|BrochureTravel Travel University Travel 101
(Yes, we know travel is mentioned 15 times
already...but, that is just the way it lays! Gosh!)
How to Choose a Good Travel Agent
(Reverse the article to see what makes a yucky
The good news is
that the travel agents we connect you with have already
self-selected themselves as being better than average. Because they
pay a referral fee to us, and because they know they're in a
competitive situation with other travel agents, only those who are
confident they can earn your business are likely to respond to your
The following is a list of key factors to consider in choosing a
travel agent. You probably won't need to consider every factor for
every trip. Obviously when you're simply seeking a two-night package
vacation to Vegas, you need less input from a travel agent than when
you're planning a two month tour of Africa.
Quality of the Travel Agency
Some of the factors to consider relate to the travel agency the
agent works for. A good agent can be made better when they are
working for a good agency. A good agency has probably been in
business for at least a few years. This has given them time to build
a 'track record' and to amass some negotiating clout with suppliers
and has given them the corporate experience at dealing with issues
and problems, so as to create their own internal systems and
management procedures to help your booking go smoothly.
A good agency probably belongs to a travel agency association.
The two main associations in the US are the American Society of
Travel Agents (ASTA) and the Association of Retail Travel Agents (ARTA).
Most good agencies also are accredited by the airlines to issue
tickets. The two accrediting bodies are the Airlines Recording
Corporation (ARC) for domestic airlines and the International Air
Transport Association (IATA) for international airlines.
A good agency probably belongs to some sort of agency buying
group or consortium or franchise. This gives it access to preferred
rates at hotels, and gives it extra commission with other suppliers
- extra commission which they might choose to share with you, or at
least use to ensure you don't have to make any out-of-pocket
payments to the agency as well.
Full-service or limited-service agency
Can the travel agency help you with all your travel plans or is it
unable (or unwilling) to help with some parts of your vacation?
Usually you'll prefer to make all your arrangements with a single
travel agent/agency so as to minimize possible errors that can occur
when booking different portions of your trip through multiple
sources or methods.
Full-time or part-time agent
Generally you want to deal with a travel agent who does this for a
living, full-time. You usually don't want to have someone who works
as a travel agent part-time only, because plainly they have less
opportunity to get experience dealing with clients like you, and
less personal commitment to succeed in the travel industry.
Specialization in the travel you're
We believe it is impossible for one person to be a specialist in
everything and to know all about the entire world.
You want to use an agent who specializes in the type of travel
A travel agent who has had some years of experience is more likely
to have encountered most of the tricks and traps that can sometimes
lurk unexpectedly out there. There's also more reason to believe
that veteran agents are committed to the travel industry and are
likely to remain so, at least until your travels have been
As well as general industry experience, you want an agent who has
personal and recent knowledge of the travel products they'll be
recommending to you. This probably means they should have visited
the destinations you'll be visiting, and done much of the same
touring you'll be doing. Hopefully they have stayed at the same
hotels, and have done so in the last two or three years.
Agents can also supplement their personal experience by sending
other clients to the places you'll be going and then getting
feedback from those people upon their return, and by attending
seminars and 'road shows' by suppliers and destination tourism
There are some semi-formal industry training programs some agents
choose to take. They might have passed a Destination Specialist
course for the region you're traveling to - either one offered by
the region itself or by a recognized travel agency school. They
might have received training in cruise lines/cruise ships, and they
might also have general travel management training.
While we're on the topic of "other clients," feel free to ask the
agent if they have some satisfied past clients you can speak to as a
point of reference.
Ease of contact
You want to be able to conveniently contact your travel agent both
before your travels start and potentially while you're traveling
How easy is it to contact your agent? Do they consistently either
answer their phone or quickly return messages?
Do they have a toll free number for when you're elsewhere in the
US? Do they use email and answer emails quickly?
What hours do they work? Do they have an after-hours emergency
service to help you if you're traveling and something goes wrong
outside office hours?
Ability to understand you and your needs
Does the agent seem to be the type of person who understands you and
your travel interests? As an extreme example, a 21-year old man is
unlikely to understand a 51-year old woman's interest in visiting
luxury spas. Does the agent ask you sensible relevant questions and
are they answering your questions in a way that shows they
understand you and your needs?
Added value services
Is there anything else the agent or agency can do to help you with
your travels? You may even wish to ask an open-ended question such
as "How else can you help me with my travels?"
Maybe the agent has a library of travel videos they loan out to
clients. Perhaps they have access to cabin upgrades on cruises. By
some chance they may have a contract with an airline that allows
them to waive advance booking requirements. Maybe there is something
else they can do - ask them.
Fees and rebates
These days, travel agents are less likely to earn commissions on
airfares. For that reason, if you're only buying an airfare, the
agent may need to charge you a fee for their help. But if you're
buying a complete travel package, the agent is more likely to be
earning commissions on most or all of the items they are booking for
you - sometimes as much as 20%.
If you're simply asking a travel agent to book you a cruise, and
if that takes the agent no more than an hour or two to do, and if
that is perhaps a $5000 cruise on which they are making a $1000
commission, some agencies may choose to not only waive all fees for
doing this work for you, but also possibly to rebate back to you
part of their commission.
Of course if you are having the agent book a detailed itinerary
for you, including various items of low value or which don't pay
commission, and if the agent ends up spending 20 hours on your
booking and earns only $500 in commissions, they're not going to
want to rebate any commission and might instead quite fairly expect
an extra fee from you.
There's no standard approach to this issue, so you'll have to ask
the question and negotiate the outcome based on the complexity of
your booking and the amount of commission the agent earns.
Our referral process increases the chance of you dealing with a good
agent. By considering the appropriate factors we detail above, you
can ensure that the agent you ultimately choose is not just a good
agent but a great agent.
Epilogue: Every single piece of
information here is FREE. You pay ONLY for services you contract for
like hotels, tours, tickets. Etc. No credit card, not even a phone
number, if you prefer. No gotchas, gimmicks, or gags. Just good pure
free travel information about the places you want to go, given to
you by the folks who know. Click our pages with confidence! Get
ready for your Vacation of a Lifetime!