How to Choose a Good Travel Agent
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 travel request.
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).
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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.
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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.
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