A good travel agent can be an invaluable ally in helping to plan your vacation and in saving you money. Like every type of service provider, however, there are good agents and mediocre agents. In addition, many travel agents specialize in certain types of travel, such as business travel, cruises, and adventure travel.
Using a travel agent's services is usually free; agents are paid by the vendors whose products they sell. Some low-revenue services such as discount airline tickets, or labor-intensive services like creating a detailed day-by-day itinerary, may carry a small fee.
You've decided that you'd like to use a travel agent to help you sort through the myriad of travel choices, but how do you find the agent that's right for you? Consider the following:
- Get recommendations. As with most service providers, a recommendation from a satisfied customer is the best endorsement. Ask your fellow workers, family, church members, and other acquaintances about the travel agent they use to plan their travel. Keep in mind, though, that a good cruise agent may not be the best choice for someone who likes off-the-beaten-path adventure travel.
- Contact cruise or tour companies. Most cruise lines and some tour companies will recommend travel agents in your area with whom they have a good working relationship. Wholesalers are in a good position to know who is knowledgeable about a certain type of vacation or destination, as well as who follows ethical business practices. Inquire online or call the company's toll-free number.
- Look for travel agents with industry affiliations and training. No licensing requirements apply to travel agents in the United States. However, several organizations exist for agencies that meet certain quality and training standards. These organizations, such as CLIA (Cruise Line International Association) and ASTA (American Society of Travel Agents) also offer specialized training and continuing education for agents. Ask if your travel agent is affiliated with either of these concerns.
- Interview your prospective travel agent. Before you invest time and money with a travel agent, sit down and talk with her for fifteen minutes or so. Ask her about her training, travel specialties and travel experience. Most of all, get a feel for whether your personalities will work together. If she's too busy to give you time or attention at this point, be wary. She may have too many existing clients to give your vacation the attention it deserves.
Taking a little time and effort to find a good travel agent will benefit you for years to come, saving you planning time and travel dollars.