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Myths and truths about working with a travel agent.

Unfortunately, travel agents belong to, arguably, the most misunderstood profession of today. I'm convinced that if more people actually understood the value we provide and how we deliver it, there would be a whole lot more satisfied vacationers out there! But sadly, misplaced beliefs in the myths below makes people shy away from travel agents. Often, this means that their vacation is not as enjoyable as it could have been.

Keep reading for common myths (and associated truths) about travel agents. Or contact me to discuss the benefits of working with a professional travel agent.

Myth #1: It costs more to use a travel agent. This is perhaps the biggest reason travelers avoid using an agent. In reality, most travelers pay the same price whether they use an agent or not. So how does the travel agent get paid? The vast majority of the time, we are paid a commission-a percentage of the price-by the travel provider. That is, by the cruise park, resort, or airline.

Myth #2: We make a salary whether or not you decide to book with us. This myth is a corollary to the first; since most travel agents work on commission only, we are only paid when you book your travel with us (and go on the trip). If I spend 23 hours (the average amount of time spent planning a family vacation) putting together the perfect itinerary and you and you decide to go book it on your own, I do not get paid for those three full days of work. While travel agents want to make sure your vacation dreams come true, we don't want to be just another free search engine.

Myth #3: You can get all the same deals online. It's true; anyone can look up airfares and hotel rates on the internet. But keep in mind that you're nothing but a credit card number if you go this route. The trip you end up with will be nothing like the trip a travel agent will put together for you using their training, expertise, passion, and extensive network of personal connections. A good travel agent won't hesitate to call the general manager of your hotel to make sure you get the ocean view instead of the parking lot view or to attend to any other detail. Moreover, travel agents can often book into resorts that show no vacancy on discount booking sites. And finally, travel agents often have previews of sales before they are advertised to the general public. So if I know you're interested in an Alaskan cruise, or the opening of a new land at Walt Disney World, I can make your reservation the second rooms are released to ensure you get your preference.

Myth #4: Travel agents drive you toward higher priced options to increase their commission. If agents did this, they wouldn't stay in business very long. It's a simple as that. No one likes being manipulated and we all have pretty strong instincts when it comes to sniffing out a con job. Good agents know that putting their clients' needs and preferences first is good business. It's also just the right thing to do! I'm a travel agent because I love travel and I love helping people. The intrinsic reward I feel when I've helped a family have a great vacation is worth so much more to me than a few more bucks in commission.

Myth #5: Travel agents sell one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter vacations. This particular myth conflates discount travel sites with professional travel agents. Discount sites intentionally try to portray themselves as a travel agency, but they are actually a very different thing. Discount travel sites purchase blocks of resort rooms. They will then 'bundle' them with one or two popular attractions and call the resulting product a 'custom vacation package'. This 'custom' package will then be peddled to anyone and everyone without concern for the clients' needs or specific interests. In contrast, travel agents will work diligently to learn your expectations, likes and dislikes in order to craft a vacation as unique as you are. That's why I spend so much time upfront asking about prior vacations, travel preferences, and vacation dreams.

Myth #6: Travel agents are going the way of the dinosaur. While there are fewer travel agents in business today than there were 20 years ago, the past five years has seen a dramatic resurgence in industry growth. I think that the contraction and subsequent growth makes sense in terms of the maturity of the information age. Before widespread access to the internet, travel agents provided both access to travel information and expert guidance. But it was access that people thought of first and that's exactly the component of the job that the internet replaced. But now, after we've lived with ubiquitous information access for a while, we recognize the importance of expert, personalized guidance. Travel agents will be giving their clients the very best, most relevant travel advice for decades (even centuries) to come.

Myth #7: We travel for free. The potential for free (or heavily discounted) travel was by no means the driving force behind my entry into the profession, but would be lying if I said that I wasn't disappointed when this myth was officially shattered by my awesome boss when she hired me. Occasionally, a resort will offer a few rooms to travel agents at a discounted rate. But this is much rarer than people expect and the competition among travel agents for those few rooms is often very steep. This is one myth that I wish was true!

Myth #8: Travel agents work 9-to-5. I think this myth stems from client's fears of being stuck in a lurch after their travel agent clocks out at 5 pm. And maybe a few decades ago that was sometimes the case. But not anymore! Most travel agents work whatever hours are necessary to meet their client needs, whether that is waking up at 5 or 6 am to book reservations the minute they are released or answering the phone in the middle of night to help make necessary travel adjustments.

Hopefully this post will help you understand how and why travel agents actually work. Contact me to discuss how I can help make your next vacation the best one yet!

The Cahaba Travel Company is a veteran-owned and family-operated small business based in Hoover, Alabama - right in the heart of the beautiful Cahaba River Valley. But thanks to the interwebs, we can help you plan your next vacation no matter where in the world you are.





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