According to the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) Code of Ethics, among the key responsibilities of a travel agent are those of accuracy, transparency, responsiveness, cooperation, and compliance with the federal, state, and local laws.
Planning a fulfilling vacation can be a challenging task; the introduction of several travel websites, have made it much easier for people. While numerous people opt to choose their destination and make all the bookings online, even the best laid plans with regard to a self-booked holiday may go haywire and lead to disaster, due to insufficient research.
In such a case, you not only end up ruining all your fun, but also your time and money. The best way to avoid this unpleasant, unwanted situation is to hire a good, reputed travel agent who will be able to help you plan your entire trip, and also make sure that it is completely free of hassles.
Some people think that planning a vacation on your own helps save a substantial amount of money, as it automatically eliminates the use of travel agent, the so-called middleman. While this might hold true in certain cases, we say that planning your vacation via a travel agent can help you obtain better, cheaper deals, thus, saving you from breaking the bank.
An experienced travel agent will also be able to aid you in designing a feasible and practical itinerary, and provide tips with respect to choosing accommodations, renting private vehicles, and so on. Plus, you will get personalized attention while planning your vacation, as all your queries will be addressed then and there.
However, it needs to be remembered that there are several traps out there in the market and so, it becomes extremely important to make a good and a wise choice from the countless travel agencies that are there.We bring you some vital tips to help you choose a right travel agent, in order to ensure a great vacation.
Pen Down Your Expectations
Before going out to search for an appropriate travel agent to help you plan a perfect vacation for you, it is vital that you know exactly what you want, or what kind of services you expect from the agency. Unless you are absolutely sure about your own needs and demands, it will be very difficult to find the right travel agency.
Note that some travel agents specialize in organizing some specific kinds of vacations, such as family tours, pilgrimages, wildlife safaris, etc. So, it may also be vital to recognize the exact nature and purpose of your holiday, before starting with your quest.
Do In-depth Research
With numerous established travel agencies and many more coming into existence each day, it may become rather confusing to choose the ones that suit your needs. Adequate and in-depth research is the solution to this problem. Use the Internet, inquire with your friends and acquaintances, and refer to local magazines and newspapers.
If you know people who have hired any travel agent in the past, it is also a good idea to get in touch with them, and inquire about the services offered, money charged, priority given to customer satisfaction, and so on.
Narrow Down Your Search Results
Shortlist the ones best suit your needs and demands and only then, go ahead and contact them. Your reduced list should fulfil criteria like the services offered, the overall experience, the money charged, the location of the agency, etc. No matter which of these parameters you lay most emphasis on, check the agent's reputation and goodwill in the market.
Check if the Agency is Registered
You have conducted an in-depth research and have shortlisted some of your prospective travel agents, it is now time to check which of them are registered with the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA). ASTA is an organization that regulates the practices and activities of travel agents throughout the United States.
A registration with ASTA indicates that a given travel agency has a good market standing. On the contrary, if it is unregistered, it indicates that either the agency holds a bad reputation or it is a completely new establishment that lacks adequate experience and knowledge.
Get in Touch and Ask the Right Questions
After checking the registration details, you can now get in touch with the agencies that you feel are the best for you. These days, most travel agents have their own websites, and you can contact them via email; however, speak to them or meeting face-to-face is a much better idea.
It is essential that you ask the right questions like how the agency obtains discounts from travel providers, or how they earn their commissions, etc. A good travel agent will be more than happy to answer all your queries satisfactorily and patiently. Best stay away from the ones who avoid answering your questions, or are not patient or courteous enough.
Let the Agent Ask You Questions
While conversing with a prospective travel agent, it is essential that he/she gets to know about your needs and expectations. For this, it is obvious that a good travel agent will ask you certain questions about your travel destination, the duration of your stay, your overall budget, and so on.
You, on your part, will need to be as frank and honest as you can so that he/she gets a clear idea about the kind of vacation you are looking forward to. Remember that an experienced travel agent will always ask you questions, and tell you what is possible and what is not. Avoid the one who does not do so.
Ask for Personal References
In order to confirm that you are about to hire a right travel agent, do not hesitate to ask him/her for references of previous customers. It is an extremely good idea to contact some of these people personally, and ask them about their experiences with the agent and the agency's services.
While a good travel agency will have nothing much to hide, and will happily provide you with personal references, the one that hesitates or avoids doing so, should not be hired.
Review the Written Agreement Carefully
First and foremost, making a written agreement with your travel agent is very important. It not only binds both the parties on certain terms and conditions, but also ensures that complete transparency is maintained in the entire dealing. When your travel agency makes an agreement, it is very important that you read and understand it properly.
If you have any doubt, it is advisable to even consult a contract attorney and get the agreement reviewed. Look specifically for restrictive clauses, and inquire if the agency can amend some of them, according to your convenience.
Moreover, ensure that the agency provides you with a written agreement before you make any payments so that you can rethink on your decision, if required. Do not hire an agency that asks you to pay before making an agreement, or does not make a written agreement at all.
A good travel agent will make every possible effort to help you spend an enjoyable and a comfortable vacation, but see that you do not end up busting your budget by choosing an agent who provides all required services. 'Cheap' may not be the aim all the time, on the contrary, it is better to opt for a travel agent who offers good value for money.