Although not everyone needs to book their honeymoon through a travel agent, but the advantages of using a travel agent to plan your honeymoon go well beyond the suitcase.
When the stress of wedding planning gets to be too much, there’s nearly always one saving grace in sight: the honeymoon. After fighting with your cousin about whether her kids can come to the wedding or bickering with your mother-in-law about the centerpieces, all you want to do is lie on the beach with a cool drink in hand, gazing over calm, turquoise waters. But planning the trip can be tricky, too. Where to go? What to do? Where to stay? How to pack? Enter the travel agent.
Well, a travel agent might not be able to make a packing list for you, though most of them are well-traveled and can offer a few tips. Start with your destination — where do you want to go? You might have some ideas, like a resort in the Caribbean or a historic city in Europe. But which Caribbean island is best for you? What European city has the vibe you’re aching for? A travel agent can tell you that if you are hoping to book at an all-inclusive resort, avoid Anguilla, Bermuda or the Cayman islands, all of which lack this budget-friendly lodging option.
And while Paris and Rome seem natural for honeymooners, a travel agent can clue you in on the lesser-known romantic locales, such as Prague or Lisbon.
After you’ve made specific decisions, a travel agent can help you secure upgrades and, in some cases, save money. They have connections to travel companies, including car rental agencies, resorts, cruises and more, that can help you get deals that you wouldn’t be able to snag on your own. If nothing else, travel agents are able to package things together to make it easier to pay for your vacation. For example, airlines typically require you to pay for your flights up-front, but a travel agent can package the cost of the resort and flights together and allow you to make interest-free payments until one to two months before you actually depart.
Finally, a travel agent can be invaluable once you’re finally on your honeymoon. If your flight plans go awry — such as if you’re bumped from a flight and will miss your connection — your travel agent will take care of the logistics while you’re enjoying a glass of wine at the airport bar.
Finding the right one
Not all travel agents will be the right one for you. It’s not a regulated industry, so finding an agent that is experienced, well-traveled and credentialed makes all the difference. Ask around to see if a friend used a travel agent for recent vacations that they would recommend — word of mouth is the best advertising for an agency. If your social circle isn’t the jet-setting type, check out the American Society of Travel Agents (astanet.com) or the Institute of Certified Travel Agents (iCta.com) to find a member agent that’s in good standing with the organizations. Many travel agents specialize in specific parts of the globe — choose one that’s an expert in your country or region of choice. They’re more likely to have stronger connections with local companies, as well as a personal knowledge database to offer tips and ideas for local travel. Look for an agent with the “ds,” or destination specialist, credential.
In most cases, a travel agent will not come at a cost to you; rather, they are paid by the companies that you eventually book with. If the concept of your agent getting a kickback from a resort or cruise company bothers you, ask if any of their recommendations provide a financial incentive for them. It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take their advice, but it will give you more information that you need. In some cases, travel agents might charge a small upfront fee to discourage customers that use their expertise and then book the trip on their own. However, that fee will typically be applied to the final price of your vacation.
The relationship between a travel agent and client must work two ways. Before sending a travel agent on a wild goose chase for price quotes on hotels or flights to a variety of locales, have some sort of idea of what type of vacation you want. It might be nothing more than the notion that you want a beachfront, tropical resort with a flight time of less than four hours from your hometown; however, that will help the agent quickly narrow down your options.
In addition, know what your budget is and make it clear to the travel agent, as well as your priorities. if you’d rather be in the middle of a city with a smaller hotel room, tell your agent so she can find the perfect hotel room for you. if you’re dying to go to Paris, France, but have a budget that’s more like Paris, Texas, your travel agent can help you reconcile the dream versus the finances.
Arm your agent with anything she needs to know, even if you think it’s relatively inconsequential. An agent should be in the know when it comes to your medical and nutritional needs, smoking preferences, whether you mind kids being around or prefer an adults-only location, and more. Throw all the information at her, and let her do with it as she will.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask questions. A travel agent is your main resource for preparing and enjoying your honeymoon, so if you want to know if the resort you booked has an elliptical machine in the gym, shoot her an email. While on vacation, make sure you get a phone number for after-hours emergencies — the last thing you want is to arrive at a resort late at night, find out your reservation has been lost and be unable to reach your biggest ally, your travel agent.
With the help of a travel agent, your honeymoon will be hassle-free — just what you need after the excitement and exhaustion of your wedding day.