One question I hear all the time is, “Do travel advisors/agents still exist?” Which is soon followed by the question, “Why would I use a travel advisor when … I have the internet?”
And my answers are always “Yes,” and “For so many reasons!”
Travel advisors handle the planning
The travel industry is huge and travel has become complicated (more so during and post-Covid), but advisors (agents) are here to help you navigate through all of that. Mostly gone are the brick-and-mortar travel agencies (although every once in a while I will still see one, like the elusive Blockbuster). The majority of advisors now work from home as independent contractors at a host agency.
My host agency, PDB Adventures (Polka Dot Bow Adventures) started out booking exclusively Disney destinations (it is recognized by Disney as an Earmarked agency and all its agents maintain regular Disney training). However, over the last few years, many of its advisors (myself included) have developed expertise in other destinations. I can now book vacations almost anywhere that my clients want to go.
My personal history of traveling the world has really helped with this.
To be honest, you don’t always need to hire a travel advisor. If all you want are air tickets, or you are planning on booking a rental property, then the internet is the way to go.
But maybe you’re looking for a more complicated or custom vacation. Or you’re overwhelmed by the number of choices of cruises or resorts. Or Disney (this speaks for itself). Maybe you were tasked with planning a multi-generation family trip or a much-needed girls’ getaway. Whatever the vacation goal, if you just don’t have the time to put into the research, then working with a travel advisor is for you.
I could not say it better than Forbes Magazine:
“Travel agents are a thing of the past – they primarily booked tickets and beds. Travel advisors have taken on a much more complex role – part psychologist, life coach, executive producer, concierge, fixer, dream maker, and ‘Blink Blink’ genie, with the multitude of services that they provide.” From Forbes Magazine, January 26, 2020 “5 Reasons Why You Need a Travel Agent – More Than Ever,” by Larry Olmsted
A travel advisor is a travel expert
Good travel advisors are, like other professionals, experts in their fields. They are extremely knowledgeable about what they book – spending hours every year training, touring, and keeping up to date on destinations, ever-changing policies, etc. It was always complicated, but traveling now is next-level!
Having a live person who cares about you and your family’s experience makes a big difference to your travel planning. Working with a travel advisor is like having a concierge to personalize your vacation just for your family’s needs. And, if things go wrong, you really want someone in your corner to help navigate the problem!
Another way in which working with an advisor will save you time is through their expertise. Since advisors know trusted vendors, tour operators, and destinations, you do not need to spend hours searching for the right one for your family. A travel advisor will be able to offer expert recommendations and customize the trip to your needs based on their own knowledge and personal experiences.
Some of my particular expertise is in booking trips to:
Theme parks (Disney, Universal, etc.)
Resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico
Puerto Rico; Hawaii and other domestic travel (e.g. Florida, California, dude ranches out West);
Worldwide packages and tours (African Safaris, Holy Land Trips, etc.)
Wherever you want to vacation, I can almost always get you there. Taking the stress out of travel is what advisors do. You don’t know what you don’t know. So working with someone who knows the right questions to ask will save you hassle later.
Even if a travel advisor has not been to your chosen destination, the best advisors have a large network of colleagues (either from their own or other agencies) who help each other.
Sure, you could type your destination into Google and then wade through thousands of responses relying on the opinions of strangers on the internet. Or you could work with a travel advisor who can expertly narrow down your choices based on your budget and your priorities. Then you can make an informed decision about where and how to vacation.
Find the right fit for your vacation
Some advisors have specialist certifications, demonstrating their expertise in particular areas. For example, I am certified in autism travel (through IBCCES) and special needs travel (through Special Needs at Sea), and I am an Accredited Cruise Counselor through CLIA (the Cruise Line International Association). While I don’t have certifications to prove it, I’m also fluent in English and Spanish.
As independent contractors, travel advisors each have different business models. Some travel advisors may charge fees for some or all of their services, much as other service professionals do. These fees cover the travel advisor’s time researching options, creating itineraries, and personalizing vacations for each client. Those that charge fees often will take fewer clients, enabling them to focus their attention on the clients that they have.
Other advisors choose not to charge fees. One model does not make an advisor better than another – it is simply a choice of how each advisor chooses to operate their business. For many advisors booking travel is a job, not simply a hobby.
The recovering lawyer-turned-travel advisor
A little about me and how I got into travel (another question I get a lot): I am what I like to refer to as a “recovering lawyer.”
My whole goal in life from age 12 was to be an attorney, and I accomplished that. But then I had small people and the hours required with being a lawyer were not compatible with my other job – mommy.
I was fortunate to be able to say “peace out” to practicing law and find a career doing my other favorite thing – travel. (Cooking is another favorite).
I grew up traveling both domestically and internationally. My parents moved my sister and me all over the world and the travel bug stuck with me into adulthood. So much so that my first job out of college (before law school) was as a travel agent in Tel Aviv, Israel! Funny how life comes full circle. Now I have a career doing something that I love and I get to spend time with my not-so-little-anymore people.
Back to the original question. Basically, by working with a travel advisor you get a better vacation for less of your own effort. Total Mom Win!
Travel advisors have the most current vacation knowledge. Plus, they have connections. The best advisors are dedicated to the job, provide security if something goes wrong, and care about your experience.
And if that’s not enough, you can feel good knowing that you are supporting a small business – usually that of another busy mom trying to juggle life just like you! I would be honored to be your chosen travel advisor.
Author: Alexandra Wisotsky is a proud member of Sixx Cool Moms of Washington, DC and Montgomery County. She wants nothing more than to go to All Of The Places. Follow her adventures on Facebook and on Instagram.