Where to Find the Best Specialized Travel Agents in a World Where Most Bookings Are Online

Online travel websites killed the traditional brick and mortar travel agency for the basic booking. You don’t call up your local agency (unless you’re a business traveler working through a managed travel program, and even then chances are it’s online) to buy airfare anymore. You choose from what a computer offers you.

Gone is advice about the nuances of which city is best for connections, how long a connection do you need, or for hotels which ones offer the sort of character, experience, and service you may be looking for.

Instead, there are lists of features. You can read reviews of seats at SeatGuru or SeatExpert. You can read traveler reviews on blogs or at TripAdvisor (which is mostly useful for the photos and revealing consistent themes but the rankings of properties are next to useless in any sort of granular fashion). You don’t get a single trusted expert.

Google may want to become your next travel agent. And for the mass market probably will.

But there are still real experts to guide those special trips. The problem is, who is an actual expert? Who really knows the locations they sell? Who has local connections to improve your experience?

Wendy Perrin has spent many years compiling a rolodex of the best people to help you with your travel. She started the “World’s Top Travel Specialists” list at Conde’ Nast Traveler, a highly vetted compilation of agents that do great work for clients and that were regularly ‘secret shopped’ to ensure continued excellence.

I’ve been honored to be a part of that list since 2010 for my award booking service.

Wendy left Conde’ Nast earlier this year and joined TripAdvisor, and also launched her own site.

And she’s picked up where she left off in offering her knowledge and experience with the best specialists for each area of the world with her new Wow List of Trusted Travel Experts.

She’s still building out the list, it’s a momentous undertaking, and so far only includes specialists by destination and travel type. She doesn’t have any of the specialized services on there yet (like mine, and Cranky Flier‘s Cranky Concierge).

Definitely a site worth bookmarking.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I must be the only person alive who left lawyering to be a travel agent.

    Believe it or not, we still have dozens of clients call in for simple airline bookings.

    My business is based primarily on everything from a simple hotel booking upwards to transfers, VIP tours, cruises, safari, etc.

    People often think using an agent ads to the overall cost of a booking. That’s false, as most of us are free.

    When booking online, you’re just a #.

    When you book with a live person, you have a real person who actually works for you, with industry clout and access all the way to the GM’s cell #.

  2. You’re not alone, Ben. A classmate from law school gave up practicing after a few years and went into the travel agency biz, specializing in cruises. We used him to book our last two cruises on Princess.

  3. I’ve used the recommended agencies from Fodor’s and Frommer’s in Argentina and Panama. They were both excellent.

  4. My daughter became engaged earlier this year. I am hoping to give her an island wedding-honeymoon. She is 26yrs old and has been dating her fiance since she was 16. A tentative wedding month is September or November of 2016. I have looked at few islands but as we know the www makes them seem as though they were all created from heavens kitchen. I want her to have the experience of her life and in safe surroundings. Her safety is weighing on me so heavily. She has helped me through a three month left to live cancer diagnosis, holding my hand while I held my mother’s hand as she took her last breath on this earth, a debilitating back injury due to a car accident and through every illness, injury, surgery and hospital stay her father and i have indured. For health reasons I am no longer employed so she calls me every morning, noon and night, encouraging me to stay strong. If you have any suggestions for a safe, romantic, exciting, exotic, experience of a lifetime, all inclusive wedding-honeymoon experience It would be greatly appreciated. She is so deserving of this and I hope this is something I can afford to give her.
    Thanking you in advance for your time.

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