So, it’s the end of April and you’ve not yet booked your 2016 family summer holiday. Do you panic as friends around you wax lyrical about the amazing deal which they booked before Christmas? Or do you call your travel agent and ask them to sort the problem out for you?
Now, obviously I am biased as I worked as a travel agent for over ten years but I do think there are many good reasons for booking your holiday with a professional. Some holidays are easy and fun to book but others involve hours of research. It’s interesting that people continue to use estate agents to sell their properties but don’t see the value of using a travel agent to find them a holiday. Of course, these two things are wildly different price-wise but they are important in similar ways. You spend precious time in your house with your family and you spend crucial time together on a family holiday. Family holidays are that rare time when you can all be together without the distractions of work, school, DIY, TV and so forth so it’s important you get them right. A good travel agency is a bit like a good department store, its staff are there to look after you and help you find what you need. So, here are my top five reasons why you should use a travel agency for your next family trip.
This is the main reason, in my opinion, to use a travel agency. It takes ages to find the right holiday when there are both adults and children involved, particularly with the Internet offering myriad choices. There are so many factors to consider. Apart from the destination and the weather, parents often concern themselves with factors as detailed and diverse as the depth and temperature of a swimming pool, the safety of the stairs in a villa, the local food for fussy eaters, the list is endless. If your requirements are more complicated than a caravan in the Isle of Wight you may spend many hours trawling the net to find the right option for your family. Call a travel agent, tell them your budget (it’s essential to be honest on that) and your absolute priorities and they should be able to come up with some sensible options.
This very much links in with time. Some people balk at the thought of paying a penny more for their holiday than they have to and if that means spending multiple evenings glued to the net rather than paying a little extra for someone else to do that for them then so be it. But what is your own time worth? Freeing up what could be a considerable number of precious hours is surely worth paying for. In fact, quite often a travel agency will charge the same as a hotel or tour operator as they are given commission and don’t necessarily need to mark the price up. Also, a good agent will be honest about cost. If you’re being unrealistic about money, they’ll tell you rather than trying to sell you a cheap holiday which you’ll hate.
Find a travel agency which specialises in family holidays. In my agency we booked the same families year after year. We learned what they liked and, crucially, what they didn’t like and when we found something that worked well for one family we would suggest it to other families who had similar interests. Each year, we were able to drill down to the right holiday quicker as we formed a better understanding of our clients’ needs. It’s worth visiting a few agencies, perhaps where you live and where you work until you find one which you gel with. There are some pretty dreadful ones out there but also a number of very bespoke companies who will offer a very personal, genuine service.
4. Integrity and peace of mind
If you’ve left it late to book and you’re thinking that elusive villa with pool near a sandy beach within your budget may not be possible, a travel agent will be your reality check and say yes, you’re too late, go camping and save your money for next year. They won’t sell you a rubbish holiday just to get your money. And if you’re worried about your financial security, ensure the agency is ABTA-bonded and your holiday has ATOL protection.
A proper independent travel agency is not beholden to a particular hotel, resort, tour operator or villa company. Their main objective is to have a regular client base, it’s in their interest to find the right holiday for you so that you will come back again and again. It is a lot easier, cheaper and less time consuming for an agency to have regular clients than it is to market themselves to prospective new customers. Obviously they do need to turn a profit though so if you want a £200 jolly you’re best off looking elsewhere.