I am accepting a position wherein I will have to make travel arrangements. I will need a step by step guide or a travel agency that will assist me. Will any of the travel agencies assist me in making travel arrangements. Is this free?
Using a Travel Agent
First of all, yes, most travel agencies and agents charge fees. Once upon a time travel agents were paid by the airlines and hotels, but that stopped quite some time ago, so you need to understand your company’s policy about their use. Some companies actually have contracts with particular travel agencies, so be sure to check with other admins in your company before you start making travel arrangements. Essentially, you need to balance the cost of using a travel agent against the benefits of using one.
Why Use a Travel Agent
The benefits of using a travel agent are many.
- Time Savings: Let’s face it, poring over travel websites trying to find the best deal on the flight you need takes time, and these days, time for admins is in short supply. A travel agent makes these arrangements all day every day, so they can find what you need much faster than you can.
- Problem Solving: Flight cancelled? Room booked not available? They overbooked rental cars and want your 6’4″ boss to squeeze into a sub-compact? If you used a travel agent to book your arrangements, one call is all you need to make to get problems resolved. Your travel agent will deal with the problems for you and help you find fast resolutions. Also, since the travel agents are much bigger vendors of hotels, airlines, etc., they carry much more weight in getting those problems resolved.
- Expertise: No matter how experienced you are at making travel arrangements, a travel agent will generally have more. They know the best travel times, the best hotels to meet your needs, the little details about traveling to a particular country that you may not know. Travel agents will often ask questions you never even thought of.
- Money Savings: Yes, even with the fees charged, a travel agent can still save you money at times. They can suggest alternate flights or routes they may not have come up in your search on-line. They can often bundle flight, hotel and rental car for big savings. So even if you end up paying a fee to the agent, they can still possibly save money on your arrangements.
Choosing a Travel Agent
If you are going to use a travel agent, choose one carefully. You want a travel agent that can meet your needs. Consider these things when looking for a travel agent:
- Experienced in corporate travel? Leisure travel agents are certainly good at what they do, but they may not understand the needs of the corporate traveler and corporate travel policies. Find an agent that particularly deals in corporate travel.
- Services and Cost: What services do they provide and how much do they charge. Get a full list of fees so there are no nasty surprises.
- Availability: Are they available 24/7 for emergencies? If your boss is a frequent traveler, this can be an important consideration.
- Experienced in international travel? International travel has so many potential pitfalls that you really need to choose a travel agent that is experienced with these arrangements in general and with arrangements to the destination country in particular. In my experience, it’s better to pay a bit more for more experience than to get to your destination and find you don’t have the proper visa. So if you know your boss travels frequently to China, or India, or even Timbuktu (yes it’s a real place in, I think, Africa), find an agent familiar with that destination.
Deciding whether or not to use a travel agent is something only you and your boss can decide. As with most admin decisions, look at all the options, the pros and cons, and if you believe a travel agent is right for your company, then put together a good, honest proposal for your boss.
I’ll get to the travel checklist question in my next post.