As a pre-teen, the writer grilled her travel agent about pool facilities and ice cream quality. // (c) Club Mex Ixtapa Pacific
In the travel industry, we talk a lot about the relevance of travel agents — how they work hard and how they offer a significant service. This is an important message to get across and helps quell myriad misconceptions about what travel agents do, and how they do it. What often gets underrepresented, however, is how fun working with the right travel agent can be — no matter your age, or your level of travel industry know-how.
Respecting the powers of the travel professional, and entrusting the planning and booking of important trips to a travel agent, is something that I grew up doing. After all, parents are supposed to instill in their children good life habits and values and, unlike making my bed every morning, this one stuck. Going to the travel agent was exciting — both an actual break from the daily grind (hey, 10-year-olds like to shake it up too) and a sign of something grand to come. I remember one of my first trips to the travel agent, and the eagerness I felt as we were pulling up to pick out our vacation. Located in a strip mall somewhere near where I grew up, the small store was simple but the travel-related photography on the walls and the selection of travel magazines and brochures did wonders in inspiring me. My parents’ only specification was that we go somewhere family friendly with a lot of activities for me and my brother along with some other stuff that probably bored me as a kid. The travel agent introduced Club Med: and with that, it was immediately clear to me that she was the gatekeeper of fun — she possessed the treasure trove of the world of vacation magic. She pulled out brochures of each of the different properties, and we carefully pored over them, comparing the activities offered and the climate promised as the agent answered our rapid-fire, wide-ranging questions. It was an efficient process: with her personal knowledge of the properties, the destination, the costs and the preferences of all four of us (heavily weighing what my brother and I wanted), we were able to leave that day with a vacation.
We still talk about that trip to Club Med Ixtapa Pacific, Mexico; sure, we got eaten alive by mosquitoes and the humidity and heat were killer, but the friends I made, the braids I got by the beach, the all-you-can-eat bread and ice cream and the fact that we were all there, independently exploring the day’s activities that appealed to us, while meeting up periodically throughout the day, is something I’ll never forget. In fact, all of our major family trips — a cruise to Alaska, a visit to Hawaii Island at the Hilton Waikoloa Village, a Mediterranean cruise and post-trip to France and several short cruises to Mexico — are memories I’ll have for the rest of my life. Another fact that I won’t forget: that all my vacation memories were facilitated by travel agents.
The four of us are taking our first major family trip in more than a decade to Australia and New Zealand. Since I travel often and work in travel, my dad said it was my job to plan the trip. So I did the most expert thing I knew: I contacted a travel agent. It’s been a fun journey so far.