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Travel agent or not? Nov 18

You decide to go on a vacation, a really nice one, to an exotic location, or at least something more exotic than Aunt Martha’s. How do you decide where to go and how to get there?

You could go online (that’s where you are right now, you’ll notice) and do a little research and reading on the subject of travel (which you’re also doing right now). How do you separate the wheat from the chaff? What about hidden costs, problems you might not think of, secret discounts you don’t know about, pitfalls in processing—many dangers lurk in traveling beyond familiar confines. All that research—and figuring out how the processes work—is time consuming. What’s your time worth?

You might visit a travel agent. Travel agents have an unearned reputation for being expensive. After all, they have offices and all those fancy travel books and posters. All those ads are supplied by the cruise lines and travel companies, and that’s who pays the agent, too, not you, normally. If an agent has to charge you for a service, they will tell you up front. if you’re in a travel club, you can expect the agent to reduce or eliminate the commission, too, further reducing the price.  Ask yourself: What’s a travel agent’s knowledge and experience worth? They know the ropes, pitfalls, they have access to all the discounts, and they’ll save you time—after you get to know a travel agent, one phone call can take care of everything.

Of course, you have the same problem picking a travel agent as you do making travel decisions online: Who’s good? How do you tell? Here are a few ways to take the measure of a travel agent.

  • Does the person have a connection to you? (This rule applies to real estate sales and funeral directors, too.) Relatives, acquaintances, friends, and friends of friends are motivated to take especially good care of you.
  • Is the person well traveled? Especially if they have been to where you want to go, but all travel experience seasons a person to the rigors of travel. A travel agent who has personally been around the block a few times is a fount of wisdom and advice, and they can tell you what to expect.
  • Is the person organized? Not necessarily neat (but that’s a good indicator), but can they find your file immediately? Do they know where everything is? That sort of thing. You don’t want an absent-minded professor as your travel agent. You never (okay, seldom) see a good travel agent surprised by something, and they keep their promises about when they’ll have something ready. They are ready for you when you show up after the first, introductory meeting.
  • Do they answer phone calls and emails promptly? This is a must. Even if they have to tell you they need more time, they don’t make you wait for a reply.
  • Do they want to do a good job for you? You can tell this by the number of choices they present you with. A lazy travel agent won’t research multiple options, won’t hunt for the best price. You see them look up one thing and give you a price. A good agent will hunt down good deals, think of options (a nearby less expensive location, for instance) that you didn’t consider, check with several wholesalers, give you a lot to choose from.

A good travel agent can make your next trip more enjoyable.

See if you get the pun:

Note the sign on the back wall...

(Note the sign on the back wall)

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