When planning a vacation, it can be tempting to just do it all yourself, with maybe a little help from a travel website. However, you might be surprised to discover that a travel agent can be a money-saving resource during the planning process.
Not only that, but many travel agents charge small fees, or even no fees at all. If you’ve never used a travel agent before, here are 12 secrets almost all travel agents know. You can benefit from these secrets to save money on your next trip.
Before you start planning your next vacation, consider speaking with a travel agent. Even though they might get a kickback for helping you plan your trip, it doesn’t mean they aren’t full of helpful hints and good secrets. In fact, here are some of the top things travel agents know — and using these secrets can save you money.
How to get better flight prices
With airline prices expected to continue rising through the end of 2021, getting help finding cheaper flights can be a huge deal.
In general, you’re more likely to find travel agents helpful if you’re flying internationally, or if you’re arranging group travel. Depending on the situation, a travel agent might have access to special deals, as well as rates for different airlines.
I’ve booked travel with an agent for overseas flights, and the process is often smoother — and less expensive — than trying to find deals online. This is especially true when working on a full package that includes lodging or a cruise as well as flights.
They can fix unexpected problems while traveling
When something goes wrong, trying to get back on top of the situation can mean hours on the phone with the airline. You could even find yourself in a long line at the airport, hoping to get on the next flight.
When you have a travel agent, though, you might be able to jump ahead. Call your travel agent, and they will handle the rebooking, and might even be able to get you vouchers. In the past, when I’ve used a travel agent, they’ve been able to get me a hotel room for the night — no cost to me — and helped me get on my way as quickly as possible.
Having that insider point of contact who can handle the issues and knows the rules surrounding vouchers and compensation can save you time and trouble when an issue arises.
They have access better hotel pricing
Hotels have more flexibility in pricing than you might think. Additionally, some hotels are moving toward more dynamic pricing for the future, working on ways to ensure that empty rooms don’t stay empty.
A travel agent knows that a hotel with an empty room — especially if it’s during a traditionally slow time or if there’s been a last-minute cancelation — is a hotel that’s willing to make a deal.
Depending on the type of travel you do, when you go, and where you plan to stay, you might be able to score a better deal. Travel agents have contacts and relationships and might be able to find a good deal for you, as long as you’re reasonably flexible. You can also use one of the best hotel credit card options to get free nights and earn other perks.
They know all the government rules and regulations
Not sure when you need a passport? How quickly do you need the passport? Can you speed up your time in line with TSA Precheck or Clear? When you look for the best airline credit card, consider checking for perks like credit for Global Entry fees, which can save you money on premium programs.
Travel agents have to be up on all the latest rules and regulations. They pay attention to where there’s a travel advisory, and they can let you know which checkpoints have faster lines for Global Entry travelers.
A travel agent can also help you figure out which programs are likely to work best for you. Clear might get you through security faster than TSA Precheck, but if you don’t go to many airports that have Clear set up, it might not be worth the cost. A travel agent can help you sort that out.
You can save major money by staying right outside the main city
When I traveled to New York City last, a travel agent friend of mine recommended I stay in Newark, NJ, which is only about a 25- to 30-minute train ride. I was able to find good accommodations at a low price, and easily get to and from New York City. Not only that, but I was able to find a little grocery store and restaurants that were cheaper than the cost of many of the amenities in New York City. I’ve used similar strategies when staying outside other major cities, including Vienna, Austria.
Travel agents know that there’s a price to pay for staying right inside the city. They can help you figure out cheaper places to stay, and where you can take advantage of low-cost public transit to get around so you don’t have to pay for a rental car and gas.
Airbnb rentals can be better options than hotels
Depending on where you go, you might be able to get a better deal staying with Airbnb than in a hotel. On top of that, some travel agents have access to Airbnb and can even help you book.
My recent trip to Massachusetts involved staying in Brookline, just outside of Boston, in an Airbnb. It cost much less to stay in the Airbnb, and my lodgings were only a short walk from the main train line into Boston. A weeklong unlimited ride ticket was inexpensive, and I saved a ton of money by being able to stay outside the main city in an Airbnb.
You can also book your Airbnb using credit card reward points, even if you decide not to use a travel agent.
You should fly between Tuesday and Thursday
When booking your flight, travel agents know that you’re likely to get the best deals when you fly between Tuesday and Thursday. If you’re looking at a flight price matrix, you can compare days, and you might be surprised at how often the cheapest flights are on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
They know package deals can be the best deals
Travel agents can help you bundle your travel and save big. When you get package deals that include airfare, hotel, and rental car, you can save money in the long run.
Using a travel agent to book my Viking River Cruise a few years ago helped me get the best deal on combined airfare and transport. I didn’t have to worry about getting to the cruise ship because, by booking a package deal through the travel agent, they took care of picking me up at the airport. Not only that, but they were on standby so that if something happened to their transport and I missed the flight back, they would handle all other arrangements.
Knowing that there’s one price for the whole trip — and it’s potentially lower than getting everything à la carte — can provide peace of mind when you travel.
They know where the hidden costs are and how to avoid them
Travel agents are experts in the industry. They’ve seen it all. A good travel agent knows where the hidden costs are and can help you avoid paying those extra fees. With a travel agent on your side, you can navigate the tricky parts of travel, especially if you’re going to another country or if you have a large group you’re trying to accommodate.
Book with lots of lead time to save
If you really want to save, travel agents know you need to plan in advance. When you start looking well ahead of time, travel agents can find the best deals, especially if you have enough lead time to be flexible.
On top of that, some travel agents will let you pay a deposit and make payments over time, rather than requiring everything upfront. This gives you time to plan ahead and budget in chunks.
Don’t book luxury hotels online — book through an agent
Looking for the best deals on luxury hotels? A travel agent can probably help. Many agents are part of preferred networks and programs, some of which aren’t publicly available. For example, Four Seasons doesn’t have a public loyalty program. Instead, you make use of the Four Seasons Preferred Partner program through a participating travel agent.
Many luxury hotels don’t publish deals, so booking through an agent with access might be your best bet for getting perks and VIP treatment.
Visit during shoulder season
Rather than visiting during peak season, or even off-peak, travel agents know that shoulder season can be one of the best times to take a trip.
One travel agent recommended that I book my getaway to Jackson, Wyoming after the summer season ended and before skiing season got underway. Going in the shoulder season, this sort of in-between time, saved me a lot of money on my stay.
Travel agents are well-versed in various destinations, and when you’re most likely to get a good deal by traveling when hotels are likely to be looking for any travelers, and when airlines just want to fill seats.
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