Planning a great vacation often takes time, knowledge, patience and perseverance, a combination of resources often in short supply within busy families. This is where a travel agent can become a valuable member of your family's team. The pros can get to know your family, discuss budgets and bucket lists and offer suggestions for trips you've had on the drawing board as well as options you might not have known existed. Then, they'll use their experience and skills to make even the most complicated itinerary your vacation reality.
In the sometimes complicated world of travel, using a travel professional to decode your family vacation options can pay dividends. Here are five ideas to consider:
1. So many options, so little time.
2. How it works.
Agents are compensated for their planning and execution in various ways. Some receive commissions paid by travel suppliers. Others charge consulting fees sometimes determined by the number of people traveling and the complexity of the trip. Still, others rely on a combination of both. Families also benefit from top agents' access to upgrades, value-added options and other perks they can pass on to their clients. For many busy parents and grandparents, handing off the job of trip planning to a professional is key to avoiding procrastination and getting a vacation on the calendar. And should your trip take a surprising turn, a good agent will have your back to help with canceled flights, unexpected health challenges or your need for a last-minute shift in the itinerary.
3. Choose a specialist.
If you are eager to take a cruise, visit a Disney resort or explore a specific country or region, using an agent with that specialty can pay big dividends. Those pros can sort through the long list of cruise lines for the brand that best matches your travel dreams. They'll know how to book the best cabins, sort through meal and activity options and provide insight into how each member of the family might make the most of the sailing. Theme park pros know the best weeks to visit, have tips for avoiding long lines and which lodging options will work well for your crew. Eager to explore Italy? Find an agent who can steer you toward family-friendly accommodations, kid-friendly guides and an itinerary that will appeal to every age group.
4. Travel is educational.
A good agent can help incorporate travel into your family's educational plan. Are you interested in boosting the year's school curriculum by adding literary or historical sites to your travel itineraries? Do you want more art, music and theater in the mix? A good agent can help create a week, month, summer or multiyear plan that marries your family's educational goals with your love of travel.
5. Time well-spent.
Family travel time is a precious resource. Whether you're traveling with the kids or with the extended family for a milestone birthday or anniversary celebration, you no doubt hope to return with precious memories rather than tales of a trip gone wrong. A travel agent's professional guidance, grounded in research, experience and insider knowledge, can provide the edge you need to avoid snags and to experience a relaxing and stress-free holiday.
Resource: The Family Travel Association (www.FamilyTravel.org) certifies travel agents who specialize in family travel.