Anyone can become a travel agent. It is important to consider this when finding a travel agent near you. Independent travel agents may offer the lowest fees, but they often end up costing travelers more.
The best travel agents are those who are connected to travel agent networks that allow them to tap into prices that the independent or uncertified travel agent simply cannot access. Several decades ago, finding the best travel agent was a matter of finding the travel agent who is most reliable and who had access to the best deals at one’s specific destination. For example, there were travel agents who specialized in Las Vegas deals and had the connections to generate great deals and unique experiences. Today, however, the best travel agents are connected to the largest travel agent networks. Here, we will cover what you need to know about finding a travel agent near you.
First, do your research. There are local and national travel agents. Local travel agents serve a specific client base determined by geographic location. National travel agents tend to operate online. There are advantages when working with each. Many people prefer local travel agents because travelers can work with a single agent and meet face-to-face with them, which helps establish trust. Whether one is looking for a local or national travel agent, researching the agent or the agency is key. Check online reviews, not from the websites of the travel agent or agency, but from trusted sites such as Google, Angie’s List, and Zicasso. These sites will offer the most and highest quality reviews, especially the latter two. Look for agents or agencies with a combination of high average reviews (4 stars or higher) and a high volume of reviews (more than 20 preferably). Check with friends and family to see if they have a preferred travel agent or agency. Doing your research on travel agents and agencies is a must for choosing a dependable agent who can get you the best deal without any risk of scam or fraud.
Second, ask for references. This is especially true when being unable to find a reputable travel agent or agency from a reference from a friend or family member. Speaking with others about their experiences with a travel agent or agency can help you understand what it means to work with a specific travel agent or agency. You can have questions answered such as how many options were available for any particular deal offered? And, how responsive was the agent to questions and change requests? Be wary of agents and agencies that do not provide references. Larger agencies may be particularly reluctant to do so, which may simply be a matter of how many clients they serve, but is may also be telling of how they do business. In general, larger agencies tend to have the most connections and offer the best deals, but these deals tend to be favorable for businesses as well. For example, if a resort in Las Vegas is severely underbooked for a week, the resort may make a deal with a large travel agency to promote people staying at the resort. This is not to say that you will not enjoy your experience at the resort, but that the agency has an interest in persuading you to stay at the resort.
Finally, engage in a conversation with a travel agent that you are interested in working with. If you have narrowed your list down to two or three agents or agencies, then it is time to start conversations with them. This must include face-to-face, telephone, or video chat. Such direct communication will help you see what kind of services you will be receiving. If you are looking for a highly customized experience, then come out firing, asking questions about customizable options. If the agent gives limited answers, it may be time to move on. If you are looking for a long vacation on a budget, you might ask the agent about the best possible offers right now. Do this for all of your prospective agents and you will be able to compare the best deals right then. But be sure to ask about any hidden or unknown fees. It may not be worth booking a vacation for a low up-front cost if no meal costs are included and every meal on the vacation starts at $50. Do your research, ask for references, and compare your prospective agents by speaking with them.