With more opportunities opening up, people are looking forward to traveling again, seeing friends or going to faraway places they’ve yet to experience.
Consumers spend billions of dollars annually on vacationing, but there are many factors to consider when picking your destination. Reserving hotels and resorts, planning itineraries, and booking flights and rental cars are among the long list of things to take care of before leaving for any big trip.
With all that chaos, it may be easier to plan your trip through a travel agent. Unfortunately, with the convenience of the internet, sometimes it can be difficult to find a trustworthy third-party travel service. Well-recognized names can be spoofed, and scammers can easily trick users into thinking that they’re dealing with the hotel or airline directly.
A reputable travel agent will take the time to learn your travel needs, preferences, tastes, budget and personal limitations such as medical conditions or phobias. They will also do comparison shopping to find the transportation, accommodations, attractions and services that will give their customer the greatest satisfaction at the best price. They will also keep updated on new developments in the travel industry that could help their clients, such as price cuts and exclusive deals on airfares and hotels.
When traveling to a new place, consumers may not understand what attractions the location offers and how to make the most out of their time. An agent should be highly knowledgeable of local customs at popular destinations and be able to supply tips that will help consumers choose among options and keep their trip running smoothly.
With the ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions and changes from state to state, a travel agent should be up to date on any travel restrictions or alerts that may arise and impact travel.
These tips from the Better Business Bureau should help direct you to a legitimate travel agent and know what to look for:
• Even if the destination is far away, start local. When possible, deal with a local travel agent. Take advice from friends and business associates who use an agent they trust and always check business profiles on BBB.org.
• Don’t settle on the first place. Do your research. Visit or call several agencies to find the one that best suits your needs. Different agencies may have different specialties and may offer something that suits your specific needs better than another.
• Consider everything. From the appearance of the office to the agent’s willingness to listen and answer questions, the details are important in making the best decision. It is your money on the line.
• Ask about qualifications. Expertise is important. Ask about a specific agent’s professional background. For example, what kind of training or education they have.
• Use additional online resources. Contact the American Society of Travel Agents to check if a travel agent you are considering using belongs to this organization.
If you spot a scam, whether you’ve lost money or not, report it at BBB.org/ScamTracker and the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Your report can help others.
Marjorie Stephens is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Northern Indiana. Contact the BBB at 800-552-4631 or visit www.bbb.org.