Travel Counsellors: Why using a travel agent is actually better than booking online

If you're looking for your next holiday but aren't sure where to start, then look no further. SoGlos chats to Cheltenham-based expert, Penny Harrington from Travel Counsellors about whether booking a holiday online really is best and the most lavish holiday she's ever organised.

SoGlos asked all the burning questions about booking a holiday.
SoGlos asked all the burning questions about booking a holiday.

Specialising in creating bespoke holidays from city breaks and family holidays to luxury destination trips, Cheltenham-based Penny Harrington from Travel Counsellors chatted to SoGlos about why you need to book your next holiday with a travel agent.

Creating beautiful holidays for families, bespoke weddings abroad and organising travel for schools including Eton College, Penny shares her secrets for getting the most out of your holiday and tells us whether booking online really is cheaper.

Is using a travel agent more expensive than booking a holiday online?

If you want to go to Barcelona for a weekend cheaply, you can book an easyJet flight and an Airbnb. I think where people fall down is when they spend their hard-earned money and time and book a hotel, transfers and flights. What they don’t realise is they’re not bonded – when something goes wrong it’s a very expensive mistake.

Companies like Travel Counsellors have great buying power and very often we have better deals than the likes of Expedia and British Airways. There are so many pitfalls now, even with Brexit. We have the information to hand all the time and we can give you professional guidance.

How can using a travel agent save time?

Time is money. It takes a long time to trawl through the flights, the transfers, the hotels. It can take someone who isn’t in the travel business several days to find the right holiday.

We don’t charge for the service to research your holiday. It’s in our interest to find the perfect deal and the right place for each of our customers.

Do holidaymakers have more choice if they come directly to you?

Looking online can be totally overwhelming. If customers come to us, we can direct them away from places which we know aren’t right for them. You could see a fantastic hotel online and it looks amazing but when you get there it’s the complete wrong end of town with a resort full of nightclubs.

Coming to us saves times and saves making costly mistakes.

What advice would you give to someone who has no idea where to go on holiday next?

I normally start not just talking about the holiday but getting to know what each client’s family consists of, where they’ve been before and what they enjoy doing in their life. Are they foodies? What are their hobbies?

It’s so important for me to know my client. We’re really friendly and we don’t have an agenda – we won’t ring you 10 times a day telling you to book a holiday!

What’s the biggest benefit of booking a holiday through yourselves?

Travel agents have to offer ATOL bonding. It means that if you book a holiday with us, even though we tailor make that holiday, funds are bonded. Every property we deal with is health and safety checked too.

There are a few things that fall outside of ATOL bonding like transfers but we have a fund which means that we capture those things as well.

What is the most extravagant holiday you’ve ever created for someone?

I did organise a wedding in Mustique which was all first-class travel, private planes, we had to buy all of their foods and we shipped in the Champagne.

We had to fly the vicar over from Barbados, we had to fly florists in but it was fabulous. It was a wonderful thing to be involved in.

I do a lot of weddings and even if someone has a £5,000 budget, we can make their wedding equally as special for them in every way. We can handle the legalities and take care of all the important bits too.

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