Above: Jolie Goldring
Over 50 percent of travelers now book their vacations online, spending endless hours searching for the best deal on everything from hotels to airfare and rental cars. The thought of sitting down at your local travel agent’s desk and choosing your getaway based on her shiny brochures seems somewhere between quaint and archaic. But just as the way we book travel has changed, so have travel agents. We sat down with Greenwich-based luxury travel expert and advisor Jolie Goldring to find out why a real-life human agent is your best bet.
1 GET TREATED LIKE A VIP
When you book with a Virtuoso Travel Agent (Virtuoso is an exclusive network of agencies, luxury hotels and cruise lines) like Jolie, you get amenities that include free breakfast, upgrades when available, and perks like $100 room credits or spa appointments. “You might save $25 booking with Expedia, but you won’t be upgraded and have a personal amenity waiting in your room,” says Jolie. “When an agent books, we get higher priority when it comes to confirming things like connecting rooms, or requests for a high floor or specific rooms, etcetera. We also reach out to our contacts and push hard for upgrades and make sure you have personalized amenities upon arrival. Hate white wine? Let us know. You’ll only get red going forward.”
2 GET YOUR TIME BACK
Instead of spending hours on your laptop trying to find that perfect hotel in Paris, a good agent can give you the best options based on exactly what you’re looking for. Not only do they know the hotels, but they have relationships that can get you a room when the hotel’s website says “sold out.”
3 GET A DEAL
Working with an agent that is Virtuoso-affiliated will not only get you the extra perks. Jolie explains that a lot of agencies proactively negotiate exclusive discounted rates. “For example we know our Greenwich client base travels to Miami a ton, so we have negotiated with a handful of desirable properties and these properties have provided us with special discounted rates.”
4 GET HELP WHEN THINGS GO WRONG
When it comes to travel, it’s not if something will go wrong, it’s when. Flight canceled? A good agent will be ahead of that and have gotten you on the next flight. Room not as promised? An agent will call their contact at the hotel and make it right. And when things really go wrong, they are irreplaceable. One Virtuoso agent found a speedboat to rush a client’s delayed luggage to their departing cruise ship. We’re pretty sure there’s no website for that.
5 GET PERSONAL SERVICE
Your agent will have your frequent flier numbers, know whether you like an aisle or window seat and make sure that you get your gluten-free meal. “When they come to us for help with a trip, we are already two steps ahead as we know how to anticipate their needs,” says Jolie. “We keep profiles on our clients and know things about them—maybe they are advanced skiers or they love to surf or they are foodies. All these tidbits go into our thought process as we scout their next fabulous vacation.”
Fees are based on length of trip and number of travelers. A weeklong vacation for up to six people averages $350. Full planning includes research, booking, concierge service and activity organizing.