Should You Use a Travel Agent for Your Vacation?

Tue, Jan 06, 2015 @ 08:01 AM Dawn M. Smith Military Life, Travel Tips

medium_3429143374You and your military loved one have promised each other that, after many months of deployment, you will finally make the effort to find the time, money, and childcare you need to take the dream vacation you talk about in the middle of the night when you both can’t sleep. It can be very overwhelming and time consuming to plan any trip, let alone one with a hefty price tag or serious details to contemplate.  

This is when it is time to consider the use of a travel agent for your military family! These professionals provide years of training and expertise to ensure you get the most for your hard earned tax-free combat pay. Don’t let a dream vacation be marred with shortcomings that could have easily been avoided by hiring a professional. You wouldn’t hire a hobbyist DIYer to add a second story to your brick colonial, right? The same sentiment applies here.  

The internet abounds with travel planning tips, itineraries, and suggestions, and these are very helpful to use when your plans only dictate a three day girls’ getaway to Vegas or a cheap flight from Fort Bragg, North Carolina to Chicago to meet family for a last-minute leave session. Sites such as Kayak, Tripadvisor, or Fodor’s are industry grandparents, but are still very useful. I admit to using them regularly. Detailed vacations or once-in-a-lifetime trips require a larger breadth of knowledge, however.

As an easy first step, take a look at your credit card. Just like rental car insurance, many credit card companies, including USAA, offer travel planning as part of services provided.

With the prevalence of travel websites, it makes sense to look into qualified online travel agents, of which there are many. Ask your neighbors, friends, and family if they have used anyone and start from there. A group discussion of travel and vacation tips might be a fun Family Readiness Group (FRG) or coffee night event to yield potential contacts for agents. Military people know a lot about a lot of stuff!

We booked a dream resort trip to Biras Creek in the British Virgin Islands through an online travel site called Tripology. I couldn’t have been more pleased, especially because of the fact the agent was compensated from the vendor, not us. So our planning was done for free. This is case for most agents, but some will charge for services like research or ticket deliveries, so be sure to ask up front. After some research, I came across the online travel agency Virtuoso. Virtuoso has earned an industry leading reputation for managing luxury vacations.  

Agents with this group have long term connections with airlines, resorts, and many other resources to offer you upgrades and freebies that you probably would not have come across through your own internet research. On that note, a point to consider is whether or not to mention you’re military members. We’ve had a few fun extras thrown in to thank us for my husband’s service, in addition to some reduced rates for resort stays.  

Although I have not walked into a brick and mortar agency for help, those folks are still out there and able to offer you expertise in handling a detailed trip. Questions to ask any and all agents who have potential to help you spend your money wisely include: What is their expertise for a specific location or region?, What are the fees for any services?, and How do they intend to help you pick your perfect destination?

Be prepared to answer questions from agents about topics such as budgetary guidelines, date restrictions, and other specific needs you may need to address. Also be sure to ask about travel insurance. We’ve all been disappointed by the unpredictability of canceled leave. Lastly, don’t forget that some installations still offer services from SATO Travel and Carlson Wagonlit Travel.

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photo credit: thephotographymuse via photopin cc