Finding the Right Travel Consultant

From time to time we hear stories of people having both great and not so great experiences with travel consultants.  Many times, the not so great experiences could have been avoided if you selected the right travel consultant for your needs.  Here are some tips to help you front the start to get a travel consultant you will be happy with for the long run.

Working with a specialist in the area of travel you need is great, but make sure they are willing to recommend something else.  For example, if you want a trip to XYZ so you go to an XYZ specialist, make sure that they aren’t so focused on XYZ that they forget that there are other things you will need to complete your trip as well as that you are an individual with your own needs and wants for your trip.  You may not know exactly what you need, which is why you are using a consultant.

Make sure you are working with someone who is truly professional.  Even a part-time consultant can still be a professional, but someone who gets into being a travel agent because “it’s fun” or “I am the go-to person in the office for all things XYZ” or “I help everyone anyways so I might as well make money at it.”  These are hobbyists and while they may be the nicest person, if this is not their profession and just something they do for fun, you must question whether or not they will be there when the going gets tough or when you need something from them at an inopportune moment.  A professional will have you covered.

Get recommendations from people you trust.  Read reviews from trusted sites.  The majority of our consultant are on www.vacation.com with reviews from their clients.  They are all highly rated.  Read their biographies.  Does their message “speak” to you?  While they may be a great consultant to many clients, they may not be a good match with you.

They should be quick to respond to your inquiries.  It may not be to give you the answer immediately, but they should at least acknowledge your request.

A consultant that is knowledgeable about travel in general is crucial.  You want to work with someone who understands the industry.

It is important to work with someone who takes your needs into consideration.  You want someone who asks questions and then makes recommendations that fit your needs, not theirs.  I continually run into agents who say that recommending the Disney Dining Plan is a must for all of their clients.  I think these agents are not considering their client’s needs but instead looking at what they have found to be more convenient, saving money or a way to make more money for them.  While I would never say that the Disney Dining Plan is not worth it, I will say that it is based on the clients in front of me as to whether or not it is worth it.  This doesn’t mean though that the consultant shouldn’t try to offer you something else that you are not asking for, but I would make sure there is a valid reason for offering you something else.

I found out early in my career that this was very important as I had a client who was set on a specific resort at Disney World.  I never questioned her as she knew exactly what she wanted.  When she came back from the trip, she was unhappy.  Apparently, she thought the resort she selected was on the monorail and found out it wasn’t.  I now have a habit when a client says they want XYZ, I ask why they are selecting that, just to make sure we can avoid any miscommunications from the start.

Speaking of asking questions, it is important to work with someone who does ask you questions.  Rarely can anyone know exactly what is right for someone without asking any questions.

Finally, make sure you are comfortable with the consultant as well as their means of connecting with you – whether it is email, phone, Facebook, text messaging.

I also have some tips for potential clients looking to work with travel consultants.

If you are very controlling (and I don’t mean that in a bad way, I am there with you!), working with a consultant will not be in your best interest.  There are certain things that you will not be able to do when you work with a consultant.  Understand what the limitations will be in advance and if you aren’t ok with that, maybe you are best off handling the reservation on your own.

Be honest with your consultant.  Tell them everything they need up front.  Be clear about a budget.  If you tell me you want to keep the costs reasonable, for one client that could be $500 per person and another could mean $5000 per person.  If your budget isn’t set but you have a maximum you would consider, tell your consultant.  I spent a lot of time working with someone on what I thought was a great price for their Alaska cruise.  What they didn’t tell me, despite my many requests, was that they were hoping it would be about 50-65% of what I came up with.

Finally, don’t waste your travel consultant’s time.  Many times, we aren’t charging you a fee because we are getting a commission from a travel supplier.  When you book your travel with us, make changes, etc. and then ultimately cancel and book elsewhere, you basically are saying our time was worth nothing.  All of the time we put into your reservations is lost and we don’t make anything.  Likewise, asking them to reduce their fees (if any) or increase onboard credit comes straight from their wages.

A good travel consultant will help you make the most of your vacation time and money.

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