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The Benefits of Using a Travel Agent

02/24/2015 12:56AM ● By Sandie Tillery

Wanderlust

March 2014
By Sandie Tillery

Travel on the bucket list? Intrepid world travelers and not-so-savvy first-time adventurers have a lot to think about before launching from home. Some throw on a backpack filled with bare essentials and enjoy the adventure that unfolds. Most folks, though, like some kind of plan before heading out into the wild unknown.

Jason Olson, travel agent and owner of Cruise Holidays in Redding, recommends talking with an agent early in the planning stages. Ideas may change. Building a relationship with an agent helps focus on the objectives of the trip and avoid missteps. Olson likes to know his clients well enough so future trips become easier to plan. He describes the “many moving parts” of travel as risky and complicated, and an agent can guide his clients through those complexities. “People don’t know what they don’t know,” he says.

Paul and Donna Warner of Palo Cedro recently won a $5,000 gift certificate from Avanti Travel in Redding in a fundraising raffle. They had been mulling over a possible road trip in their RV to celebrate their 50th anniversary, but had almost given up because of lots of road blocks. The unexpected windfall allowed them to rethink their plans. With the help of a travel agent, they booked an 11-day motor coach trip through the Canadian Rockies that they’re confident will meet their needs and fulfill their dreams.

A travel agent can be an invaluable resource for any traveler, especially those who are not confident about how to plan or who don’t have the time, determination or knowledge to make their own arrangements. Janette Webber and her sister, Sonja Bean, co-owners of Avanti Travel, think of themselves as “dream makers.” “We make wishes come true,” says Webber. One client wanted to sing to his wife on their anniversary in Jamaica at a Sandals resort. Webber made all the arrangements for the special production. The surprised wife and her husband enjoyed a romantic experience they will treasure for a lifetime.

According to Webber, there are several reasons to make travel arrangements with a reputable agent:
• Though the well-seasoned traveler may have learned where and how to save money, travel agents monitor prices and adjust most reservations according to the best deals at any given moment.
• Agents can personalize bookings, acting as a concierge by recommending activities and points of interest and making all the arrangements in advance. They can advise
about the best and worst times to travel to specific locations, and provide reviews of restaurants, lodging and highlights for most destinations.
• They are available before, during and after the vacation to advocate and troubleshoot for their clients.

Randall and Barbara Hempling of Redding love to travel. They have different comfort levels, though, in planning their excursions abroad. Barbara appreciates more structure, while Randall is quite happy to see where the wind takes him. After many trips alone and together, they have learned the value of working with travel agents. After many trips alone and together they have learned the value of working with travel agents.

Hempling decided to check one more item off his bucket list with a trip to Antarctica in 2013 (Barbara wasn’t interested). He worked out the details with his travel agent. It took a year to plan with several adjustments in the itinerary. Finally, he made his way to the southern tip of South America where he joined a group of 90 guests aboard a Russian trawler. They enjoyed daily lectures and outings to the frozen continent in Zodiac boats. Hempling describes the stark beauty of the glacial landscape “like a walk on the moon.”

Hempling advises other travelers to be flexible. Expect the unexpected and let that be part of the adventure. He says to enjoy the culture of each location along the way and don’t compare them to home. Things will be different. Celebrate the differences and appreciate other ways to do things. Hempling says he never complains. He wants to enjoy every part of his journey.

Hempling’s best advice: “Don’t put it off. Don’t let your memories be regrets about travel opportunities missed.”

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