Some years back, it might have seemed as if travel agencies would go the way of the dial telephone when it came to relevance in the internet era.
But Susan Kelly, owner of , this week's Readers Choice selection for best travel agency in Basking Ridge, tackled that issue head-on.
Travel Magic specializes in Disney vacations and Disney cruises, "everything Disney," Kelly says.
Instead of trying to generalize as a travel agent, Kelly, a former corporate travel agent, decided to specialize in one area, and to do it with "excellence."
Kelly and her staff have visited every Disney resort, know all the hotels in the area, arrange transportation from the airport, can track what else is nearby where travelers are staying and can make sure that Disney visitors don't miss what they really came for. (It's a tough job, but someone has to do it!)
But the internet is an essential part of Travel Magic's business. Not only is the whole operation run from a home office, without a storefront, but Kelly said she has clients from all over the world.
Being connected worldwide is an essential part of all travel agencies, and this year's Readers' Choice, asking
This week's column attracted a lot of voters, 490, with 51 percent, or 250 votes, going to Travel Magic.
attracted 152 (37 percent of votes) while gathered 83 votes, or 16 percent. All of the agencies attracted positive comments as well.
The column also was a bit of a lesson for what travel agents do these days.
"I'm always confused about when to contact a travel agency," wrote reader TJ. "If I can do the research on the internet, what benefit do they provide?"
"Thank you for asking," answered Barbara Long, owner of Wabba Travel. "Travel agents are updated by the hotels, tour operators (this includes Disney) airlines and cruises frequently. We are all better than the internet, because on the internet you are only getting what is programmed in by the supplier _ biased, yes. We offer alternatives and we give you comparisons. Each of us is very good, and yes we each are more expert in some areas than others."
Travel Magic is recognized by Travel and Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler, the agency offers vacation planning, resort and flight booking services, reviews park admission and package options, and helps clients plan for or reserve tickets to special events, including character meals, parades, shows and fireworks, Kelly said.
Kelly said that a major advantage of a travel agent is having a vacation run smoothly, without unanticipated problems and delays. "You can't get that time back," she said of days allocated for a vacation.
"For anyone that travels to Disney, or any Disney owned hotel hotspot, Sue Kelly is the person to contact!," said reader Kaitlin. "Her attention to details and her knowledge of ALL things Disney will leave you and your family worry free on the trip planned! Disney can be a very overwhelming place and having an expert plan the trip can really make all the difference for your family vacation!"
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