Travel Agents: Are There Really Any Left and If So, Why?

78520428I am a travel agent. I don’t have a license, a certificate or even a secret decoder ring but I do have a computer with internet access. Of course, that means I’m also a doctor, realtor, lawyer and all around expert–in-everything, but that’s fodder for another column. Right now I’m a travel agent, so let’s go with that.

Money, Money, Money
Some of my best friends are travel agents. Okay, they were: travel agents I mean, they’re still my friends, at least until they read this. The business has been hit hard and there aren’t that many left. The only time I’ve used a travel agent is to show The Wife how valuable I am. When we wanted to visit Costa Rica I visited a travel agency-yes in person, in the flesh and in her office. I told her our dates and requirements and set her loose. In the meantime I also unleashed my extensive research team (me and my computer) to tackle the logistics. Needless to say, my team came in over $1200 cheaper.

Use Your Head, and Your Fingers
They are bonded, insured and blah, blah blah. This is the line she gave me when I broke the news that I booked the trip myself. She has a point, but any traveler with the research skills of my cat can figure out who is on the up and up. Sure, some reviews are fake, some referrals are made up and some pigs don’t fly but you should be able to discern a legitimate outfit from a risky one. You don’t pay in advance, you don’t give confidential info out on-line and you don’t spit into the wind (or something to that effect.)

Read, Review and Toss
If you’re booking a cruise for Grandma, a travel agent is fine. If, on the other hand, you are a daredevil like me-heck, the last time I flew I actually took off with my seat not fully in the up-right position- you can wing it. Trip Advisor and similar sites are full of reviews. Some of them are full of other stuff I won’t say but if you read enough of them you will get a sense of what’s up. I have learned to discount any reviews made by Texans though. I would like to say some of my best friends are Texans but I can’t. I am from Colorado so there is an in-bred animosity there.

How Many Layovers Can One Man Take?
I am going to Europe soon and must admit, we are using a travel company. For one, I’ve never been to Europe and am worried about the language problem. That and the French people have me worried sick. We are doing a bus tour and I was concerned about touring with a bunch of old folks. That is until we realized we are the old folks. The travel company did get me better flights at the same cost so that’s a good sign. They also will give us a cute little pouch to put our documents in which makes the thousands of dollars I paid almost worthwhile right there.

But What About My Needs?
As I mentioned, travel agents are fine for Grandma’s cruise or even my tour of Europe if you want to play it safe. My advice is to be adventurous. Our most memorable trips were when we just winged it, like the time I rented a jeep in Cozumel and just took off with The Wife and Kid. We still laugh about the bartender who asked “How much for the little girl” Okay, I still laugh about it, she wasn’t too happy when I responded “Another round and a t-shirt and I’ll think about it.” This stuff won’t happen on the bus tour.