Planning travel can be overwhelming–trust me, I know! And right now, with the pandemic ending, it’s kind of a confusing time to try and plan a much-needed trip. Because let’s face it: We ALL need a vacation this year! It can be intimidating to try and plan a trip at a time when the rules are changing, requirements are being lifted (or not), and you haven’t taken a trip in a while. Even for the most seasoned traveler, sometimes working with a travel agent can be the best option.
While I’m definitely a proponent of DIY travel, I also see the value in turning to a professional when the time is right. On our trip to the Galapagos Islands a few years ago, we used a travel agent to make sure we had everything planned correctly and all our paperwork was in order, and I don’t regret it. In fact, I’d do it again. There’s no reason to stress or be overwhelmed about your travels. Travel is supposed to be fun!
So if you’re hesitant about traveling after COVID, or if you’re just not really sure how a travel agent works, this post is for you. My friend Hayley is a travel agent based in Texas with Love of the Magic Vacations, and she was gracious enough to answer some of my burning questions, as well as some that I think will help you, too.
*This post is not sponsored, and I am not receiving any kind of compensation. I just love to help my friends grow their small businesses, and my goal with Quick Whit Travel has always been to help people travel and understand that anyone can do it. Hayley is the best travel agent, and I know she’ll do great work for you!
10 Questions with Travel Advisor Hayley Parsons
1. What made you want to become a travel agent?
I’m a nurse by training, and even when I was only working three days a week, it was very stressful. Right now I’m in more of a desk job working five a days a week, and it’s still stressful. However, I love planning vacations, so I thought it would be a fun thing to do as a side hustle! Planning travel always brings a smile to my face, so that counter-acts the stress of nursing in a way. I kind of always wanted to be a travel agent, but I didn’t know how to get into it, so when Love of the Magic Vacations took a chance on me, I took it!
2. What exactly does a travel agent do?
As much or as little as you want! Some clients want me to do everything: flights, hotels, dinner reservations, tickets to shows, all of it. Others just want help with the things they don’t like planning as much, or that they find more stressful. Sometimes I’ll just book the flights and accommodations, but the client wants the flexibility to book their own excursions or restaurant reservations when they get there. It really varies by client, but I can do as much or as little of the planning as you like.
3. How does booking a trip with a travel agent work?
Second, I’ll send them a Google Form for them to fill out with information like name and contact information, their desired destination, dates, how many adults and children will be on the trip, transportation preferences (flying, driving, cruising, etc.), and more details about what they want.
Third, I take all of that into consideraton and get to work! I price everything out and give them a quote, and then we start adjusting from there. If the quote comes in under their budget, they might add a day or a few more activities. If it comes in too high, then we pare down or look at alternative options.
Fourth, when the client is happy with the plans, we sign an agreement, and I start booking! The whole process from start to finish takes about a week, but I can work within the client’s timeframe if they’re looking to book years out, or if they want everything booked more quickly, keeping in mind that prices do tend to go up the closer you get to your vacation dates.
More here: Travel Splurges Worth the Price
4. How far in advance do people need to contact you?
It depends! I recommend a minimum of 60-90 days, no matter what. For domestic trips, that can go down to 30 days out because it’s a little less complicated. For example, you won’t need a passport or travel documents, but prices can go up the closer you get to your travel dates.
For overseas travel, I need a minimum timeframe of 120 days. That will give me enough time to get my clients the best deals, but also enough time to make sure you have all the correct paperwork. Your passport has to have at least six months’ validity at the beginning of your trip, you may need a visa for yourself and the people traveling with you, and some countries are currently requiring proof of COVID vaccination for entry.
For Disney trips, whether that’s Disneyland, Disney World, a Disney Cruise, or a Disney Adventure trip, 60 days is the minimum if there are specific activities or accommodations you want. Those trips open up to booking 60 days out, and they can book up quickly.
Read next: Can I Use the U.S. Dollar Abroad?
5. Can you get discounts for your clients?
Yes! We call them promotions. Sometimes we can offer promotions on accommodations or park passes, and you can find out about things like that in my weekly e-mail newsletter. I also like to share them on my Facebook and Instagram as well, so be sure to follow me to be among the first to know!
As an example, one cruise line is currently offering buy one-get one free airfare when we book a cruise with them! Promotions change throughout the year, but right now the travel industry is trying to entice people to come back to travel after COVID, so we might be seeing some impressive promotions this summer!
More here: The Ultimate Guide to Travel and Your Money
6. What are the top three benefits of working with a travel agent?
First of all, it’s saves your time and stress! As soon as reservations open up at a place like Disney, I can hop on the phone and wait in the queue for hours so you don’t have to. Some of our preferred partners have dedicated travel agent lines I can call, but no matter what, my taking the time to call on your behalf saves you time and stress.
Second, the flexibility is such a bonus. I can do as little or as much of the work and research as you want so that you can enjoy an easy, stress-free trip. If you love planning your itinerary for each day, but hate dealing with airlines and hotels, I can do those things for you so you can enjoy the parts you like! Or if you just want to tell me your preferences and let me do all the legwork, I’m happy to do that, too. Having the flexibility to choose how much you do or don’t want to be involved is something my clients really like.
Third, I can open up options for you. We have preferred partners we work with because we trust them and our clients have had positive experiences with them, so you’re not leaving your experience up to chance. We can also offer deals, or promotions as we call them, which you wouldn’t have access to on your own, so that’s a huge money saver.
And right now, with COVID still being a major factor in the travel industry, I can come up with alternatives if the place you want to go isn’t open to tourism just yet. I recently booked a client on a cruise, but the cruise line pushed its sail date back, so that was no longer an option. So we talked about alternative packages, and now she’s excited to be going to Disney for the first time instead! I can be your resource to make the absolute most of your vacation time and money.
Related: How to Savor Your Travels
7. How has COVID effected the travel agent industry, and are you seeing a bounce-back?
A lot! With COVID, all 2020 trips were cancelled. Some people had been planning these trips for years, and for it all to be taken away like that was really disheartening. But people have been coming back and booking those same trips for this year or next. One client is already booking for a trip in 2023!
There is definitely a bounce-back happening, especially with several European countries opening up to Americans, and cruises setting sail dates again. One thing to keep in mind is that some countries are opening up only to vaccinated travelers with appropriate documentation, or are still requiring a 10- to 14-day quarantine, which could be a deal-breaker for some clients. So, COVID is still a factor, but travel is starting back up for sure.
8. What’s the one thing you wish people knew about travel agents?
I have two! First of all, my services are free for my clients. I work on commission with our preferred partners, which could be accommodations, airlines, cruise lines, etc. You won’t be paying extra if you book with me or any of the Love of the Magic Vacations travel advisors, and we will never ask you to pay us directly. There’s a misconception that booking with a travel agent is more expensive than doing it yourself, and while some travel agencies work differently, you will never pay more by booking with me!
Second, don’t be afraid to try something new or go somewhere different! A travel agent can take the stress out of planning a new trip to a new place. Sometimes people can get into a rut of going to the same vacation spot again and again because they’re familiar with it and are not sure where to start with planning something different. Don’t be afraid to branch out. You might just find a new favorite place!
9. What is your favorite trip to book for your clients?
I love booking Disney trips, but especially first Disney trips! Disney was such a big part of my life growing up, so being able to literally share that magic with someone for the first time is really fun for me. It doesn’t matter if it’s Disneyland, Disney World, a Disney Cruise, or a Disney Adventure in a totally different country, it’s just fun for me to plan those trips for people!
10. Where do you want to go next?
Europe! I’d love to go on one of the Disney Adventures in Europe, especially to Scotland or Ireland. I’ve done a lot of domestic travel, and I’ve been to Jamaica and the Amazon, but I’ve never been to Europe. At least not yet!
More here: My Post-pandemic Travel Bucket List
How to Get In Touch with Hayley
If you’re interested in booking a trip with my friend Hayley, please do! And don’t forget to tell her I sent you. There are plenty of ways to be in touch:
- Instagram: @hayley_loveofthemagicvacations
- Facebook: Hayley–Love of the Magic Vacations
- Newsletter: Sign up here for weekly e-mails with tips, promotions, and more!
- Website: loveofthemagicvacations.com
- E-mail: email@example.com
Just for fun: The Ultimate WORST Things I Did for Instagram
Want more? Check out all my travel planning resources on my dedicated Travel Planning Page!
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