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International travel can be its own unique headache, and the best international travel agent will have the right combination of education, contacts, and expertise to avoid trip delays and unnecessary costs. Usually the best agents are those who have specialized knowledge of specific destinations. International travel agents typically specialize in visits to specific regions of the world. Highly valued agents also tend to come highly recommended and show that they care about meeting your specific travel needs.
When traveling overseas, you may want your travel agent to have specific areas of expertise. For instance, if you are an American traveling to France, you might want to find a travel agent based in France who speaks French and English. The agent's local knowledge of the country can give her the ability to recommended local attractions and restaurants. She may also have a better understanding of local customs, culture, and the history of the region, and such knowledge may be invaluable if you are going on a business trip to the region or looking for a more unique experience than the typical beach vacation. The fact that an international travel agent can convey this information to you in your native language can also help ease communication barriers.
If something goes wrong during your international travel, such as a missed flight, it can affect the entire trip. When speaking with travel agents, ask questions to find out how they could assist you with such issues. Knowledgeable agents can usually provide some type of assistance with rebooking a flight and ensuring hotel reservations are not canceled due to being late. The best international travel agent will also typically respond to phone calls and emails in a timely manner.
Reputation can go a long way in determining the best international travel agent. Seek recommendations from family and friends and search online to gather a list of agents you may be interested in contacting. Top agents generally have some formal education and take advantage of continuing education opportunities to keep up with the latest changes in the industry, ensuring they are up to date with all the products and services currently available for traveling overseas. Generally, these international travel agents also have professional certifications and memberships that can be checked. For instance, many travel agents in the U.S. belong to the American Society of Travel Agents, which requires agents to follow a strict ethical code in their dealings with travelers.
You may also want to stick with international travel agents who work for highly respected international travel agencies. These agencies have usually been in business a number of years and generally have some negotiating power with car-rental companies, hotels, and other suppliers of travel services to help you get the best deals possible. They may also have preferred rates at hotels and special discounts that may not be available when dealing with an online travel agent.
Once you have gathered together a potential list of agents, you can narrow down this list by placing a few calls. When speaking with agents, let them know the type of travel experience you are seeking, such as exotic adventure travel or a winter skiing experience. The best agents will take the time needed to ask questions and better customize an experience suited to your interests and budget.