The Best Travel Deal Out There

In 1999 I made a lot of wrong predictions. I predicted that most computer systems would fail at the end of the year. I predicted that Madonna would grow old gracefully. I predicted that the Dow Jones industrial average, which closed above 11,000 in May of that year, would rise to over 20,000 over the next five years.I was never very good with predictions.I was also wrong about Tracey. She’s a travel agent. And a really good one. I first met her in 1999. The year that the online travel Web site Expedia.com was spun off from Microsoft. At the time she worked in one of those travel agency chains with outlets in malls. As the Web grew in popularity back in the ’90s and sites like Expedia and Travelocity came on the scene I thought that that was it for poor Tracey. She’d be out of the travel business and looking for something with better, longer-term prospects. Like an Internet company or a savings and loan.But Tracey was no dummy. Sure, her fashion taste was limited to Reebock pumps and cargo pants. She liked Cher. She watched “Dawson’s Creek.” But she was better at predicting things than I was. Her professional sense was a lot more accurate. She knew something I didn’t: People are too busy to do everything themselves. Especially penny-pinching business owners.She was right. Tracey stayed in the travel business. She’s done well. The travel agency she worked for grew in popularity, despite the online services that came about around her.How is this possible? Aren’t there good travel related websites for business owners? Sure.For example, TripAdvisor.com and Igougo.com are great sites to find out people’s reviews of hotels and destinations. To get cheap airfares, you’ll want to check out Travelocity.com, Airfarewatchdog.com and Bookingbuddy.com. To get good rates on rooms go to Dealbase.com, Hotwire.com and Priceline.com. Other sites like Kayak.com and Farecast.com bring this stuff together and compare rates from all over.So with all these great sites available, it seems like the best thing a penny pincher can do is go online to get the best deals, right? Wrong. Because when people ask me the best way to save money on travel I always say the same thing: Call Tracey.Life has become more complicated. We can’t be experts in everything. It’s not just about time. It’s about time and money. Both have huge value. And penny pinchers understand this.They understand that travel agents really know what they’re doing. And we, for the most part, don’t. We don’t know the routes that well. We don’t know the system. We’re not travel professionals. We run businesses. We make sure shipments get out the door. We complain about the economy. When it comes time to look for the best airfare or a great deal on a hotel room we’re not familiar enough with the industry to know where to go. Travel agents do this for a living. We lean on them for advice.We’ve tried all the travel Web sites. Their prices are pretty much the same. Tracey’s prices are pretty much the same, too. I don’t see travel agents coming up with that many better bargains than Expedia, but I don’t see a lot of difference either. So why are we fussing with it all? Why not let Tracey do it?We have better things to do. Travel agents take care of the paperwork. They do the hunting for us. They come back with options. They do the administrative and grunt work. We spend our time doing what we do. If the costs are generally the same, why are we wasting valuable time doing something that someone else can do for us? Penny pinchers realize this.I still like to make my predictions. I predict that Republicans and Democrats will one day work together in harmony for the good of the country. I predict that my hair will start growing back. I like the Washington Wizards to take the NBA crown next year.OK, maybe those predictions won’t come true. But here’s one thing that will: travel agents like Tracey will always be a better option for penny pinchers looking to save time and get good deals on travel.