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A travel agent is a person who provides airline or cruise customers with information on traveling and tips for choosing the right destination. Since travel agents are such an integral part of a person’s travel plans, one should always ensure the travel agent is well qualified for providing assistance with making these plans. The first step one should take when choosing a travel agent is to obtain referrals from friends, family, or business associates. A personal recommendation demonstrates that the travel agent has satisfied customers.
If personal recommendations for a travel agent cannot be obtained, thumbing through the telephone directory for an agent is another option. After placing a phone call to a potential travel agent, it is best to follow up on the phone call with a visit to the agency. This makes it possible to determine whether or not the prospective agent’s office meets certain standards and expectations.
While at the travel agent’s office, it is best to sit down and talk with the agent once more. This makes it possible to gauge whether or not you have a connection with the travel agent. It is important to feel comfortable when talking with the travel agent, because questions will need to be asked and answered in order to create the best possible travel plans.
Questions a person should ask oneself when meeting a new potential travel agent include: Is the travel agent answering all of my questions? Does the travel agent give me the impression that he or she is only in the business to make a sale? Does he or she seem to genuinely want to assist people?
A travel agent should also possess powerful credentials. While in the office, it is a good idea to search the walls for special certifications. If none are visible, it is perfectly acceptable to ask the travel agent about his or her qualifications.
It is best to go with a travel agent who is not only certified, but also qualified. Therefore, it is a good idea to select a travel agent who is a member of the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA). This society requires certain stringent prerequisites to be met in order to join. Therefore, a travel agent who is a member of ASTA should be a reputable one.
As an ASTA member, the agent can obtain excellent deals from other members of the society when making travel plans for a client. This can include great rates on flights and cruises, assistance with booking a hotel room, ground transfer options, and even reasonable tickets for attractions. ASTA can also provide information regarding various travel agents, including whether or not any complaints have recently been filed against the agent.
The Internet is another great place to search for a prospective travel agent. Many agents have their own web sites, making it possible to gather information regarding the travel agent, as well as to read feedback left by past clients on the message boards.
@bythewell - I never thought of it that way. I always thought travel agents were mostly for people who just didn't know how to book their own travel, or were a bit lazy about it.
I guess holiday travel agents sometimes have deals as well, but usually they are listed for times when I can't get the kids away from school, so I don't use them very often.
@indigomoth - It's really important to know what you want going into the room. A travel agent can only offer you a few things that you can't just find for yourself online and in some cases you'll be able to find something better than them.
I always look up all the available flights and other options and plan out a rough itinerary before I go to the agent. Sometimes they will be able to better my research and sometimes they won't be able to (it depends on who they have deals with... not all airlines work through travel agents as it costs them).
But what they can offer is security. I try to make sure that all of my big flights
and tours are done through an agent so there is that extra layer of security and backup in case something goes wrong.
You can usually call the agent and have them sort it out if, say, a plane ticket wasn't booked properly or whatever. If you booked it on your own, the airline is less likely to go to any trouble to fix any issues.
I've always found that travel agents who specialize in finding deals for students are the best bet when it comes to finding good deals in general. They are used to people who want to squeeze every last bit they can out of their budget and they also know how to help you get off the beaten track, if that's what you want to do.
Online travel agents can be good as well, as long as you pick the right one and don't let them bully you into anything.
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