Choose a travel agency? 4 things to know

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So, are you thinking of traveling again? You’re not alone. The pandemic may not be over, but the expansion of vaccine eligibility in the United States – hiccups, delays and pauses aside – plus news that the European Union will open up to vaccinated travelers is a great incentive to plan a real summer vacation, or even take the plunge into booking bucket list adventures.

Traveling, however, is far from easy. The virus is finding new footholds in the world, leaving in its wake an ever-changing set of rules and restrictions (and all of this is made worse by a rush to rent homes, rental cars and more). It’s a reality that has inspired many DIY-inclined travelers to consider working with a travel agent or travel counselor, for the first time, in the hopes of avoiding the stress of travel planning and planning. focus on relaxing on vacation instead.

Most travel counselors provide their services to clients for free (although some charge a reservation fee, which can range from $ 25 to $ 100, depending on the complexity of the trip you are seeking) and instead earn their money from commissions from the travel agents. hotels, tour operators, cruise lines, airlines and other travel agencies.

Finding the right advisor for you is “like finding a hairdresser,” said Erika Richter, senior communications director for ASTA, the American Society of Travel Advisors. “You want someone who understands your personal style. “

Ms Richter and Misty Belles, Managing Director of Global Public Relations at Virtuoso, an international network of travel agencies specializing in luxury travel, shared their tips for finding an advisor who will understand you and the trip of your dreams.

Start by asking for recommendations from trusted friends and family. “The same goes for any professional service in your life,” Ms. Belles said. “If you know someone who works with a travel counselor who has been happy with the experience, this is a great place to start.

If that’s not possible (or if your friends and family, while beloved, don’t have the same travel style as you), Ms. Richter strongly suggested looking for local businesses where you live.

“Supporting small businesses in our communities is more important than ever right now,” she said. ASTA has a directory that allows you to search for advisers close to you; a quick Google search will likely do the trick, too, Richter said.

Another way to find a travel counselor is to search for one based on one or more destinations they may specialize in. Would you like to visit a specific Caribbean island nation? You will probably want to work with a counselor who has booked a number of trips to this country and has connections and contacts there. Some counselors specialize in trips to Disney resort properties; others focus on cruises. If you want to plan a trip outside of their area of ​​expertise, advisers can refer you to someone else within their network or do the in-depth research themselves.

“Choosing someone who specializes in a destination is a good first foray into working with a travel counselor,” said Ms. Belles. “But when you work with the same advisor for a while, they become an expert on you. “

When talking about what you want, it can be helpful to understand the organization or organizations that an advisor is associated with. Whether they are working alone, with a partner in a small boutique, or as part of a large agency, they are likely connected to a consortium, or a professional network, like Virtuoso, which is made up of over 1,000 agencies. in 50 countries around the world, or ASTA itself.

“Obviously, I represent ASTA, but I think it’s important to look at the professional affiliations of an advisor,” Ms. Richter said. Affiliations can serve as a vote of confidence that the advisor has been approved; it also gives you a chance for recourse if you are unhappy with your relationship (ASTA, for example, can handle consumer complaints and be part of the resolution process). Some consortia specialize in a certain type of travel – Virtuoso agencies focus on luxury travel, for example, while others may highlight adventure travel, family travel, etc.

An advisor’s affiliations also serve as a go-between for one of their main selling points: the benefits for travelers.

“Ask them what kinds of benefits they get from their professional networks,” Ms. Richter said. “Upgrades, free breakfasts, late checkouts when available – who doesn’t want these freebies? “

Do you like quiet and slow trips? Routes full of sightseeing and attractions? Do you like traveling alone or are you planning multigenerational trips with children and grandparents? Making sure your advisor understands what you want – and maybe even establish that they have a similar travel style themselves – can go a long way in building relationships (and allowing them to plan an even better trip for you. ).

Some important questions to ask yourself: do they charge a planning fee? What are some examples of trips they have planned in the past?

“Be very upfront about your budget for a trip and make sure it’s something they can help you get the most out of,” Ms. Richter said.

Ms Belles suggested asking the advisor how they like to travel personally and some of their favorite destinations.

“Ask them a little!” You can see if there are any similarities there, ”she said. But make sure they ask you as many questions.

“If they aren’t, that should be a wake-up call,” Ms. Belles said. “An advisor should seek to understand what exactly you want as a traveler. “


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