If you have never worked with a travel agent before, you might be a little out of your element when it comes to talking about your travel needs. At your initial meeting, it is important not to get steamrolled into buying a vacation package that you do not really want or leaving without a sense of exactly what you need to do to prepare for travel. Here are the top questions you need to ask your travel agent before you book your trip:
Question #1: What are the best times of year to travel to my location?
Every location will be different when it comes to peak tourist season. For example, cruises to Alaska are more common during the summer months. On the other hand, Aspen vacations are more popular during the winter. Keep in mind that “best” for you might not mean that peak season. While tourists flock to these areas during certain times of the year for a reason, such as the great weather or a special event in the areas, that’s also when travel will be most expensive. You can save some money by booking your trip during the off-season.
Question #2: Are there cheaper alternatives to the choices you’re making for my trip?
Sometimes, the price of a vacation package can be drastically altered with just a few changes to the default choices. Usually, travel agents automatically book “middle of the road” accommodations, flights, and so forth. In other words, they don’t choose luxury or economy – they choose something in the middle. If you are purchasing a vacation package, ask about each part of the trip. Can you shave money off by flying at different hours of the day or choosing a room at a cheap hotel? Can you swap out the expensive show tickets and instead spend the day shopping? Little changes can combine to equal big savings, and when you look at an itemized list of what you’re getting by default, you might want to upgrade some things as well.
Question #3: What travel documents do I need to carry with me?
If you leave the United States, you absolutely need passports, even if you are just traveling to Mexico or Canada. The other rules for travel documents, however, vary according to where you are traveling and the length of your stay. You might need certain vaccinations if you intend to visit certain parts of the world, for example. If you are traveling with pets, make sure that they have the proper documentation as well, especially for re-entering the United States.
Question #4: Do you offer travel insurance or refunds if my trip is canceled?
Travel insurance is a great way to ensure that you get your money back in case something goes wrong. Most travel agencies offer refunds if they have to cancel the trip, for whatever reason, but some don’t give you any flexibility in changing your dates, even if you have a personal emergency. Travel insurance can solve this problem, and it also helps you if you have airline, luggage, medical, or other problems when you are away from home.
Question #5: Do you offer referral discounts if friends of mine book trips through you?
It doesn’t hurt to ask! Many travel agencies offer a referral program so that if you tell a friend about them you get money off your trip. You may also be entitled to discounts if you organize a group tour, book repeat trips within a certain time frame, or pay for your entire vacation upfront.
Question #6: What days of the week are least expensive for travel and touring?
Most commonly, you should try to travel on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday if you want to save the most money, but that is not always the case. If you have some flexibility as far as your travel dates go, make sure you tell your travel agent and attempt to get the cheapest prices. Sometimes, moving your vacation by just a single day can save you hundreds of dollars; this is especially true during the holidays and other days of high travel.
Question #7: What activities can you recommend while I’m on vacation?
Make sure to grill your travel agent about hot spots at your location so that you have plenty of insider tips while you’re away. Chances are good that your travel agent has been to your destination or has a colleague that has been. They might even have some connections so you can get a good deal on gift certificates or discounted tickets. It is in your best interest to find a travel agent who is very familiar with your destination. The more knowledge your travel agent is about the destination of your trip, the more prepared you will be to maximize your time away from home.