These days, with so many travel portals offering thousands of reviews (including ours for the GF community -- GlutenFreeTravelSite), many people don't see the need to use a travel agent. Our culture has become very do-it-yourself, with people going online to read reviews and then booking their own travel arrangements, thinking they're saving time or money.
But I'm here to advocate the opposite. While there's certainly a great need for sites like ours (and the more "mainstream" -- not GF focused -- sites like TripAdvisor), they are still just part of planning a great trip. I always recommend people go online to read reviews and get a feel for the most GF-friendly destinations, properties, and restaurants as a first step as they begin to consider different travel options. But speaking from much personal experience, travel agents can also be an enormous help. I have used them to help plan many trips for our own family, I wouldn't have it any other way.
Here are my TOP 10 REASONS TO CONSIDER USING A TRAVEL AGENT:
1.) They have YEARS of expertise, something none of us can match even after spending hours or days trolling travel websites like GlutenFreeTravelSite, TripAdvisor, or Airbnb. They know the ins and outs of various resorts, hotels, and apartment rental companies. They know which are the best cabins are on a cruise ship. They know the best local tour guides -- and can set you up for the most authentic experiences.
2.) They have access to special deals that aren't even available online -- for hotels, resorts, cruises, and even lift tickets at ski resorts . Our family saved hundreds of dollars a few years ago at a major ski resort, thanks to a special deal our travel agent had access to.
3.) Using a travel agent can give you access to apartment and villa rentals (including the nicest and best priced ones) that are ONLY booked through travel agents.
4.) Travel agents often get access to other "agent only" deals that you otherwise would not hear about.
5.) They will save you TONS of time. With our busy lives, who has the time? You can literally spend days searching for the right property -- only to find that once you make a decision, it's no longer available...or the price has gone up.
6.) You don't pay for many of their services. Typically, travel agents get a commission from the hotel or property itself. Some travel agents do charge a small fee for booking flights (since airlines no longer pay commissions) or for other premium services and custom itineraries, but for most people, that small fee may be worth the time and effort saved.
7.) They have personally visited many of the hotels, resorts, and cruises they recommend. Even if they haven't, they know which properties and travel companies they can count on to deliver a superior experience, and this is certainly important when it comes to finding a place that will come through with fantastic and safe gluten free meals.
8.) They don't stop with just the property booking. Many travel agents will help you make reservations at restaurants, buy theater tickets, purchase train tickets, and book advance tickets to tourist sites so you don't have to wait hours in line.
9.) Travel agents with a gluten free specialty can act as your advocate and liaison with the chef and dining staff in advance of your trip, letting you know what your dining options will be.
10.) They give you peace of mind. Years ago, I spent days looking for a flat in London on popular travel booking sites, only to give up after not knowing what sites to trust and wondering if the properties were really like they were portrayed.
I've personally used two incredible travel agents, both who have also taken care of many fans of GlutenFreeTravelSite. Both Lesley Hayden-Hock of Travel Leaders and Ellen Morse of Gluten Free Travel-Us offer professional, friendly, and top-notch service. You can read a bit about each of them (and find their contact info) on our Trip Planning page -- and see many of their exciting picks for gluten free travel experiences on our Gluten Free Getaways page. You'll be surprised to see all the places that are now options for gluten free travelers. Either agent can help you book a trip just about anywhere, but Lesley's specialties are cruises, the Caribbean, and Mexico travel (she has relationships with many all-inclusive resorts that welcome GF guests), while Ellen's specialties include overseas travel to both popular and off-the-beaten path destinations.
I encourage you to consider "lightening your load" when planning your next vacation...and enlist the help of one of these wonderful GF travel specialists.
Feel free to post any questions you have in the Comments section below.