Jamie Biesiada
Jamie Biesiada

Since I started working at Travel Weekly over two years ago, the value travel agents add to consumers' trips has become pretty obvious to me.

Anecdotally, agents tell me all the time about the little extras they do for their clients that go a long way. When they book with preferred suppliers, their clients often get some kind of perk. And, looking at the numbers, the value becomes even clearer: ASTA last year released the results of a study that found agents save their clients an average of $452 per trip and four hours in planning time.

I had never thought to use an agent before because I didn't know how valuable they were. I'm happy to say that's changed.

Last month, I went on my first leisure trip planned by a travel agent. It was an important one, too: my honeymoon.

My now-wife, Kim, and I were waffling about where to go when we realized Scotland was extremely high on both of our lists. We decided we wanted to spend a few days in Edinburgh, take a road trip through the Highlands with a mandatory stop on the Isle of Skye, and sleep in a castle. We also decided there was no way we could plan everything ourselves and plan it well, so I started asking around for an agent recommendation.

Enter Carol Rowland.

Rowland owns Recess 4 Grownups, a Nexion affiliate based in Atlanta. I sent her an email with the basics of what we wanted to do and we set up a time to connect on the phone.

A few days later, Carol, Kim and I hopped on a conference call, and she began asking us everything from the basics to hobbies we wish we had time for, but don't. I was impressed with the breadth and depth of her questions, and figured we were in good hands.

After a few more calls and emails, the itinerary was set: We would fly into Edinburgh, stay there for two nights, then pick up our rental car and hit the road with stays in Pitlochry, Inverness, Portree, Fintry (staying at Culcreuch Castle Hotel), Glasgow and back to Edinburgh for one final night.

Rowland sent us a link to download an app with our itinerary, as well as an online version and paper copies of all our vouchers; we interchangeably used all three before and during the trip. She also sent some extras, like power converters.

Each day held multiple activities, like a photography tour of Edinburgh and stops at a number of castles and historical spots along the way. We would have never found half of the suggestions Rowland made, and each was top notch. So were our hotels, and other smaller experiences like getting a bottle of Champagne with dinner when we stayed in the castle's honeymoon suite. The big things were wonderful, but it was the small details that really set our trip apart.

In the course of covering the travel agent community for Travel Weekly, I've learned that agents really shine in the eyes of consumers when they help them out of a tough spot or a pinch in their travels.

Nothing on our trip went wrong -- not even a flight delay -- so we didn't need Rowland's help to sort things out, but we both knew she was there, letting us truly enjoy our honeymoon.

JDS Travel News JDS Viewpoints JDS Africa/MI