Questions to Ask When Working with Travel Agents by:Jennifer Bailey
Using a travel agency to make your vacation or business travel arrangements is becoming more popular. You can save a lot of time and often a great deal of money on hotels, airfare, and other expenses related your trip. However, it is important to choose the right agency if you want to get the highest level of service and the best rates. Here are some questions you should always ask before committing to any travel agency.
One of the first things you want to know is how long the agency has been in business. If you find they have been around for at least ten years, there is a good chance that they have had time to establish excellent rapport with most of the major hotel chains, airlines, and other essentials that you are likely to need in order to make the trip a success. Just make sure you do not rely solely on this one factor; even agencies that have been around for years may be more of a niche provider and not right for your particular needs.
Along with how long the agency has been in business, also inquire about their areas of expertise. Ask if they tend to focus more on vacation or work related travel, and if they work more with families or singles when it comes to planning vacations. It is also important to ask them if they are more proficient with national or international travel planning. Answers to these important questions can help to narrow the scope slightly and give you clues as to whether a given agency can provide what you need.
You also want to know if the agency will handle all the bookings associated with the trip. Ideally, the agency will not only arrange airfare and hotel accommodations, but also take care of little details such as reserving a rental car, securing tickets to local amusement parks and other points of interest. If you do not require a rental, a really good agent will make sure there are shuttles to and from your hotel before reserving a room. The advantage to you is that all you have to do is pack a bag and show up when it's time to depart.
It is also important to invest in an agency that can provide constant support during your trip as well. Make sure the travel agency provides you with a point of contact that can be reached any time of the day or night. This is especially important if you are traveling outside your home country. You want to know that someone can assist you if the rental car breaks down; a connecting flight is delayed, or if there is an emergency that requires you to cut the trip short and get home immediately.
Along with a point of contact, ask if the agency has any local contacts in or near your destination. Often, these local contacts can reach you in the event of an emergency in a short period of time, which will come in handy if you need assistance now rather than later. It is not unusual for travel agencies to establish some local ties in many of the more popular destinations as an added service to their clientele.
Also ask about confirmation packages. Many of the better travel agencies prepare a folder for clients that detail each and every aspect of their travel arrangements. This provides you with everything you need from transportation schedules to reservation information for the hotel and rental car service. Today, you may also find that some agencies will provide a hard copy of this detail as well as electronic documents that you can save on your laptop hard drive and take along as a backup.
Do not forget to ask about any other unusual details that may be necessary to making the trip a success. For example, the agency should be able to tell you about any restrictions that may apply to travel associated with your passport, as well as any local customs you should be aware of. This will indicate that the agents working for the agencies are familiar with your destination and do not have a working knowledge that is only slightly better than your own. An agent that can clue you in to the little things about local culture that will keep you from offending anyone is one of the most valuable travel tools you can utilize.
There is also the matter of travel insurance. Many travel agencies can advise you on what type and how much travel insurance you should secure for the trip. In some cases, the agency may have coverage in place that you can obtain through them. When this is the case, you may be able to secure the coverage at a discounted rate.
The bottom line is that when you work with a travel agency, any question on your mind is a good one. Should you have the feeling that the agency is not receptive to your questions, thank them for their time and find another agency. Along with services and support, the ability to establish rapport and build a positive relationship with the client is essential. Do not settle for anything less, no matter how inexpensive their services seem to be.
About the author
Jennifer Bailey is a freelance writer who writes about travel and leisure, often focusing on a particular aspect of vacationing such as working with travel agents.