HOUSTON - With the chaos of flight cancellations and skyrocketing travel prices this summer, a travel agent may help you have a smoother trip.
When travel booking websites like Travelocity and Expedia came along, many travelers started searching out prices themselves and booking their own trips.
But using a travel agent can also help you find the deals, and get you rebooked if your flight is canceled.
The Fourth of July weekend is off to a bumpy start. Flight tracking site FlightAware shows about 3,300 U.S. flights were delayed, and more than 300 were canceled, as staff shortages continue.
But a travel agent can alleviate the stress of trying to rebook a canceled flight yourself, by rebooking it for you.
"Most of the time, we’re available 24/7. I had a client that left last night for the Philippines. I was up until two in the morning to make sure they made their connecting flights," said travel agent Diana Wong with Travel Leaders.
Travel agents have relationships with airlines, hotels, and vendors, and can help you save money, or get more for your money.
"Working with a travel advisor allows you to find some of the best deals out there, deals that aren’t available to the public. You can secure upgrades and additional money-saving travel perks," said Josh Zuber of AAA travel services.
"I have a client that’s traveling to Peru, and I’m able to work with a general manager with the hotel where they’re going to be staying, just trying to make sure they have a nice stay," said Wong.
Travel agents usually know some inside secrets to things like finding hard-to-find rental cars.
"They’ve been there, they’ve done that. They’re well traveled, having experienced the destinations they’re recommending to travelers," said Zuber.
Utilizing a travel agent usually won't cost you anything, as many are paid by the airlines, hotels, and resorts.
To find a reputable travel agent, ask people you know for recommendations, and check online reviews. TravelSense.org can also help you find a travel advisor.
Many people are buying travel insurance, particularly Cancel For Any Reason policies, with so many flights being canceled and delayed.
Travel insurance can help you get reimbursed for non-refundable flights that are canceled, or expenses, such as hotels and food. It usually costs 4% to 8% of the cost of the trip. Many insurers also offer medical coverage for the trip.
"I highly recommend getting travel insurance just because if there are any changes, or they have to cancel, the only thing they have to pay is the cost of the travel insurance," said Wong.
Airlines are required to refund your ticket if they cancel or significantly delay your flight.
If that's not the case, keep in mind, many credit cards will help defray expenses if your trip is delayed as well. So check your credit card for trip protection first.
Another insurance expense is rental car insurance. Most auto insurance policies cover the driver for rental cars, so additional insurance is not necessary. Wong does recommend buying the rental company's insurance, however, if you are renting a car in a foreign country.