10 Things To Keep In Mind When Choosing an Online Booking Agent

By: Robert Thomson

Booking your vacation online has become one of the most convenient and travel savvy way to make travel preparations. An online travel agency has connections in finding you the lowest prices and the best inside information for your destination. Because travel agencies book dozens or even hundreds of different trips, they are offered discounts that they pass on to you as a client.

Shopping online any day of the night or day is another great aspect of working with an online travel agency. While you may not always be able to call a customer service representative, especially if you like to do vacation planning at three in the morning, you can always check out package offers on travel websites. This is especially handy for parents who need to plan after the kids are in bed, people who work odd hours, and those living in rural locations where the nearest travel agency office is a fairly far drive.

In choosing your booking agent to plan your vacation, use these ten questions to assist you:

1. What is Your Travel Niche or Specialty? - Travel agents these days have niches. It is important to know what your travel agent's specialty is. Do they specialize in cruises or adventure tours, particular countries, groups or in individual travel? Sometimes it is best to pick a travel agent who is more experienced with the type of travel you are interested in as they will have more inside information than a regular agent and they will be able to pass on deals to you.

2. What are your fees? - Travel agents have to be compensated for their time, typically they are given a commission but some work on a flat rate or fee per service. You of course are paying for your agents planning expertise, work, and advice. This doesn't mean you can't ask what those fees are. It is also best to be upfront about your travel budget and be clear that your total budget includes travel agent fees.

3. What are your hours of operation? - Many agencies let you book online 24 hours a day but should you have any questions it is important to ask what your agency's hours are. You will also want to know their location so that you can be sure of their time zone. Booking online, people forget that agencies are located all over the world.

4. What happens if something goes wrong? - Sometimes, it is impossible to avoid inconveniences while traveling. Such inconveniences may include a delayed or cancelled flight due to weather. Discuss with your travel agent what happens in such circumstances and how he or she responds to these problems. Always be clear on your travel agent's policies.

5. Are tickets refundable? - If you're working with a travel agent, it is likely that you are planning this trip well in advance. In addition to last minute inconveniences that may occur, such as a canceled flight due to poor weather, things in your life may change as well. Find out if your trip is refundable, partially refundable, or if a cancellation fee applies. It is also a good idea to check if reservations can be exchanged.

6. Do you have special deals? - Many times, your travel agent will be able to get you a great deal, which may not be available to the general public. Cruise lines, tour companies, and hotels often offer perks such as upgrades, free parking, and other deals to travel agents who have worked with them before. If your agent has this type of influence, take advantage of it!

7. Have you traveled to my destination? - There is nothing like first-hand knowledge. If your travel agent has traveled to your destination, he or she will be able to speak from experience. A well-traveled agent will be able to make informed recommendations and provide sound advice as opposed to one who has not visited the areas you are considering.

8. What if I travel on a different day? - Sometimes you can get a better deal when you travel on specific days or avoid popular dates. If you are flexible it is important to express this to your agent. The agent can inform you of peak travel times and seasons to avoid - that is if you are up for saving money.

9. Where can I learn more about my destination? - If you like to do your homework about your destination beforehand, ask your agent whether they can suggest any particular book or website. Reading as much as you can about your destination will give you a special edge during your visit.

10.Do I need a passport or visa? - If you are not sure if you will need a passport or special visa to travel to your destination, ask your travel agent. If you do need a passport or visa, he or she will also be able to instruct you on how to obtain one.

Your online booking agent should be willing to answer the above questions and in doing so, this will help you make better decisions in planning your trip. After all, planning for your next vacation should be simple and fun.

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