Does anyone here have a preferred travel agent in the Northern Virginia area? Looking for someone who can do both traditional airline business but also cruises. Pls contact me off list. Thanks.
Since you have been on this site for a while, I would think that you would recognize that the vast majority here are their own travel agent. With the internet routine airline reservations and cruises are pretty easy to do. Generally travel agents are only useful for very specific reasons. Is there a particular reason you are looking for a travel agent?
I know you can book cruises by yourself but you do often get more and better perks when booking with a travel agent that specializes in cruises.
For airfare I personally don't see any advantage of using a travel agent. However, some people feel that travel agents see more options for flights than they do - possibly because they are not that comfortable with booking their own on the internet, we all have different comfort levels with using the internet.
A good travel agent can be useful. Until ours retired, she booked many trips for us, had good hotel recommendations, found discounts and perks, etc. She maintained all our frequent flier codes and would research multiple alternative itinerary options without prompting. She got us seat assignments when we couldn't, checked in for us when we were overseas, changed return flights on short notice, and most helpfully, arranged coordinated flight itineraries for three couples, flying from and back to different cities. For straightforward basic RS-type travel, yeah, its probably not necessary. Very helpful for cruises - there're a lot of things to know.
As you can see many people doing their own booking make mistakes. Grenada vs Granada. Or don't consider what are reasonable connections, airport congestion, or the downfalls of booking separate tickets. And how often someone comes on the forum and appears not to know about open jaw ticketing, for example.
But the key is a good one. We probably all know someone who decided to take a course to be a travel agent mainly so they could get promised discounts for their own travel. Some of them only know Vegas and Cancun.
The trouble with travel agents is that most of them don't charge you anything (directly, at least), they work off commissions, which means that they tend to book you into whoever pays the most commission, and that's generally the most expensive properties in a particular town.
I never use travel agents, and I never use booking websites. I've stayed in a lot of small towns where a booking website only offered 1/3 to 1/2 of the properties in town, and those were usually the most expensive places to stay (the ones that had enough profit to afford the booking website's commission).
Not that the agents don't earn their money doing what you could have done yourself. But if you want to keep costs down, spend the time and effort and DIY.
Are you a AAA member? We love our agent in Charleston SC. We've used her for 25yrs. We no longer live in Charleston, but still use her and with phones and computers, you don't have to live in the same state anymore. If you are an AAA member, there may be a good one in VA - but 'good' is the crucial word -- as we've had several AAA agents we didn't care for -- which is why we went back to our agent in Charleston even though we now live pretty far from her. PM me if you are an AAA member and want her info.
THANK YOU chinalake67 for being the first poster to actually assist the OP.
People use travel agents for different reasons and serious benefits can be had especially with the cruise industry.
Why the OP wants to use a travel agent is NO one’s business and the OP certainly doesn’t need to be put down for using one; no matter how long she/he has been on this forum. And cost is NOT an issue with many travelers on this or any forum. While some may search to the ends of the earth to save 50 cents on a room, many do not as other factors are much more important to them then price. My first 3 factors are: location, location, location, followed by quality of the hotel and rooms. Only then do I consider price (of course, all things being equal I’ll take a $400 per night room over one for $600). And in that regard a travel agent can be very effective. For many time is worth money. For many ease of process is worth money. For others comfort is worth money.
I need one too.
I lost my travel agent due to COVID stopping travel. She was doing a lot of cruise bookings which apparently pay travel agents a decent commission. Because no one (in their right mind according to her) are going on cruises, her income has stopped. She will continue to work until all the travel she has booked currently for her customers is done, and then retire and do her own traveling again. She has been there for me for 30 years. She was our official agent at American Express travel when I was working my previous career. She went solo when AmEx mostly got out of the travel agent business. Her assistance during the Icelandic volcano travel interruptions helped me get to my RS tour in Ireland only a day later than I had planned because she somehow found the only flight from London to Dublin on the day the tour started that was not blocked by the volcanic ash and got me on it.
When I asked her if she could suggest another travel agent who might provide even a portion of the hands on service she provided, she just laughed. And laughed, and laughed, and laughed. She probably is still laughing. She told me that the era of "good" travel agents is passed.
Good luck finding someone.
Onefastbob, you didn't actually answer the OP's question or assist him/her. Irony eh! ; )
has anybody read the OP's profile? If so, you would have seen that she is no newbie.
She has travelled previously - a fair bit.
She is entitled to decide if she wants a travel agent.
Sorry, I don't know any or I would share.
Hi Wanderlust58 -
I just sent you a message with some of my suggestions.
Good luck in your search!
PS - A good travel advisor will charge you fees to book your travel so they don't rely on commissions. Far too many are struggling in this economy. According to an industry report, about 75% of them will be out of business by 2021. It saddens me that so many people in this industry will be unable to support themselves.
Guess we have to wait to hear back from the OP responding to the very good posts in response to the OP's original question.
Why was I looking for a new a travel agent? Onefastbob and Nigel are absolutely right in saying that it’s no one’s business why I do, and I appreciate their saying so. Folks, I don’t need to be chastised for it. It’s not nice to be snarky.
But, for those of you who are so concerned/critical, do allow me to explain why I asked for leads for a new TA. Travel agents who are experienced, pleasant, and hard-working are hard to find. While I plan quite a bit of our travels, there are tedious things I don’t like doing, and airline reservations are one of them. My TA (who, alas, retired and her replacement pales in comparison) knew exactly what we like: which airlines, seats, taking care of handicap access issues, special meals, getting the frequent flier stuff right, arranging for drivers and/or car rentals, etc. She knew I liked options and she provided them, saving me time in searching out deals. I don’t need to park myself in front of the computer to do this kind of stuff. Paying a small fee for that service is worth it to me. (She didn’t work on commission.)
We also cruise quite a bit, and I have found that a good TA is your best friend in booking, getting upgrades and perks, and the like. Personally, I was very happy with the generous bar set-up and chocolate covered strawberries she had delivered to our stateroom on the first day of each cruise. Over the years, she had a few excellent suggestions for pre- and post-cruise accommodations, and restaurants, which I appreciated. It’s not always about money. Comfort, convenience, and service are important to us. And, bonus, years ago I learned from her to book a future cruise onboard, get all the goodies that go with booking then, then move the reservation to the TA and collect on her services and perks as well. Seems reasonable, doesn’t it, to pay a few dollars for service like this?
No one agent knows it all. The good ones realize this. For travel to the areas with which she was less familiar (Egypt, Antarctica, and China) she provided me excellent contacts to get started in planning those trips. Without that, I would have been shooting in the dark.
In addition to the helpful ideas here, some people have contacted me via private message (aka off-list). Their thoughtful and helpful messages have given me a few excellent options, and I appreciate them very much.
I agree with you 100%. 😊😊😊 Good luck
Our AAA agent gets us AAA discounts on all our European hotels, so we actually save money booking with her over booking on our own. She lets us choose 3-5 star hotels, so the prices aren't higher as one person mentioned. AAA can get discounts just about at any hotel. She also 'has our back' if/when anything at all goes wrong. While we don't use her for everything, she certainly saves us money when we do. We even use her here in America as she saves us money on places like WDW, Universal, the National Parks, tours, etc. There are also AAA discounts at many restaurants as well as hotels. We have had a few TA we didn't like, but once you find one who works hard on your behalf, they are invaluable.
Well, we are AAA members, although we haven't used them for travel in years; we have it mostly for roadside service. However, I am currently planning a trip to German/Austria/Switzerland for an indeterminate time in the future, so I will go to a AAA office and see what accommodations they can find for us for our itinerary.
After some preliminary searches over the last few days, using the AAA website and my membership number for discounts, I have found that:
1. AAA does not offer many properties in Germany/Austria/Switzerland. About half the towns I will be staying in on this next trip (and most of the towns I have stayed in before) do not have properties offered by AAA.
2. Those properties they do offer tend toward the multi-star properties, which I kind of think are overpriced. I can usually find perfectly fine, less expensive accommodations by using town websites or Google Maps and booking direct.
3. I'm planning to stop in Lindau, Germany, which has some big, beautiful 3 & 4 star hotels on the harbor there. None are offered on AAA. In fact, AAA offers no places on the island, itself.
I always find a lot more choices on town websites or Google maps wherever I go in Germany/Austria than are offered on a website like Booking.com. AAA offers even fewer. Despite what Booking claims, I can almost always get a better deal booking the same place directly with the hotel rather than with a booking website.
I'm not a very experienced traveler ... or is it tourist? I even check bags. So I almost always get a travel agency in the location I am heading to to assist me. I find names on LinkedIn and research the hell out of them. Then of after a dozen emails and a few phone calls if they seem to be in tune with me, they get my business. I used one for my current trip and it was an excellent decision.
I can't help you as I live in Canada, but just wanted to tell a funny story.
About 23 years ago, I booked, through an agent, a flight to the UK ; arriving at Heathrow, and leaving from Glasgow.
Then a few days later, I saw the exact trip advertised in the paper, with a free rental car included in UK trips..
So, I went back to the travel agent to ask that she add on the car.
She said she would, then called me later to say that we were not eligible for the car as we were flying home from Glasgow.
Puzzled, I said that Glasgow is in the UK; and she argued with me that no, it was in Scotland.
It took some convincing to get our car, but we finally managed to get her, a travel agent, to concede that Glasgow was indeed in the UK.
I've never used a travel agent since for land based travel, only for cruises.
Glasgow might not be in the UK much longer. I understand a lot of Scots are unhappy with Brexit and want Scotland to exit the UK so they can rejoin the EU.
S J inspired me, and this would qualify as a hi jacking of the thread, except it is a back handed compliment for the many services of AAA. I let that membership go because one of my credit cards offered "free" road side service. 3 months later my fan belt broke in stop and go rush hour traffic in Omaha. Called the free roadside number... the representative asked me for the name of the nearest large town. I repeated Omaha. She said "ma'am, I can't help you until you give me the name of the nearest large town."
The next day I called AAA, apologized for my fickleness, and begged them to take me back.