Just recently a Williams Family Blog reader asked about why we use a Travel Agent or Agency to help us with our travel needs. In the world of websites, apps, and Smartphones why would we go to a person and/or an agency to book our travel?
It may seen old fashioned, but the real answer is the service. And, now there are rewards!
As far as service goes, our travel agent is wonderful. Emails and telephone calls are responded to promptly. Even as much as I like to be “in control” of our travel plans, our travel agent is great at making flight reservations, booking ADR’s for Walt Disney World, and changing plans if necessary.
A family of frequent “do it yourself” travelers told me how they accidentally booked flights using an on-line website for February instead of March as they had intended because the month layout was exactly the same. Their change fees to get the flights they wanted and needed for March cost them way more than any travel agent’s fee, times 20 trips! And recently it was reported that airline change fees are netting the airlines millions.
We have had to change flights—when the airline changed our flight times considerably and due to storms. We have never had to pay a change flight fee. Our travel agent has taken care of everything for us. What she can’t control are delayed or canceled flights, though I have called her when our pre-Adventure’s by Disney flights were delayed and I knew the tour group was waiting for us in Phoenix. She called Adventures by Disney and reassured us that they would wait for us, or make other arrangements if we were going to be significantly delayed.
Since our travel agent and I work as a team, it is comforting knowing that I am not alone in making travel decisions that can be quite costly. I also appreciate how she keeps track of all of our “numbers” for us. Do we have multiple frequent flier and hotel rewards accounts? Yes! And she keeps track of all of them for us and puts the appropriate ones on reservations. The only time I see the frequent flier numbers actually is when they appear on our AAA Invoice.
And, now, I am being rewarded for using an independent AAA travel agent with AAA’s ExploreMore Rewards program. ExploreMore came out in mid 2012 to not a lot of fanfare. The program awards members with points for every dollar spent on qualified AAA travel (I think this means packages, tours, and cruises, but not flights.) When the balance reaches 10,000 points, members receive a $100 voucher off their next AAA qualified travel reservation.
My favorite part of the program are the referral vouchers. When referrals book qualified AAA travel, I get 500 points added to my ExploreMore Rewards account. Guests can check their ExploreMore accounts on-line—click here to read more and check your points. Just enter your AAA member number. (I'll post later on how we get a discount on our AAA Membership.)
Since the program started in mid-2012, points were only earned for travel booked in 2012. So even though we traveled to Walt Disney World in March of 2012, the trip was booked in 2011, so we did not get points. Also, we sailed with Disney in March of 2012, but alas, the trip was also booked in 2011 and did not qualify for rewards. I did protest a bit and remind that the Walt Disney World portion of our December 2012 trip was added on later. . . in 2012. We did receive the points after some checking. We have yet to receive any points for our upcoming trip. There is still confusion as to whether the points are added when you are paid in full or after your travel. I will know more very soon!
With our trip to Walt Disney World just handfuls of days away and our Disney Cruise next summer, it is not going to take us very long to earn the $100 travel voucher.
As of right now, the points don’t expire. Our AAA agent can also check our ExploreMore Rewards balance on-line, which is another benefit.