Real Deals

'Tis a wise planner who never forgets a travel agent's worth

Cuttyhunk Island attracts boats from afar, fish, birds of all sorts, and fewer tourists. Cuttyhunk Island attracts boats from afar, fish, birds of all sorts, and fewer tourists. (Massachusetts Audubon Society)
Email|Print| Text size + By Richard P. Carpenter
Globe Correspondent / August 26, 2007

I always respect the wisdom of people who agree with me. Magellan's, a purveyor of travel goods at, 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

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?

Island exploration
Although New Englanders have visited islands around the world, many have never seen two Massachusetts ones: Cuttyhunk and the Elizabeth Islands. The Massachusetts Audubon Society seeks to remedy this with daylong trips in September. The exploration begins with a 1 1/2-hour boat trip from Woods Hole through Vineyard Sound and Buzzards Bay along the Elizabeth Islands, with commentary focusing on landmarks, geology, wildlife, and the history of the quiet, protected islands. Along the way, passengers can look for endangered roseate terns and other species of seabirds and waterfowl. Four hours will be spent on Cuttyhunk, visiting the village and harbor, and exploring habitats for migratory songbirds, and watching from Lookout Hill for passing raptors. Participants will have the choice of a short, medium, or long guided walk. Sailings leave Sundays, Sept. 2, 16, 23, and 30 from Waterfront Park in Woods Hole, with the trips lasting from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The price is $50 for Mass Audubon members, $55 for nonmembers, and $45/$50 for children. Preregistration is required.

Call 508-385-7656.

Savings for singles
GOGO Worldwide Vacations has introduced a group of packages for solo travelers with up to 30 percent savings on single-room rates. Trips are to the Caribbean, Mexico, the United States, and Canada. For example, a Sept. 13-17 package to Montreal begins at $965, which the company says represents savings of up to $200. Included are airfare, a four-night stay at the Hyatt Regency Montreal with its marble baths, hotel tax and service charges, airport transfers, a welcome cocktail party, admission to clubs, a tram tour, a dinner, and a farewell cocktail party.

Visit or see a travel agent.

For chosen children
There often comes a time when families with children adopted from overseas, and the children themselves, want to visit the birth country. If the child is one of 1,700 Cambodians adopted by US families since 1992, Journeys Within has discounted rates for such trips and an itinerary designed to help youngsters get to know their country of birth. Journeys Within B&B and Bungalows is owned by Americans Brandon and Andrea Ross. Since trips are custom-designed, there are no set prices, but one recent 12-day trip for two adults and two children cost $3,110, including air and other travel in Cambodia, accommodations, meals, guides, tours, and admissions.

Visit or call 877-454-3672.

Art in the Rockies
Six Western artists will lead workshops at Triple Creek Ranch in Darby, Mont., with the Rocky Mountains as a backdrop, Oct. 4-7 and Oct. 18-21. Called "A Spectrum of Color & Artistry," the program allows participants to work and learn with the artists. A member of Relais & Châteaux, the ranch has an extensive Western art collection, along with activities ranging from horseback riding to fly fishing. Prices start at $1,800.

Call 800-654-2943 or visit

Web world has kicked off a new pro football travel page devoted to helping National Football League fans find the best airfare and hotel deals for away games.


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

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