In a changing travel climate, travel agents reclaim the spotlight

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Posted: Wednesday, February 29, 2012 7:00 pm

(ARA) - Recent years have been revolutionary for the travel industry. The democratization of booking tickets and vacations turned the traditional model on its head - instead of going to an agent, consumers could suddenly book everything with a few clicks. But that was then - today's travel landscape is evolving in new ways, some of which have travelers reassessing the value of DIY planning versus enlisting a travel agent.

The old adage that "familiarity breeds contempt" is ringing true for a lot of travelers who have become accustomed to booking it all online. The weaknesses of online booking engines have come to light, including lost bookings, lack of expert service and advice and little or no support during travel. Beyond that, it's difficult to know whether you're finding a truly good deal or getting the trip that is right for you.

Even with all these potential difficulties in mind, some people have yet to realize the advantages of working with a travel agent or might feel unsure about using an agent's services. The reasons for hesitating range from "Isn't it more expensive?" to "I've never used an agent so I don't know what they offer."

Whether you're an adventurous traveler or just looking for a relaxing getaway, consider what a travel agent could add to your vacation experience:

* Service and experience. There's so much world out there to see that choosing a destination can be overwhelming. Because travel agents deal with clients going to all corners of the globe and are enthusiastic travelers themselves, they can offer real experience and insight into what destination might be right for you. With their experience and invaluable information they can also give you little-known secrets including the best time of year to travel, local tips and other recommendations to make your trip more unique and enjoyable.

* Customization. Are you a thrill seeker? Do you want the best views of crystalline blue waters from your lounge chair? Are your little ones taking their first vacation? Each of these cases demands a very specific kind of trip. A professional travel agent can build a customized package or match you with the right vacation that meets your unique needs and motivations.

* A real-life ally. Nothing is more disheartening than having a problem and knowing that you have no one on your side. Instead of enduring a painful chain of phone transfers and having to explain your situation over and over again, you can call and rely on your travel agent to get things fixed if any part of your trip should go awry.

* Insider knowledge. If you are hesitant that your hotel won't live up to the pictures online, you can trust a travel agent to have researched or even visited the specific places they are recommending. In addition, travel agents often can arrange unique offers that suppliers may not offer online, like upgrades or food and beverage credits.

* An eye for value. Budgeting is an essential part of travel and is unique for each customer, but everyone wants to get the most out of their travel dollar. A travel agent can provide their expertise to shop for the best value for your budget while saving you time and money and ensuring your vacation is a positive and memorable experience.

Travelers are discovering that the combination of value, personalization and service is invaluable when planning vacations. When you travel, it should be a memorable experience because of all the things that go right, not all the things that go wrong, so don't leave your vacation to chance. For more information or to find a professional travel agent, visit www.planavacationweek.com or www.facebook.com/nationalplanavacationweek.

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