|Cuttyhunk Island attracts boats from afar, fish, birds of all sorts, and fewer tourists. (Massachusetts Audubon Society)|
I always respect the wisdom of people who agree with me. Magellan's, a purveyor of travel goods at magellans.com, recently issued a concise summary of why many people still need travel agents, independently wrapping together points similar to ones I have made. Here are some:
Agents help when things go wrong. "Many Internet customers complain that when problems arise -- even common situations like missed flights or lost hotel reservations -- there is no one to help. A good travel agent is available 24/7, and has the expertise (and often the connections) to quickly take care of problems."
They also save time. "The sheer number of online booking companies means that it may take hours to find the best deals on your own. One quick call to your travel agent and the work is done for you."
They provide information and have knowledge and experience. "Travelers often find that accommodations, restaurants, or day tours that look fantastic on line are a disappointment once they arrive. Your travel agent will be able to give you recommendations (often from personal experience) that fit your needs and preferences." What's more, "the more complicated your travel plans, the less likely you will be successful on your own. For example, travel agents can find that flight from Beijing to Ulan Bator, brief you on social customs, currency and water quality, and let you know what the airline luggage weight restrictions are on each leg of your journey."
A key word in discussing travel agents is "good." Not all agents are created equal, so you need to find a dedicated and competent one. Here are some of Magellan's tips on how to go about that:
Seek out "real" travelers. "Ask your traveling friends for recommendations, and ask agencies for a list of current clients that you can contact."
Check credentials. "Look for the CTC (Certified Travel Counselor) professional certification . . . awarded to those who have at least five years experience and have completed an intensive educational program and exam." Also: "Travel agencies belonging to the American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA) must adhere to a strict code of ethics." (To locate ASTA members, visit astanet.com.)
Size them up. "During the initial meeting, a good agent will ask a lot of questions, covering things such as dietary restrictions, whether aisle or window seats are preferred, if you have a favorite airline or frequent flier membership, whether you prefer a resort or a downtown hotel, and much more."
Nowadays, travel agents may charge $10-$100 for their services, but, at least for those who remain confused about planning and saving by means of the Internet, what is the use of a good deal if it results in a bad vacation?
Visit gogowwv.com or see a travel agent.
Visit journeyswithin.com or call 877-454-3672.
Call 800-654-2943 or visit triplecreekranch.com.
When not included, hotel taxes, airport fees, and port charges can add significantly to the price of a trip. Most prices quoted are for double occupancy; solo travelers will usually pay more. Offers are subject to availability and there may be blackout dates. Richard P. Carpenter can be reached at email@example.com.