Travel agents are an incredible source of information. They know all about deals, have insider knowledge about the industry, develop relationships with hotels, tour operators, airlines, bed and breakfasts and travel associations, and have the necessary technology to find the best deals for traveling to your selected destination.
If you are a first time traveler, deal with a travel agency as though you are a pro. Here are a few tips for you:
• Low-cost carriers – ask your travel agent if they also book with low cost or discount carriers. Because of their inexpensive business models, companies like Ryan air, Jet Blue and Easy Jet offer much cheaper fares.
• Package deals – travel agents not only book flights, they can create a customized travel package for you to include air, hotel, sightseeing and shows. Package deals can be cheaper because of added services.
• Matching service – this is not the romantic matching service that we all know about. When travel agents book tours for their customers, they sometimes receive requests from travelers who like to share a double room, which is cheaper, instead of paying for a single room. This can happen when a particular tour package consists of couples and singles and singles cannot afford a single room.
• No-fuss traveler– inform your travel agent right away if your dates for your return trip are fixed; that is, there is little or no chance of changing your dates. Your travel agent can get you a cheaper fare if you travel on a restricted ticket. The more restrictions are built into your ticket, the cheaper it becomes. For instance, in addition to fixed, unchangeable dates, you can tell your travel agent that you do not mind taking an indirect route (direct routes are more expensive), that you are staying a specified number of days, that it does not matter what day of the week you travel, and you do not mind taking red eye flights.
• The more the merrier – and cheaper! Your travel agent can offer you additional discounts if you request for group travel. Because travel agents receive their discounts in bulk from suppliers, they can pass these on to you as savings. Travel agents purchase seats in blocks, so the sooner they fill up these seats, the better it is for them.
• Advice is free – many travel agents are seasoned travelers. They get what the industry calls “fam trips” which means “familiarization trips.” Hotels and tour operators invite travel agents, all expenses paid, so that they can promote them to travelers. Frequent travel broadens not only the mind of travel agents, but also expands their network of contacts. The more contacts a travel agent has, the higher the chances of getting more hot deals. Remember, your travel agent has full access to the industry’s technology. He or she knows what buttons to push to get a good deal. Ask your travel agent to come up with a tour package that will meet your budget. For instance, she could recommend that instead of flying from London to Paris, you could avail of cheaper rail travel between these two cities.
• Specialization – find a travel agent that focuses on your particular needs or specializes in the destination you choose. For instance, travel agents specialize in Caribbean travel or in European rail vacations. Some travel agents specialize in senior travel, others specialize in student travel.
• ATP – this is the Airline Tariff Publishing tool that most travel agents use. It publishes the latest air fares on more than 500 airlines several times a day. If you call your travel agent on a weekday at 2:00 pm, 5:00 pm and midnight, and ask for a cheap fare, she just might have the latest published fares on discount.
• Free vouchers – ask your travel agent if he or she can give you some free vouchers you can use. Believe it or not, they have giveaways that inexperienced travelers are not aware of. But you have to ask!
• Early Bird specials – if you know where and when you are going, call your travel agent anyway even if you are not planning on traveling before six months. Sometimes, they receive discounted fares from certain airlines and it is good to be able to time this fact with your trip. When travelling to overseas destinations, booking months ahead can land you a great deal.
Upgrades – if you have developed a good relationship with a travel agent (regularly booking your boss’ flights with him or her and referring them to your friends), ask if it would be possible to upgrade your seat, hotel or show ticket. Travel agents receive an incredible number of promotions from airlines and hotel operators, and he just might upgrade you at no extra cost, in exchange for business from the company you work with.
Jeremy Foster is a freelance writer who writes about vacationing and the travel industry, often discussing tips and travel deals one would find through working with a travel agency.
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