Why You Should Use a Travel Advisor
In the age of online booking sites and Google, does anyone use a travel advisor anymore?
You can do your own research, save money, and find online sources for just about any destination, and any travel source. Right?!
The real question is why WOULDN’T you use a travel advisor?
Like everyone, I have planned my own travel. I loved it (ok, so that’s why I do it for my JOB). But when I first used a travel advisor myself, I had to confront a few myths:
MYTH: They are expensive and everything will cost more
FACT: Travel advisors will often SAVE you money.
I'm not Costco. I’m not going to send you a list of package deals because everything is designed for you. I do sometimes have exclusive offers, or special relationships which means that I might have prices no one else does. The best values however come in the form of the special amenities, upgrades and credits that we get from our preferred partners. These upgrades, free breakfasts, and credits can add up to $700 per hotel/resort. That’s not counting the time and energy I will save you in the planning process. And if you get hit with the craziness of this last year, and changes, well, that’s when a travel advisor is invaluable.
The first time I used a travel advisor many years ago, I priced everything down to the cent had I tried to book it myself, versus the price quoted by the advisor. First, there is no way I could have put together the itinerary they did. Second, what I could manage to put together separately would have cost me MORE. I would have lost money and lost my mind.
MYTH: Travel advisors only show you options that make them money
FACT: A smart travel advisor is focused on the travel options that are most likely to make you, the client, happy.
Happy clients return to reserve future trips and recommend the travel advisor to others. However, travel advisors will often times avoid resources that are not proven and therefore represent a quality risk, such as HomeAway or VRBO, which put the client at the mercy of the accuracy of the photos and the word of the property owner. Good travel advisors will also refuse to reserve certain travel products that have a reputation for being unsafe or not in good condition . . . no one wants to be adrift at sea with no power and no working toilet.
MYTH: It's easier to do it myself
FACT: How much time do you want to spend sorting through millions of paid advertising based search results?
Search Google for just about any travel destination, and you’ll get thousands, if not millions, of web links to review. Most of those links are created by marketers or influencers trying to monetize something. Sites like TripAdvisor can be somewhat useful, but what you would consider “great” is very possibly not what everyone else on TripAdvisor would classify as luxury or great. Determining the best options on your own can be a daunting task. Beyond the challenges of determining the truly best options, you don’t have billions of dollars of buying power (like I do) to leverage to secure the best of the best travel experiences.
MYTH: The best information and deals are online
FACT: What your mother told you is still true: what seems too good to be true usually is just that.
So you’re doing a happy dance because you scored a cheap room at a five-star hotel or resort on a discount website. Your happy dance may end when you check in. Many top hotels and resorts have sections of their properties that are “not yet renovated” and are tired/outdated. They still need to produce revenue from those rooms that are not among their best rooms. So they put that lesser desirable inventory of rooms on discount websites. Congratulations, you’ve just booked a really bad room at an otherwise great property.
You may be saving $40 a night, but you are getting the leftover rooms by the noisy elevator or the ice machine or the cabin on the cruise under the disco. You are unable to specify what you want, and you run the risk of being “walked” if the hotel fills with higher priority guests (my clients will never be “walked”).
My clients are given the best rooms at the best hotels and resorts, and they’re often times upgraded to a higher room category than what was reserved. And say hello to a great breakfast, late check out, and a food and beverage credit that's included with our preferred partner properties. That’s a better reason for a happy dance with no sad ending.
I work with the collective knowledge of thousands of top agents worldwide. We’ve been there, we’ve seen the room, we’ve tried the food, we've met the guide. We know if the hotel is across the street from a loud nightclub, and if the vibe is chill or luxe or hip. We know if the beach gets seaweed, if it's private, if the beach loungers are comfortable and how the service is. Even if I haven’t personally gone eagle-hunting in Mongolia (it’s on my bucket list), I know someone who has (seriously). I know Sherpas. Truffle hunters. Thai chefs. Our suppliers can set you up with experiences you haven’t even thought about yet.
Then there is Covid. I have been staying on top of every change, every restriction, every protocol, every projected opening. I have suggestions for managing testing, quarantines, itinerary changes, restriction changes, and everything in between so that my clients have the up-to-date resources and information that they need. That includes travel insurance and which policies cover Covid changes, trip delays, quarantine stays, and evacuations.
MYTH: I don't need a travel advisor if I can get the same price myself.
FACT: In the travel world, relationships and buying power matter.
Consider this example: You and your travel advisor can access the same price for a suite at a top hotel in Venice. If you book it yourself, you get the suite. If your Departure Lounge travel advisor reserves it for you, you get upgraded to a bigger/better suite overlooking the Grand Canal, and you also get complimentary breakfast for two and $100 dining credit – all for the same price you were going to book the lesser suite for. How can your travel advisor get you more? A combination of Virtuoso network buying power AND personal relationships nurtured through years of Virtuoso conference meetings results in the upgraded experience.
In other words, you can’t “VIP” yourself . . . but your travel advisor can.
MYTH: I know what I want so there is no reason to bother using a travel advisor
FACT: That’s a perfect reason to call your travel advisor
Even if you want to make a simple booking, a travel advisor backed by a prestigious network like Virtuoso, or preferred relationships like Departure Lounge has, can book a partner property or service for you with amenities you can’t get on your own. Our preferred relationships beat out your elite status any day.
I keep running into this. Friends book a hotel, resort or cruise online because they knew what they wanted, and “didn’t want to bother me.” What they didn’t realize is that I could have provided them hundreds of dollars in extra value and VIP treatment (and maybe even an insider rate). At no extra charge!
According to a 2020 Forbes article, when booking with a Virtuoso advisor, “just the hotel benefits are valued at an average of over $500 per stay.” When you book one of the preferred hotels or resorts through me, you typically receive perks like early check-in/late check-out if available, free breakfast for two, up to $100 resort or spa credit, and an upgrade on arrival. On certain cruise lines, my clients receive an exclusive benefit of up to $400 in onboard credit plus other perks. Virtuoso Voyages give my clients a welcome reception, credit for excursions, and other extras.
MYTH: No one uses a travel agent anymore
FACT: More people than ever are using travel advisors
Fueled by frustration and confusion with online booking options, and the changing state of travel with covid, the use of a travel advisor has actually experienced soaring growth in the United States. 82% of luxury travelers believe in using a travel advisor. Savvy travelers wanting to make the most out of their valuable leisure vacation time have determined that using the services of a good travel advisor saves time and money and results in a better travel experience.
MYTH: No travel advisor can know the whole world
FACT: A good travel advisor can know how to deliver a great travel experience even for a destination that he or she has not been to.
How? My colleagues and I rely upon the Virtuoso travel network’s prestigious roster of preferred travel providers, which have been very carefully vetted for every desirable destination on the planet. Being chosen by Virtuoso to be a part of its network of preferred providers is like the Good Housekeeping seal of approval in the travel arena. My colleagues work directly with experts at the destination to put your options together, and these experts know the current situation with accommodations, service providers and the most enjoyable travel experiences currently available. That insider knowledge and connection when paired with my knowledge of you and what you like results in an outstanding journey for you.
MYTH: An advisor won’t know what I like
FACT: My job is getting to know my clients’ travel style
While you know yourself better than anyone, a good travel advisor will get to know you and then bring options to you that fit your preferences. Think of me like a personal shopper. Once I get to know you, I will be your curator for any destination, and I can bring to your attention any new travel provider or experience that fits your personal style. Often times I will bring you options that you would not have known about otherwise. Suddenly you’ll be the traveler who finds out about great new options first, and you won’t have to wait to hear about them from friends or in a travel magazine (when thousands of other people are making the same discovery).
Unless you are calling with a trip tomorrow, my goal is to understand your travel goals, wants, desires and needs. Long-term. I want to be the person you turn to for all of your travel needs, so I want to know what kind of pillow you like, whether you are an aisle or window person, where you like your room to be, and which kinds of hotels you prefer. I want to understand if you want a packed itinerary or if you like to chill, if you like boutique hotels and want to explore all the best local places or prefer to stay at a luxe resort with Michelin level food. And whether you want to arrive to a bottle of sparkling wine or red wine. I spent most of my first two careers learning about people, whether as a cultural anthropologist or as a mental health professional. My curiosity about you is what drives this process.
Luxury is personal. I want to know what that means to you. You may want to stay in a hut in the jungle with no running water or toilets so long as you get to hear creatures in the night. Cool. You may want to take your friends on a private jet to an island you bought out for your 50th birthday. I will always tailor your travel for you and will never offer anything “formulaic” or packaged.
I leverage the full benefit of my own networks for my own travel. Why wouldn't you?