When you schedule a vacation, you have two main options – booking everything yourself or working with a travel agent. Although many think that they can save money if they do the work solo, you can often get special deals if you work with a travel agent. However, keep in mind that your vacation can be much improved if you ask the right questions. Here are the top questions you should ask your travel agent while making vacation arrangements:
Question #1: Can I get a better deal if I travel on different dates?
If your vacation time is somewhat flexible, you might be able to get a better deal. Originally, your travel agent will put together a package based on the exact departure and return dates your give him or her. However, if that total price still seems a bit high to you, inquire about changing your dates of travel, even if it is only by a day or two. You can usually get a better deal on flights, for example, if you travel on off-peak days, which are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Hotels may have similar mid-week rates, and some tourist attractions even have different rates for weekdays rather than weekends. Before you cut your vacation short, ask about moving the entire schedule by a day or two – you might be pleasantly surprised at the recalculated price.
Question #2: Are the tickets refundable?
When you work with a travel agent, you will probably be booking your vacation months in advance. In that time, circumstances in your life can change. But often your tickets are not refundable if you choose to cancel the trip, nor can they be exchanged if you want to alter some details of your vacation plans. Sometimes, even if the airlines, hotels, etc. allow you to change or cancel, your travel agent requires a cancellation fee for the time she put into planning your vacation. Make sure you discuss these potential charges before you begin working together. Also, if reservations can be exchanged, note whether deadlines are from the date of ticket issue or the date of travel. Policies vary from company to company.
Question #3: How much is your fee?
It is not impolite to ask about the surcharges. While you may feel weird asking upfront about money, this is the best way to find a travel agent who will stick to your budget while still getting you a great vacation. If Travel Agent A charges 10% while Travel Agent B charges just 5%, you will get a much nicer $5,000 vacation with the second agent because less of your total budget is being paid for fees. Also, it is important to review pricing policies before you start working together so that you are both clear on your overall budget. If you do not specify that your total budget amount includes the travel agents fee, you could find hundreds of dollars tacked onto the end when it is all said and done.
Question #4: Where can I find more information about my destination?
Travel agents will usually give you some brochures and other information about your vacation location. However, if you want to do even more research, ask your travel agent where you can get started. He or she might have some excellent books you can borrow or know other great websites chock full of travel information for people unfamiliar with a particular destination.
Question #5: Do I need a passport or visa?
Laws regarding travel documents are changing all of the time. If you are traveling anywhere outside of the United States, even if it is just through international waters, make sure that you understand what documents or permissions you need to travel legally. Although many travel agents will give you the information you need when you first begin working together, some assume that you are taking care of this yourself. What do I need to travel to my destination? should be one of the first questions out of your mouth when booking a vacation and it is a good idea to continuously double check this information, as laws may change. Remember, you should apply for travel documentation at least three months before leaving – and in some cases, even earlier. If you do not have the proper documentation, you will be stuck in the United States, and you likely will not be refunded for the vacation you missed.
Your travel agent should be willing to answer all of the above-listed questions and more. That is their job – making your vacation go as smoothly as possible. When choosing a travel agent, make sure that you find one who is friendly, knowledgeable, and able to answer whatever questions you might have about your vacation and travel plans.