Excursion experts: Travel agents still useful in today’s vacays

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  • Lindsey Prumer, owner of All Travel Guru, says when people make their own arrangements they often miss out on adventures and the hidden gems. (Photo by Keith Erickson)

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    (Photo credit: Unsplash.com)

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    (Photo credit: Unsplash.com)

  • Lindsey Prumer, owner of All Travel Guru, says when people make their own arrangements they often miss out on adventures and the hidden gems. (Photo by Keith Erickson)

  • 1

    (Photo credit: Unsplash.com)

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    (Photo credit: Unsplash.com)

Top International Summer Travel Destinations for 2019

Cancun, Mexico

Aruba Island, Aruba

San Jose del Cabo, Mexico

Nassau, Bahamas

Higuey, Dominican Republic

Top Domestic Summer Travel Destinations

Orlando

New York

Seattle

Las Vegas

Boston

Source: TravelPulse magazine

Summer’s finally here and for millions of Americans that means planning the dream vacation—an unforgettable getaway destined to create memories that will last a lifetime. While the trip itself may only last a week or two, preparation can take months.

Like virtually every aspect of our lives, the internet has transformed the way travelers plan their adventures. Airline tickets, lodging, excursions and dining opportunities can be explored and booked personally on your favorite electronic device.

But as nonprofessionals not equipped with a vast knowledge of travel planning, are we really getting the best bang for our buck when it comes to mapping out our own trips?

Local travel agents suggest doing it alone—especially with international trips—is not the best way to go.

With countless choices online, folks who plan their trip without expert guidance can find it to be a daunting and even frustrating experience with unexpected setbacks and hidden costs, says Lindsey Prumers, owner of All Travel Guru in Post Falls.

Too many choices

“When you try to sift through all the information nowadays, it can be overwhelming — there’s like a million websites, a million companies competing for your business,” Prumers said. “And they all say they’re the best.”

So what to believe? Where to start?

That’s where working with a travel agent offers a distinct advantage, Prumers says. The job of a travel agent is to be the expert on all things travel. Not just helping to pick the perfect location, but also selecting the services and experiences that best fit the individual or family.

Armed with the client’s information and preferences, a custom trip booked by an agent can be arranged with no surprises and often with savings and perks sometimes “hidden” from novice planners, Prumer says.

Prumer, who books a majority of her trips for clients bound Europe, says individuals who make arrangements on their own are often missing out on key aspects of the adventure; the hidden gems.

“It always makes me feel sad when I see people book a trip to England and do all the same touristy stuff and not experience the proper culture—the castles, the unique opportunities, museums and other special amenities that exist and aren’t always as easy to find,” she said.

Because travel agents have a vast line-up of vendors covering every aspect of a trip, they are able to customize the vacation to suit the needs of their clientele after a personal consultation.

No hidden fees

Booking through a travel agent will rarely cost extra, local agents agree. That’s because those agents receive a commission from the vendors (hotels, excursion companies, restaurants, etc.) who pay the travel agent for business they receive.

Sharon Kevins, owner of Integrity Travel, also in Post Falls, says her clients love the personal touch they get from a travel agent.

“They will come in, sit down and ask questions without calling a phone number and getting someone from who knows where who may or may not speak English. It can be frustrating,” Kevins says.

“A huge part of my clients understand the importance of supporting local business and getting that personal touch. And planning a trip with a professional adds to the excitement,” she adds.

Personalized experiences

Kevins said it’s critical for travel agents to get to know their clients before booking a trip and adjust their experience accordingly based on expectations.

“I’ve had people say they took a cruise and they’ll never cruise again because it was a horrible experience,” she said. “After talking to them and seeing what they booked, it’s no wonder … it was not the right cruise for them.”

Like Prumers, Kevins said she is sometimes able to save her clients hundreds of dollars when she customizes their itinerary and looks for opportunities for extra savings.

They’ve got your back

Another unfortunate part about booking a trip without going through a travel agent is there is often difficult to find a recourse if some aspect of the vacation goes wrong.

Part of what travel agents do is to follow up on the getaway and even offer support during the vacation if necessary.

“We go to bat for you if something happens,” Kevins says. “When you book through an agent, you know that you’ll be taken care of every step of the way.”

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