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why I used a Travel Agent (and think you should, too!)

why I used a Travel Agent (and think you should, too!)

why I used a Travel Agent (and think you should, too!)

When the hubs finally agreed to finally going on our honeymoon, he actually said we could go to Paris. Which of course, meant to me, we would go to France… and possibly make a few stops on the way, because, well, when in Rome Europe…

Hi Paris, I love you.

I started trying to plan our trip by myself. I initially thought a 10 day trip to Paris would be sufficient. But when I started looking at the logistics, I quickly realized that just getting there was such an ordeal (at least when you come from literally the middle of the United States). So, I might as well maximize on the opportunity to explore Europe while I could, because realistically, it took me 31 years to get there to begin with, and I wasn’t willing to wait for another 31 to go again!

Also, if you’ve ever read, “If You Give a Moose a Muffin” you pretty much can imagine me as “the moose”, and see where this is going...

So I did allll the things.

I googled! I switched into the incognito mode in 3 different browsers! I downloaded all the apps! I joined the forums (TripAdvisor, Girls Love Travel)! I scoured Instagram! I read blogs! And of course, I binged Parts Unknown and No Reservations!

And what did I end up with?

A load of anxiety and a million tabs on my Safari browsers of literally every device I owned, including my brain. Uffda.

My expectations and my goals were simply too much for me to fulfill alone.

I quickly realized that planning my trip overseas was a huge ordeal and nearly gave up. My expectations and my goals were simply too much for me to fulfill alone. The problem was, leaving Nebraska isn’t the same as leaving from any other major international airport (Denver/O’Hare/MSP), which meant that our 10-day vacation quickly dwindled to a mere 7 days. And considering the time change, I just wasn’t willing to give in to feeling rushed on what I was absolutely sure would be the trip of our lifetime.

I reached out to a travel agent that had planned a friend’s wedding in Cabo San Lucas in 2017. I specifically asked her because

  1. I’d never worked with a travel agent before and didn’t want to do the work of looking for one #lazy and
  2. Because Heidi had prepared us so well for our trip to Mexico (down to telling us which salespeople to avoid in the airport, people—that’s really flipping meticulous!) that I knew she’d be as fastidious as I’d need to help plan our dream honeymoon.

I’d begun chatting with her actually a year before we started to really move forward, but I told her my very very very verrrry loose idea of what our vacation would look like and I was all over the board. This ended up giving us a good window of time to buy flights and book rooms at great rates. This also gave us plenty of time to work out all of my, um… “quirks”.

But when it comes to a trip of this magnitude, having help was absolutely essential.

Hanging out in the American Airlines Admirals lounge in Chicago!

Quirks? I wanted it all and then some. I’m talking everything from whiskey tasting in Scotland to an over-the-water hut in Fiji, you guys. In reality, I had NO IDEA what I wanted, and Heidi didn’t bat an eye over it. Or at least she didn’t seem phased when we were corresponding via email—which was also a huge bonus for me (I barely have time to text when I’m at work and taking a phone call is absolutely last on my to-do list), so working with her over email (in 1.5 years of conversations, we only spoke on the phone literally once! Anyone getting some, Where’d You Go Bernadette vibes? I digress.) was an absolute dream.

Let me also clarify that Heidi is located in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Which is not anywhere near Omaha. But that wasn’t an issue, and if you’re not near there, don’t feel like it’s prohibitive for you in this age of technology! Also, this is no way sponsored by her agency. Organically, when trying to write this post, this was a MASSIVE part of our planning process, and well, I gotta give shout outs where shout outs are due!

Paris is a gateway to so much of Europe

Travel agents got a bad rep when the advent of the internet allowed people to purchase literally anything they wanted in a few clicks. But when it comes to a trip of this magnitude, having help was absolutely essential. Here’s how Heidi (who I have literally talked about to EVERYONE and ANYONE who even asks or begins to say the words “travel agent”) helped create our dream trip:

  1. Where do we go?
    • When I sent Heidi our list of locations on my dream list, I had so many places that it was clear I had no clue what I wanted out of a honeymoon. When Josh finally agreed to Paris, I thought that’d be the entirety of our trip until I realized that Paris is a gateway to so much of Europe that it was nearly impossible not to add a few more destinations. So when I went back and forth with Heidi, she asked a few questions to help me narrow down what was the best fit for us. It went a little something like this:
      • H: Where do you dream of going?
        • J: Everywhere. But mostly Scotland, Aruba, Paris, Hawaii, or maybe the Amalfi Coast.
      • H: How long can you travel for this trip?
        • J: Something around 10 days-ish. I want to enjoy the trip without the shadow of jetlag under my eyes.
      • H: How do you like to spend your time?
        • J: Hubs is an active human and would die of boredom on a beach for a week. I’m basically a house cat with a penchant for France and food.
  2. What’s your budget?
    • Obviously this is a huge factor when it comes to planning a trip. With our honeymoon, our budget was a little more liberal than usual, but I started conservative and told Heidi what our non-negotiables were for travel. She didn’t guilt me, or make me feel bad about the places I chose not to allocate our budget to, and where I thought cost was outweighed by quality—which is a debate I definitely got into with myself more than once when planning alone!
  3. What’s an absolute must when you travel?
    • Figuring out what your priorities are is huge, and having to tell someone else out loud really can solidify them! For example, the hubs is tall, so comfortable flights were important. Scouring the internet for the best flight deals is a full-time job if you are really looking to save an extra penny, and with a travel agent, they can take care of these kinds of searches for you! She also took our tastes and interests into consideration when suggesting hotels (which is the other half of planning a trip that can quickly become a sea of choices), and decision fatigue is real y’all!

After chatting with Heidi and landing on a flexible window of dates, she sent over hotels in each of the cities I was interested in that would fit in our budget. And based on cost and the logistics of traveling from A to B, I was able to truly visualize our trip and decide on where we wanted to go without the stress of feeling like I was choosing blindly.

A gorgeous Italian hotel I’d have never found on my own. Note the gorgeous ceiling, not me struggling with my ever-bursting suitcase.

Everyone will have opinions of where you should go, and if you’re like me, you’ll want all of them. (We even added Germany to our trip because my boss showed me a really cool winery.) And while they’re helpful, actually finding the same hotel on the right dates and within your budget is a lot of work.

Truthfully, I was so anxious that I’d make a bad decision and choose a hotel that would be next to a giant dumpster or in a bad part of town, that having someone help narrow down the options of really reputable places was like hiring a wedding planner (which I did at the end and I wish I would have done it DAY ONE!) because you’re able to share the responsibility and actually enjoy the process without having to micromanage it.

Once the details were decided on, (4 additional cities and an additional 6 vacation days later…) I made our necessary payments and sat back to relax. In our specific instance, we had to pay for our plane and train tickets in advance, and I chose to pay for our hotels upon arrival (just in case something came up where we had to change plans), so basically up until the week of the trip, I was able to just get giddy!

We received our itineraries after we made our payment, and it had everything I could have dreamt of, down to the time our trains left, which I loved.

Yes, I did immediately make a spreadsheet out of the information, create a calendar, and add a countdown to my phone. What? Like that’s weird?

She sent us a lovely little package a week before our trip with all of the paper documents we needed (some of our train tickets), a copy of our itinerary, maps to-and-from each hotel and train station or airport, all organized neatly and ready for use!

When things got close, I started to panic about traveling with my suitcase on the train, that I wanted to have a car ready at the airport for our pick-up. And sure enough, with a quick email to Heidi, she was able to arrange a car. It wasn’t some shabby 1992 Honda Civic, either—it was a lovely private black car service which was so pleasant after being surrounded by other people (airport, airport lounge, plane, customs, etc.) for approximately 24 hours straight!

While I chose each hotel of the options provided myself, I was still pleasantly surprised that each hotel was so charming. Nearly every hotel we stayed in we’d go back to again (only 1 out of 5 wasn’t one we’d go back to, although it wasn’t by any means, “bad”), and she made sure to include breakfast when it was available which is nice when you don’t want to hunt for food in a foreign country!

Arriving in Paris & patiently waiting our private car #feltfancy won’t delete later.

Our train tickets were first class, and while that sounds super snobby, the comfort was worth it and not much more in cost! Having never traveled by train before, I might not have chosen first-class when planning on my own but I would have definitely regretted not doing it once we got there. Travel agents bring a level of wisdom and breadth of knowledge that a novice traveler—at least a novice international traveler in my case—that can really elevate your trip.

The million-dollar question I often get is, “Was she expensive?” and to be perfectly honest, I have no idea, and I don’t care. In fact, I really hope she made a nice commission on us/our trip because she worked so hard to make my dream come true that I think her time was absolutely worth every dollar.

When it came down to it, I never had to look at costs for her services, she just sent me the prices for the flights and rooms and any other service we needed, and if the numbers were right, I said, “YASSS!”. And I never felt like our flights or hotels were unreasonable or uncompetitive. I can’t speak to every agency to say they’ll all be this great, and I have no idea what the commission rates/pay structure is for her or any other agent for that matter, but our trip was lovely and I know we have her to thank for it.

If you’re even remotely thinking of planning a trip, and you’re open to the world’s possibilities, but might need a little help figuring out how to narrow down your oyster, I urge you to consider using a travel agency.

The trust and relief you can get from working with a travel agent is absolutely worth it, and to be perfectly honest, the next time the hubs and I take a big trip, I’m definitely calling [or emailing] my gal to help us get set up.

Happy travels friends!

If you’d like Heidi’s info, comment below and I’ll email you her info!

Coming up next in this little traveler’s diary: All about Paris!

Nov 22

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