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Why I Bother With a Travel Agent

Written by Sara Metz.

The New York Times just ran a story about the battles between online airline ticket dealers and the airlines that use them to list flights, resulting in some airlines being removed from popular sites like Orbitz and Expedia and making it even more difficult for travelers to compare prices and find good deals. I have used sites like these in the past for a quick flight to visit a friend in another state, and for a trip that just requires me getting from one place to another, I was satisfied with the experience I had. For anything that falls into the realm of “vacation,” my husband and I insist on a travel agent.

I’ve been asked many times by friends why Will and I “bother” using a travel agent. “Can’t you get it cheaper online?” they ask. My answer here is “maybe.” I haven’t found the small amount of money, if any, we might save by booking online to be worth the lack of service that comes with it. My brother booked his honeymoon online, only to spend half a day on the phone with a call center in India trying to change his hotel reservation when he realized he had booked the wrong hotel. When Will and I went on our honeymoon, we traveled through Southeast Asia and were greeted at each new hotel with free upgrades and some type of floral arrangement/champagne/dessert in our room, due to our travel agent adding “honeymoon” to our reservation notes!

Speaking of Southeast Asia… this was the trip that earned my travel agent, Joy Thrun, my undying loyalty. In the weeks leading up to what would be my 16-day honeymoon, political unrest in Thailand shut down the airport in Bangkok. The day before we were scheduled to leave, the airport was still closed and I was worried we’d have to cancel our travels through Thailand and Cambodia. Joy was able to reroute us to Hong Kong for four days, where we stayed in an adorable little hotel in an outlying neighborhood that was right on the subway line. I got in touch with a friend from college who lives in Hong Kong, and he was able to meet us at the airport and hang out with us during our visit.

Not only did we have a fantastic time in a place we hadn’t intended to visit, but the airport in Bangkok reopened two days after we arrived in Hong Kong and we were able to follow our previously set itinerary with no more interruptions. Joy stayed in touch with us the whole time via email and even got our money back on the tickets we had originally purchased, so the stop in Hong Kong didn’t cost us any more than we were already planning to spend.

Most recently, Will and I were traveling to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico when I came down with strep throat. I went to Urgent Care two days before we were scheduled to depart and started on antibiotics, but still had a fever and couldn’t fathom driving to Detroit and getting on a plane. Again, Joy handled our travel insurance claim and rebooked us on another flight one day later, when the antibiotics had kicked in and I was feeling better. These are obviously unusual circumstances that no one plans for when they travel, but try getting this kind of service from an online discount retailer! Having an experienced and well-connected travel agent in our corner each time saved us time, money, and additional stress from an already unpleasant situation.

For more photos, visit www.willmetz.com.