Dreaming of a trip through multiple countries by train, plane, and automobile? Planning a huge family reunion or a destination wedding that includes everyone from infants to elderly travelers—and even pets? Such complex journeys could mean hours of research in front of the computer.
In a 2011 survey of more than 2,000 travelers around the world, 20 percent said they spent more than five hours researching and booking travel online. Time is money, and a smart travel agent can save you both.
The use of travel agents is on the rise—and for good reasons. Travel agents are pros at tracking down deals and coordinating complicated and specialty travel. They offer safety tips, expert knowledge about must-do activities and attractions, and suggestions for places off the beaten track.
As the largest leisure travel organization in North America, AAA Travel has an edge when it comes to scope—we cover every corner of the world—and prices, including access to exclusive deals. Unlike some agencies, we offer most travel services for free. And you don’t have to follow a set vacation package: Our agents can customize nearly any trip.
To make the most of using a travel agent, follow these tips.
- Get the right fit Our agents have extensive training and knowledge about destinations all over the world. “Just like when choosing a financial adviser,” says veteran AAA travel agent Bruce McIntosh, “you want to go to an expert.” And make sure your personality clicks—after all, planning a vacation is supposed to be fun.
- Come prepared Do you have a stack of printouts, dog-eared magazines, and brochures of places you want to visit? Bring them when you meet with your travel agent and he or she can help you sort through it.
- . . . or do no research at all Your agent can suggest destinations, itineraries, and activities based on your interests. Do come ready to talk about your best and worst vacations to give a sense of your taste.
- Let someone else do the dirty work Agents can help with getting visas, passport photos, international driver’s licenses, and customs information.
- Go VIP It’s not just discounts: Travel agents can help you skip long lines and get preferred seating, entrance to exclusive events, and other perks.
- Send out an SOS Think of your agent as your consumer advocate. “When a client calls to say there’s a problem with a hotel room or a flight is canceled,” says McIntosh, “we take care of it.”
Plan your next trip with a AAA travel agent. Visit AAA.com/travel, or stop by a AAA branch.
This article was first published in September 2012. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.