5 Things You Should Know About Your Trip Before Hiring a Travel Agent
In my previous blog post, The Truth About Travel Agents, I highlighted a few key things you should know before working with an agent but you, dear reader, also should also know a few things about your trip before you call an agent.
To get the most out of your travel planning experience (and to make it super simple), here are 5 key things you need to know before hiring an agent.
Yup, we’re starting with the trickiest one. Agents usually package their pricing into two categories, air and land (transfers & hotels), which means you should have a really clear picture of both before you start working together. You should not include your meals or other small expenses in this initial budget.
I know it may be tempting to say, “Well, we’re flexible.” This is the most exciting and worst thing for an agent to hear. It’s exciting because it means we are going to go above and beyond to show you the best of the best experiences within your budget and it’s the worst because there’s a chance you might get sticker shock and change your mind.
Another secret you should know is that if you give an agent a range for your budget, 9 times out of 10, they are going to use the top of your budget instead of the bottom number.
The truth is the top quality experiences and hotels we offer cost more money and we always want the best for our clients. You’re happier with quality experiences, we’re happier, the hotels are happier - everyone wins.
To avoid miscommunication in this most important component of your trip, tell your agent, “We would like to spend X on hotels (or X per night at the hotel), X on flights, and X on experiences.” Your agent will be thrilled with the clarity!
You don’t have to know your activities ahead of time but it is so helpful to know the quantity of touring or experiences you require for your trip.
Why is it so important?
Because we are constantly pulling from our little black book of vendors and alternating between them to customize your trip, so if you are not really “tour” people, we may suggest an immersive photography class instead. Or if you’d rather allocate more of your budget towards hotels, we can offer a more run of the mill group activity that won’t be as expensive as a private guide. Knowing all these puzzle pieces ahead of time allows us to splurge, to save, and to call the right people.
Location and Time of Travel
This may seem like an obvious one but you’d be surprised how many people aren’t sure where they want to travel - although, what a great reason to hire an agent!
You don’t have to know your exact location and maybe that’s why you want the agent to do the research for you. However, some agents charge a fee per itinerary proposal so if you want an itinerary for Italy, France, AND Greece to help pick one for your Honeymoon, that could be upwards of $300 in extra fees.
That being said, an agent is always willing to help you narrow down your options in your consulting call to make the process easier for you. You can always change your mind or ask your agent what they would recommend based on your budget and timeframe.
To have the best planning experience, you need to be very clear about what you expect from your agent. Are you expecting a proposal within the week? Do you need clear line by line breakouts of each purchase? Are you working with an agent just for the room upgrades?
Be prepared with a list of “must haves” and your agent will do their best to match them all.
If your agent doesn’t meet your expectations then it’s a good indicator that you need to find an agent that matches your planning style. They should know their weaknesses as well as their strengths and can tell you in the initial call if they are a good fit for you. For example, I tend to work with clients who don’t mind a few days or weeks between communications because they know I’m thoroughly reviewing the documents, making changes, doing the research, and price checking to make sure the proposal is in near perfect condition by the time they read it.
What could prevent you from going on this trip?
It may seem overly cautious but your plans can change. Do you have a surgery coming up? Are you planning on going to a country that has a history of protests (i.e. Italy, Spain, France)? Do you have a boss with the ego of Mirand Priestly from Devil Wears Prada?
If you tell your agent anything that might prevent the trip, they can look for vendors that have more flexible cancellation policies and allow you to make changes. They also will suggest the right travel insurance coverage (that’s a whole other article of why you should purchase but believe me, you should purchase insurance).
Amazingly, most travel insurance policies do not cover terrorism or weather events! That means your agent needs to be savvy enough to offer you the Cancel for Any Reason travel insurance package so you can rest assured that you are covered no matter what comes up.