Skip to content

5 things to know about working with a luxury travel advisor from our latest Return of Travel webinar

June 24, 2021
8 min read
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

With the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic accelerating, you may be looking to splurge on your first post-COVID-19 vacation. From premium-class flights to luxury hotel rooms to private excursions, there are many ways to book a high-end trip — and a luxury travel advisor may be a terrific resource to accomplish this goal.

That said, many travelers are hesitant to utilize a travel advisor thanks to ongoing misconceptions about what (exactly) that entails.

So ... on our most recent Return of Travel webinar, we sat down with one to clear up any confusion. Brian Kelly, TPG's founder and CEO, interviewed Tom Ho, a luxury travel advisor from ThomsTravel.com — which is affiliated with both Protravel International and Virtuoso. The duo covered a lot of ground during the hour-long session — including how Tom got into the field and what someone could expect working with him.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Read on for the most important takeaways from the webinar regarding luxury travel advisors — and scroll to the bottom for a full recording.

They can help with airline hold times

Over the last several weeks, many airlines have had horrendously-long hold times. The surging demand coupled with staff shortages and an abundance of vouchers from canceled flights last year have caught carriers flat-footed. Some have improved since we first reported on the issue earlier this year, but you may still need to wait multiple hours to speak to an airline representative on the phone — especially during widespread weather (or other) issues.

Thankfully, booking flights with a luxury travel advisor like Tom can minimize those hassles.

"We have direct, special partner lines directly into the airlines," Tom said, and even if there's a long hold time there, he has email addresses to follow-up. This helps to "push us along through that process to make sure that our clients are taken care of."

This very thing came up in the early days of the pandemic, where Tom spent hours on hold with airlines on behalf of his clients — and was able to obtain refunds or vouchers for all of his clients.

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Related: How to use outstanding airline vouchers before they expire

In virtually all cases, booking a property like the St. Regis Bermuda with a travel advisor will still allow you to earn points during your stay. (Photo by Melanie Lieberman/The Points Guy)

You still can earn points and miles

Here at The Points Guy, we (naturally) want to do everything possible to earn points and miles before — and during — our trips. And sometimes, when you don't book directly with a travel provider, you may miss out on those valuable earnings.

Not so when working with a travel advisor.

"If you book directly with a travel advisor, and we book directly with hotels or our preferred partners ... you'll still get the points," Tom said, going on to add that the same thing holds true for the airlines — as long as you don't use your own points or miles to book your flights.

Now, he did point out that there is a rare exception to this rule: deeply-discounted, wholesale rates.

"The only time you don't earn points is if you say you want the best, lowest price possible and you want me to work with a wholesaler," he said, adding that in those cases, the provider may not "pass on the points, because the prices are so cheap."

However, this is exceedingly rare — so in most cases, you should still take home those valuable points or miles.

Rates are generally the same (or lower) — but with added perks

Another common thought with luxury travel advisors is that they're charging you more for the same flights and accommodations you can book yourself. Tom clarified that this is not the case.

"I would say 99% of the time, our rates are either the same exact rate you'll find online, booking directly," he said. "Or, it's slightly cheaper because we negotiate rates with partners that we work with a lot."

Not only that — a travel advisor can also unlock a variety of perks, and in many cases, this can be even more lucrative than those offered to top-tier elites. And here, Tom didn't mince words.

Related: How to book luxury travel using a credit card

"I can always get you a better upgrade or treated better, no matter how high your status is with the airline or with the hotel."

How does he do this? By leveraging his relationships and the reach of his travel agency affiliations.

Remember that when you book by yourself, "you're still just one consumer in this industry — compared to me with a community of travel advisors who book nonstop. Our volume is a lot higher, and money talks. We come with the higher-yield sales each year, so they're going to (of course) treat my clients at a higher level than other people."

But the benefits of working with a luxury travel advisor go beyond just these perks ...

A luxury travel advisor can get you out of booking with the same hotel chain — including at properties like NIHI Sumba in Indonesia (Photo by Becca Manheimer / The Points Guy)

They can help you book more creatively

A lot of us have favorite airlines or hotel loyalty programs. And these preferences can play a major role in selecting travel providers to use on your trips. However, Tom highlighted how this approach can prevent you from considering other (potentially better) options for your travels.

"If you're just bound to whatever hotel company that has your highest status, you're missing out on some of the most amazing experiences."

He even went as far as to say that, at some higher-end brands, a loyalty program is simply unnecessary — because every guest is treated like a top-tier, VIP during their stays.

"That's why you should explore and reach out beyond just your regular hotels," he said.

Related: The TPG 20: Staff picks for our favorite new hotels

They can offer wide expertise

There are many specialized trips out there, and Brian asked about the importance of specialization in the world of travel advisors — should you utilize someone who focuses solely on African safaris, for example, if you're planning that kind of vacation?

According to Tom, no.

"I say treat your advisor like your closest friend and family and stick with that person," he said. "Work with an advisor with a broader scope. That advisor already knows who to reach out to that fit the best experience for your trip." The best advisors should have deep connections in their own right, but they also have networks that can be incredibly helpful in meeting those specialized needs on a trip.

As an example, Tom highlighted one of his clients that's booking a Christmas trip to Belize. He has his own suppliers down there, but he also has an advisor friend who actually lives in Belize. She was able to offer first-hand advice to meet the needs of Tom's client.

So ... if you're considering hiring a luxury travel advisor, be sure to find out the depth of their connections — both with travel companies and through their network of other travel professionals.

Full recording

Want to hear more of the conversation between Brian and Tom? Check out the full recording right here:

Run of show

  • 2:12 — Brian's intro
  • 6:18 — What a travel advisor can do
  • 10:42 — Extra perks
  • 15:56 — Travel agency affiliations
  • 17:36 — Finding a travel advisor
  • 19:25 — Specialists
  • 24:38 — Staying on top of reopening plans
  • 26:56 — Booking travel for this summer
  • 31:01 — Utilizing concierge services
  • 33:23 — VIP airport support
  • 38:28 — Becoming a travel advisor
  • 44:25 — LGBTQ+ travel
  • 48:34 — Q&A

"The Return of Travel with Brian Kelly" is a series of live events to help consumers prepare for the comeback of travel as the world emerges from the coronavirus pandemic. Join Brian as he interviews top experts and company executives on a range of topics, including the anticipated boom in leisure travel, what travel looks like for various groups, the return to cruising, destination reopening and much more.

You can view a recap and recording of the previous episodes at the following links:

For recaps of this series' predecessor — "The Future of Travel with Brian Kelly" — please visit this page.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers

TPG featured card

Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site

Rewards

3 - 4X points
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.

Intro offer

60,000 bonus points
Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

Annual Fee

$250

Recommended Credit

670-850
Excellent/Good
Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees