How hard could it actually be to be a travel agent, am I right?
You find someone a good deal, book it, and badaboom, they’re on a trip! Sadly, if that’s your impression of what I do, I have failed as a travel agent. To give you a better idea about what I do (and why you need a travel agent), here’s one way I can help you on your next trip: dealing with lost luggage.
In this scenario let’s pretend you and I have just prepared the most extraordinary trip through Switzerland. I’ve got maps all marked for you, you’re well aware of your flights and baggage restrictions, all your papers are in order. But unfortunately, no matter how prepared you are, it doesn’t mean the airline is just as prepared. While more often than not your luggage won’t get lost, it’s still common enough that you’ve probably heard at least one horror story of lost luggage.
So how can I, as your dutiful travel agent, help you if your luggage gets lost?
First I can help you before your trip to make sure you pack intelligently. You should always bring a carry-on. It doesn’t have to be big—it can even be as small as your “personal item”—but you must pack a carry-on with your medicines, and some changes of clothes. As your travel agent, I will provide you with a list of items the hotel can provide, that way you’ll know ahead of time what other things you should pack in your carry-on. I’ll emphasize again before we move on: PACK YOUR MEDICINES IN YOUR CARRY-ON. It is damned difficult to get your prescription sent to a pharmacy in a foreign country.
Back to the scenario: by now your flight has landed. You’ve gone through customs, and you’re feeling pretty dang tired. (I know—it’s difficult to sleep on trans-Atlantic flights.) You just want to get your luggage and get to your hotel. But as the luggage pours out of the baggage carousel, and the crowd around you dwindles down, you realize your luggage isn’t there.
Luckily, you and I have a plan in place.
If a map of the airport was available, I’ve already circled where to go to file a claim. But this will make you late for your hotel transfer I thoughtfully booked. In our contingency plan you know as soon as you realize your luggage is missing to send me an email or text (or if it’s the middle of the night in the EST you give me a call). I call the transfer company and let them know that you’re going to be late because the airline has lost your luggage. One less thing for you to worry about.
Filing a Claim Online
Did you know that not all airlines/airports require you to file your claim in person at the airport? Some allow 48 hours to file a claim online. And you know what that means? That’s one less thing you have to do! For example, if you’re flying Air France and your flight arrives in a French airport, you (or rather, I) can file the lost baggage claim online. All I would need from you is your baggage claim number, and I’ll already have everything else (personal information, temporary address a.k.a. the hotel you’re staying at). How do you know if I can file a claim online for you? I will have already researched it and let you know before your trip has even started.
Keeping Track of Your Claim
Like most Americans, your trip to Europe isn’t confined to just one city. We only get a standard of two weeks paid vacation (which is bonkers) so we try to cram as much sight-seeing as we can into the standard two-week trip that we can. This often means spending no more than a few nights in each city you visit. The last thing you want to have to do on your trip is continuously update your temporary address on your luggage claim. I had that exact scenario happen to a couple who went to Italy recently. They only spent a couple of days in Venice before they headed out to Florence, and I was able to update their address so they could get their luggage in Florence. And they did!
Permanently Lost Luggage
Nobody wants to lose their luggage forever, but unfortunately sometimes it happens. While on your trip, if the clothes you packed in your carry-on aren’t enough, I (or the concierge, if there’s one at your accommodation) can find nearby places for you to buy clothes/toiletries/or anything else you need on your trip. After your trip, a lot of times the airline will refund you the worth of your luggage and items, but if they don’t (or they don’t cover the whole cost) that’s what travel insurance is for! (And since you booked with me, you made the smart choice to protect your travel investment and purchase travel insurance.) Another part of my job is processing claims with travel insurance companies—one less hassle for you.
Choosing the Right Supplier
If you’ve booked a tour with a group, a lot of times the tour operator will deal with the problems of lost luggage for you.
How do you know if your tour operator will do that? (Hint: It involves using a travel agent…)
But even if you don’t like traveling with a group, the fantastic company Monograms has a similar system built right into their independent packages. They provide private transfers for you (so you don’t have to worry about missing yours if your luggage gets lost), and they’ll provide someone to go to the airport for you to pick your lost luggage up (so you don’t have to put all your trust in the airline’s ability to find you). Sometimes preparing for the possibility of lost luggage is as simple as going with the right tour operator.
Hopefully you see now why using a travel agent can be such an asset if the airlines lose your luggage! (And realize that my job is not as easy or glamorous as it may seem!) Now get out there and go!