The World Wide Web returns millions of travel options. Magazines, books, newspapers and television advertising add more choices.
Using these resources, you can “be your own travel agent.” However, there are many greater advantages to working with an experienced travel professional:
A. A professional travel agent does more than just book a trip.--A travel professional, who understands your needs and preferences, can sort through multitudes of travel choices, research competitive travel deals and sometimes find last minute travel opportunities not available on the Web. They help decipher the small print, such as cancellations and restrictions. And, experienced travel agents often add value with savvy travel advice, amenities and upgrades, that said, a good travel professional is your best advocate when travel plans go awry.
B. Help travel professionals help you. Do your homework.--Collect travel information from a variety of sources and study travel offers and travel costs. Be open about your travel budget. The more information you provide, the better a travel professional can meet your travel needs.
C. Don’t rely on verbal agreements and promises from any travel agency.--Avoid misunderstandings and disappointment. Get everything in writing and read the fine print carefully before committing to travel. Understand restrictions, cancellation policies and exactly what is and is not included in your travel package.
D. Be good to your travel agent.--When they go above-and beyond for you, let them know you appreciate their service. Travel agents, like anyone who works with the public, encounter all types of clients. Most clients are pleasant, courteous and reasonable… a few are unrealistic, unreasonable and unpleasant. Who do you think gets the best service?
E. It’s important to choose a professional who understands your personal travel style and is interested in establishing a long-term relationship with you.--Ask friends and associates who travel frequently which agency they use. Look in the telephone Yellow Pages or call the local chambers of commerce for travel agency members. Call or visit the agencies on your prospect list and see which ones you feel most comfortable with.
F. Considering an online travel agency?--There are reliable online agencies; however, buyer beware. All online travel agencies are not created equal. Check out all travel agencies with the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), International Association of Travel Agents (IATA), Association of Canadian Travel Agents ( ACTA) or Cruise Lines International Association CLIA).
G. Pay for all travel with a credit card.--Major credit cards offer some protection when there are travel problems. Check with your credit card company for travel protection benefits. If a travel agency does not accept payment by credit card, look elsewhere.