Travel Advisers: When to Let a Professional Plan Your Trip

Decades ago, your vacation most likely began with a visit to a travel agent, who relied on a combination of expertise and connections to find the best deals on plane tickets, hotels, tours and more. Since then, the internet has turned most of us into our own travel agents, and artificial intelligence software is making research and self-booking even easier. But for some trips, that special insider knowledge can still make a big difference.

So when should you hire a professional, and how does it all work? Here are some tips.

Why should I consider a travel adviser?

It’s easy for a traveler to do the research for a standard trip, said Chris Anderson, a professor at the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, “so they should look for a specialist for the type of tour they are looking for, say a bike trip in Ireland, who can really add value.”

The insider knowledge offered by a travel adviser can add the most value to trips that have multicity itineraries, involve a wide age range of travelers, are very significant (like an anniversary vacation) or are to destinations you are unfamiliar with, said Gary R. Johnson, who has run the travel agency Woodside Travel in Seattle for nearly 30 years. An adviser could help you decide, for instance, in which order to visit European cities based on local events and transportation options.

What can an adviser give me that a booking site can’t?

Travel advisers can help you research the best destinations, lodging, or activities for your particular group and travel goals, offering up specific advice that might be hard or time-consuming to find yourself. Those specializing in cruises might know which cabin to choose if you are prone to seasickness, while a safari planner could help you decide which park would be best for bird-watching or seeing specific animals, like rhinos.

Travel advisers typically have relationships with tour companies, hotels and cruise lines, sometimes through networks. Those connections can allow advisers to offer extra perks such as late checkout, free breakfast, airport transfers, a welcome basket or a credit to spend on a cruise ship.

“A good travel agent will be a better steward of your travel budget than you are,” said Guy Rubin, managing director of Imperial Tours, which arranges travel in China.

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