Travel agents are indispensable resources for planning complicated trips, finding out the ins and outs of a destination, saving time, preventing travel headaches and getting the best value. However, each agent is different. Be sure that your travel agent is a good match for you by asking these questions.
1. What is the agent’s specialty?
An agent who narrowly specializes in a destination or certain products, such as cruises, can provide solid advice that will be crucial to booking a rewarding, problem-free trip.
Does the agent specialize in adventure tours or culinary trips? Does he or she frequently book groups? Is the agent a cruise expert? You wouldn’t go to a podiatrist to treat a toothache. The same concept goes for travel agents. If you’re traveling to the Caribbean, work with a Caribbean travel specialist.
2. Has the agent traveled to your destination?
There’s no substitute for first-hand knowledge. An agent who has actually traveled to the place where you want to go will know first-hand about the activities in which you plan to participate and the hotels in which you plan to stay. An agent who has been to the destination can make informed recommendations to steer you in the right direction.
3. What are the agent’s fees?
Agents may charge a fee for each service, such as a flight, charge a flat rate, or earn a commission. Expect to compensate the agent for his or her time, advice, planning expertise and work. Still, it is a good idea to find out the fees and deposits up front so there are no surprises.
4. Does the agent have special relationships with travel suppliers?
Travel agents can often get you perks that are not available to the general public or published on the Internet. Hotels, car rental agencies and tour companies often make perks such as upgrades, discounted parking, and express check-in available only to agents who have negotiated them or to agents who have elite status. Find out if your agent is one of them.
5. What happens if something goes wrong?
Inconveniences are sometimes unavoidable. A flight may be canceled; the weather may be uncooperative. Find out how your agent responds to problems when they occur and what his or her policies are. It is also helpful to pay attention to how the agent interacts with you. Is he or she easy to reach? Does the agent get back to you promptly when you call or email? An agent should be there for you even after the trip is booked.
6. What questions does the agent have for you?
Make sure that your travel agent has the right information about you to make the best recommendations. Also, choose an agent who is receptive to your priorities.
Even if you request something as simple as a four-day trip to Rome, you should be asked a number of questions from whether you prefer fine dining establishments or street vendors to what type of hotels you like best. In the end, you will be offered a trip that is the best match for you.