TRAVEL AGENTS

So, you’re thinking about traveling again? You are not alone. The pandemic may not be over, but the expansion of vaccine eligibility is inspiring many to plan a summer vacation.

Travel remains far from simple, with ever-changing rules and restrictions. That’s inspired many DIY travelers to consider working with a travel agent or adviser for the first time.

Most travel advisers provide free services (although some charge  booking fees ranging from $25 to $100) and instead make their money through commissions from hotels, tour operators, cruise lines or airlines.

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

Richter, along with Misty Belles, the managing director of global public relations for Virtuoso travel agency, shared their tips on how you can find the right adviser for you.

1. Begin search close to home

Start by asking trusted friends and family members for recommendations.

“If you know someone who is working with a travel adviser and was pleased with the experience, that’s a great place to start,” Belles says.

If that’s a no-go, seek out local businesses where you live. 

2. Think about where you want to go

Another way to find a travel adviser is to seek one out based on destinations they may specialize in. Some specialize in trips to Disney resort properties; others focus on cruises.

“Choosing someone who specializes in a destination is a good first foray into working with a travel adviser,” Belles says.  

3. Consider their professional networks

Understand the organizations advisers are associated with as they can serve as a vote of confidence that they’ve been vetted. It also gives you a recourse should you be unhappy with your agent.

Affiliations could also bring major selling points: traveler perks.

“Ask them what sorts of benefits they get from their professional networks,” Richter says. “Upgrades, free breakfasts, late checkouts when available?”

4. Make sure your adviser understands your travel style

Do you like leisurely, slow trips? Packed itineraries filled with sightseeing and attractions? Do you like to travel alone, or are you planning trips with children and grandparents?

Ensuring that your adviser understands what you want can greatly help with building rapport.

Some questions to ask: Do they charge a planning fee? What are some examples of trips that they’ve planned in the past?

“Interview them a little bit,” Belles says.

But make sure they’re asking you just as many questions.

“If they’re not, that should be a red flag,” Belles says. “An adviser should be looking to get to the heart of what exactly you want as a traveler.” 

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