I chatted with a good friend of mine earlier this week about her upcoming honeymoon in Italy and Spain. Since she and her fiancé are still finalizing the details of their wedding, her mom suggested that they contact a travel agent who specializes in Italian travel to help with the honeymoon planning, so they did.
The problem is that my friend wasn’t blown away by the agent’s suggestions thus far, and now she isn’t sure if working with an agent was the right decision. Another related issue that they’re having is that my friend and her fiancé really like the idea of planning their own honeymoon, and it’s hard to put that responsibility into a stranger’s hands. She wanted to know what I thought they should do: continue working with the travel agent, or just plan things on their own.
A lot of people think that travel agents are obsolete these days, but I don’t necessarily agree, especially for those who are stressed out with simultaneously planning other major events (SUCH AS WEDDINGS). However, hiring a professional is not the right decision for everyone. I’ve already blogged about why I think that working with a travel agent can be a smart move for certain couples, but here are some additional tips for those of you who do decide you want to hire one:
- Try to find a travel agent who specifically plans honeymoons for people in your age group. Agents oftentimes get the majority of their business from older folks and retirees (whose interests are much different than young newlyweds), so you’ll be happier if you work with someone who will understand your priorities.
- Tell the travel agent as much as you can about the honeymoon you’re envisioning, and be as specific as possible. This includes your preferences for your accommodations, activities you’re interested in, and especially your budgetary restrictions. You can also let them know how much of your trip you actually want planned.*
- If you’ve been referred by a friend, let the agent know that, but also make sure to explain if you and your friend have different tastes or budgets.**
- Unhappy with the first itinerary that your agent shows you? Speak up! You’re paying them to plan the best trip possible for you, and they should revise your itinerary accordingly (multiple times, if necessary). Do not feel obligated to accept a cookie-cutter trip that doesn’t seem personalized to your interests.
- Using your travel agent’s itinerary is not an all-or-nothing proposition. For example, our agent’s original itinerary included our flights to/from Asia, but we found a much better deal on kayak.com, so we told her we’d just book those flights ourselves.
- Still unhappy after lots of revisions to the itinerary? It’s okay to say “thanks but no thanks,” and just lose your deposit. In the long run, you’ll be happier that you lost a couple hundred bucks but your honeymoon was awesome.
- Keep an eye out for red flags. Is your travel agent technically unsavvy? Is he/she really pushing back on your comments? Is he/she even listening to your feedback? Trust your gut and only book the trip if you feel like your travel agent is competent and trustworthy.
- Be honest with yourself: are you a control freak? If you have a hard time delegating tasks or you generally distrust others’ work, save yourself (and the prospective travel agent) the misery and plan your trip yourself ;)
* For our own honeymoon, we told our agent we needed help deciding where to go, where to stay, and how to get between destinations – we did not want her to plan any activities for us. (She sent us activities recommendations anyway, but we declined them.)
** We were referred to our travel agent by a partner at my husband’s firm whose budget for vacations is always MUCH greater than our own. We had to explain to our agent that while we’re friends with the partner, our travel budget was not similar at all.