In the travel industry, the more knowledgeable your travel agent, the better your vacation will be. Knowledgeable travel agents know tips and tricks for making the most of your destination, such as how to get the most exclusive tickets to activities and events, when to travel for the best weather, and best of all, how to save the most money on your vacation. If you are interested in booking a vacation, work with a travel agent who knows the ropes. Though, how do you find the most knowledgeable travel agent out there? Here are some tips for choosing your agent:
1: Look at past experience.
Someone who has spent ten or more years in any industry is usually more knowledgeable than someone who has only been in the industry for just a few months. There’s something to be said about working with a travel agent who has a fresh approach to vacations, and age is not always a good indication of knowledge, but this is a start.
More so than time in the travel industry, however, you want to look at the volume of work that they do. Some travel agents only book a few trips every year. Others work with dozens or even hundreds of travelers every year. So, as far as “experience” goes, look at both time in the industry and number of trips they’ve booked.
2: Work with someone who has booked trips to your destination in the past.
Most travel agents have booked trips to Disney World and Hawaii, but what about somewhere more obscure? Travel agents can schedule trips to anywhere you’d like to go, but that does not mean that they are knowledgeable about the area. If you want to take a ski vacation to somewhere in the Eastern United States, for example, it is not enough that your travel agent has booked trips to the Rockies. Before hiring a travel agent, find out where they have had success booking vacations in the past. For the best experience, work with an agent who has actually traveled to this destination as well
3: “Interview” your travel agent.
When you first talk to a travel agent about your trip, don’t let them begin booking your trip right away. It's really easy, and not uncommon, to just stop by an office wanting some information and leave with a signed contract in hand. Remember, though, when you talk to a travel agent for the first time, you are essentially interviewing them for the job.
As part of your initial meeting, you should talk about the travel agent’s experience, understanding of the location, commission rate, and more. Do not be afraid to ask questions to find out if your travel agent really is knowledgeable about the trip you want to take.
4: Get recommendations from your friends and family members.
While it is important to get recommendations, you can’t always believe what you read or hear. That is why you should stick to travel agents who are recommended by your friends and family members. It is really easy for some travel agencies to pay for good testimonials, but that does not mean that they are actually knowledgeable about your destination.
When talking to your friends and family members about travel agents that they have used, remember to take their compliments and criticisms with a grain of salt. What are these travelers like? If your cousin Jane likes to plan out every last detail herself, her travel agent might not have done more than booking the flight and hotel stay. If your roommate is hard to please, her “terrible” vacation was probably not all that bad.
5: Test their knowledge.
Lastly, do your own research so that you can test your travel agent’s knowledge. You should not be trying to trick them, but let’s face it, when you are ready to sign that check, no travel agent is going to come out and tell you that they don’t know anything about vacations to China or cruises to Alaska. Travel agents are good at talking their way through situations, so test them out to see how much they really know.
For example, you might do some research to learn about the airport options when you want to visit Southern California. Ask your travel agent about the choices. If he or she quickly says that LAX is the only airport in the area, even though your own research shows that there is another option, that’s not a good sign! Travel agents can’t know everything, but instead of feeding you information that is incorrect or incomplete for the sake of seeming like they are an expert, they should tell you that they are not sure and offer to find out for you. The most knowledgeable travel agents are always willing to keep learning.
Stephanie Larkin is a freelance writer who writes about topics and tips involving the travel industry, such as travel websites and working with travel agents.