Travel confession: I’ve been a DIY traveller for most of my adult life. I love planning trips, organizing excursions and getting deals. But in planning our family holiday to New York City, I had no time for my usual DIY travel tricks. We decided to work with a local travel expert to help us find suitable hotel accommodation and impossible-to-find Broadway show tickets. Here’s why you should seriously consider working with a local travel expert on your next family trip plan.
Resurgence of the Travel Expert
The travel agent is dead. Long live the travel agent. An industry that was once on life support has rebounded with a big bang. There are several reasons for this. The maturity of the internet travel market means that many of the DIY travel aggregators are not so different from each other any more. It take time and effort to source those amazing deals, if you find any, and many people have better things to do with their time.
The rise of the millennial traveller has changed the travel planning game, big time. A recent Expedia study showed that millennial travellers prioritize security, ease of travel and delegating travel booking to the pros. They want what they want, wish to avoid hassles, and have the means to pay for and delegate the planning to the professionals.
Busy moms are the chief vacation planners for their families. Those moms appreciate anyone who can take over part of their To Do list and run with it. More travel agents specialize in selling to families and multigenerational groups than any other segment (Travel Weekly 2016 Industry Survey). This market far exceeds weddings/honeymoons, luxury and adventure travel. Competition means travel experts want that family business. They will work hard to differentiate themselves from their colleagues by providing superior service and value added extras for their clients.
It’s About Trust
Booking through travel experts is a great way to connect with trusted tour operators, whether at theme parks, on safaris or at resorts. It also gives the traveller a fall back if things don’t work out or plans change. You’ve got just one individual to call who can sort out the mess without having to stickhandle matters from home or, with more frustrating challenges, while on the road.
Our Local Travel Expert Experience
I’m not a millennial and have long tended towards DIY travel for a variety of reasons. However, for our week-long New York City adventure, we wanted to try something different. We engaged the services of a local, on the ground travel expert.
Thanks to my friend and colleague Kim-Marie, of Luxury Travel Mom, I got in touch with Jolie Goldring of In the Know Experiences, a Virtuoso Member. At first, I was just looking for coveted and impossible-to-find Hamilton tickets. But I quickly learned that Jolie’s expertise was in sourcing great accommodations to meet the needs of her travelling clients. She set to work finding us the perfect place to stay in New York City.
Knowledge of Local Market
Our travel expert on the ground has working relationships with local hotel managers and concierges. This is handy when booking sites show a hotel as sold-out. Jolie was able to book and upgrade our accommodation to a one-bedroom suite in a more convenient hotel location than we’d planned just one week prior to departure. She was also able to negotiate waiver of daily hotel charges (i.e. Wifi), as well as free daily breakfast and a spa treatment credit. When we arrived, there was even a welcome gift. Everything was arranged as planned with no glitches or hiccups. We were delighted with our pied-à-terre suite and our stay at The Benjamin, a well-maintained luxury hotel property in the heart of Midtown.
Peace of Mind
When our inbound flight was cancelled due to winter storm Stella, and our new flight (two days later) were confirmed, a quick note to Jolie was all that was needed to rejig our hotel arrangements without penalty or stress. After spending hours on the phone dealing with the flight issues, it was wonderful to not have do the same thing with our hotel accommodations. One less travel detail to worry about.
It’s Who You Know
Remember those Hamilton tickets? Jolie put me in touch with her ITK colleague who secures clients hard-to-find theatre and concert tickets. Spring break meant tickets were at a price and quantity premium. We could only spring for one special pre-birthday treat for our theatre-loving teen. But her help demonstrated the value of working with a local travel expert.
Photo Credits: C. Laroye, Shutterstock, The Benjamin Hotel, In The Know Experiences
Do you use a local travel expert or agent to plan your family trips? Share your comments below.