Nick Hofstadter is among the inner circle of elite travel advisors in Los Angeles. When he's not planning over-the-top vacations for his high profile clients, Nick can usually be found eating his way through the world’s greatest cities and scoping out the latest luxury hotel openings. A proud Angeleno, Nick is a self-proclaimed luxury hotel junkie and travels the world to give his client’s his firsthand experience and expert advice on where to go next.
We sat down with Nick to get the skinny on his latest trip to Iceland and why this beautiful, quirky destination is a must-do for adventure seekers everywhere.
Expert advice, buying power, connections, personalized service, creative problem solving….
These are just a few of the reasons why a top travel agency can take you further than the internet, any prestigious credit card or “concierge service”.
THE BOTTOM LINE: A top travel agent knows more than you do, they are better connected, they have access to benefits you can’t get otherwise, they can often beat any other prices available (even online, yes), and after you have planned everything, they provide a safety net during your trip that you simply won’t get by booking yourself or buying insurance. Having a top travel agent can also turn you into an instant VIP – free room upgrades, hard to get restaurant reservations, cutting lines, access to otherwise closed stores and exhibits, private guides, and cheaper – often much cheaper – premium airfares.
A travel agency’s buying power and industry clout is a result of the volume of business they do. A top producing agency is able to leverage their buying power and personal connections to aggressively negotiate better rates on our behalf, get access in sold out situations, and provide their clients with benefits such as automatic upgrades and extra amenities well above and beyond what you would get otherwise, if at all.
The best agencies have a team of travel advisors with overlapping spheres of specialization who collaborate vs. one travel agent who is a generalist and may know a little bit about many destinations but might not work with or have access to a team that specializes in different destinations. Top travel agencies also have personal relationships with local experts on the ground in every destination that help guide their up-to-the minute recommendations or solve problems on the ground while you’re traveling.
An agency’s collective team of experts should spend as much time traveling the world as they do behind the scenes making the impossible happen. The best agencies have flown every airline, visited every hotel, vetted every experience out there and have been working with the best local guides around the globe for years, so that they can provide you with recommendations you can trust.
And while online travel resources can serve as a resource for information, here’s the problem – websites such as Trip Advisor skew very much towards the lower and middle end of the market, because it’s a numbers game and the luxury segment is very small. So when they are giving the airport Holiday Inn a four and half star rating, on that relative scale, how can Bangkok hotels such as the Mandarin Oriental and the Peninsula be differentiated in a way that is meaningful to you? They can’t be. That’s a difference your travel advisor will be able to explain to you that you cannot possibly garner online.
And when many of the best and most specialized tour guides cannot even be booked online, how can you rely on online ratings for them? You simply cannot.
A full-service agency should have a highly skilled team of air specialists. An experienced air team can offer pricing and solutions that call for a deep level of knowledge and expertise, airline relationships and buying power. These specialists also know the best routing for your trip and can help you compare airlines, and tell you first hand what the First and Business Class products are like because they’ve flown on and experienced all of them themselves.
Part of a travel agency’s job is to sense trouble before it happens. A great agency continuously monitors for flight disruptions and works proactively to get you rerouted away from storms and airline strikes. And while you can certainly book flights yourself online, when your flight is cancelled and you are standing in line waiting to be rebooked, you will wish you had a team of air specialists there to help solve the problem and make things happen at a moment’s notice.
Great travel advisors get to know you personally and develop a deep understanding or your specific travel preferences so that they can always offer the best advice and cater to your specific needs. There is no such thing as the “best” place to go, stay, eat – the question is - what is the best place for you specifically. That is why it’s important to develop a long term relationship with a travel agent who asks a lot of questions and gets to know you and everything there is to know about the way you like to travel.
When all of these skills come together, a top travel agent can be invaluable. And you’ll wonder what you ever did without them.