By Kyle Winkler

Travel Agents are a Traveler’s best resource.

In today’s world, the internet makes so many things accessible.  Have a question, go to  Want a new recipe? Google it.  Is there something or someone you want to know more about?  Try Wikipedia.  Sometimes it is just that easy.
With research at our fingertips, many people question the need for some of the old reliable services we used to rely on.  Do we still need “The Yellow Pages”?  What about going to the movie theater?  Isn’t it easier to join Netflix?  What about using a Travel Agent?
My answer to these questions?  While I Google quite a bit, the “Yellow Pages” can be convenient.  I enjoy watching movies in my own living room, but I have to admit– a movie on the big screen has a feel that adds to the whole experience. 
But one thing that still has a tremendous value is the traditional Travel Agent. 
Consider the following when you are deciding to use a Travel Agent or to book on the internet.

Personal service:
Ultimately people like to do business with people.  They like to talk about their plans, get answers to their questions and get feedback on their ideas.  Only a real person can give you that.
Time:  Even if you find that you have free time, can’t you find something better to do with it than searching websites looking for the best price on a trip?
Experience:  Travel Agencies spend countless dollars and hours training their Agents keeping them up to date on travel requirements, destinations, procedures and how to locate & offer the best value for their clients.  Most Travel Agents have traveled extensively and have done so in many different ways.  They have inspected hotels, gone on excursions, experienced local cultures and cuisines, flown on numerous airlines, sailed on many different cruise lines, taken trains– well you get the idea.  They can honestly say “been there, done that” about a great number of destinations around the world.
If they have not been where you want to go, chances are they work with another Agent that has.  The help of an experienced Agent can be priceless when traveling somewhere you have never been.  A website on the internet can not give you the personal experience of someone who has actually been there.
Connections:  Travel Agents build strong relationships with travel suppliers giving them a tremendous advantage when you need help.  Some agencies have 24 hour/365 day travel service centers that are staffed with knowledgeable Agents whose only job is to assist their traveling clients at any time of day.  That can be priceless when stranded at an airport 1000 miles from home.
Here are just a few questions to ask before you book a trip on the internet:
  1. Google Paris.  Do you really have time to look at the 261,000,000 results?
  2. Have you ever booked a hotel on the internet and been disappointed to find your view is of the parking lot?
  3. Cancelled flights can sometimes require hours on the phone with the airlines?  Do you have the time?
  4. A romantic getaway?  Are you sure the hotel on the internet isn’t going to have a swimming pool full of screaming kids?
  5. Has the internet ever explained to you that July might not be the best time to go to South America or Australia?  Or at least told you to take warm clothes?
  6. And what about putting your credit card on the internet?  Sure they said it was secure, but is it?  Who is going to help you if they charge your card 3 times?
  7. Are you sure you have remembered to take care of EVERYTHING?   You don’t want to be sitting in some airport late at night looking for transportation to a hotel that is an hour away.
Travel Agents are still one of the best bargains around.  Most Travel Agents do not charge for their services.  There may be a service fee for very complicated trips, or a non refundable planning fee that will be applied to your trip when you book.  But on the average, they do not charge fees for cruises, tours and vacation packages.  One thing to note however, when you only purchase an airline ticket and nothing else, there is typically a service fee. 
If you still have your doubts, consider one more thing, booking with you local Travel Agent helps your local economy.  It keeps your community working.  It just makes sense.
Your local Travel Authority can be reached at 877-AXP-1515.

Kyle Winkler is the Director of Marketing for the Travel Authority.  She has been working in the travel industry since 1999.