delayed flight or a more serious problem like a natural disaster. To ensure that you do not lose this investment or force yourself into an unsafe compromise, travel agents recommend the best travel protection plan. It’s a combination of personal and financial safety.
- Travel Agents Help You Get It Right The First Time
How do you plan a safari trip to Africa without ever stepping your foot there? While some simple trips allow you to make most of the arrangements online, most complicated ones don’t. Your special anniversary or honeymoon trip can be ruined because you failed to get a small detail right. Similarly, your DYI tour of an easy-to-navigate city could miss a lot of off-the-beaten-path places without the right tour guide. Travel agents ensure everything is just right.
- You Get More For Less
Most hotels and resorts understand the importance of a travel agent and make use of parity pricing structures. So, whether you let an agent book for you or you make your reservations yourself, your out of pocket amount is the same in the worst-case scenario. Which would you rather go with – pay the same plus experience, clout, and perks, or pay the same without any of those? Your guess is as good as mine!
We earn our living by developing deep relationships with service providers like in-destination experts, tour guides, hotel chains, transportation companies, and more with who we work every day to bring the best to our clients. Travelers simply can’t access the same services because they don’t have access to the same resources and relationships. That means booking through an agent gives you access to perks you wouldn’t be able to access without them.
Next time you are thinking of DIYing your next trip, give me a call first. I can help you in a way you could not even imagine. In your case, it doesn’t hurt to try.