If you’re ready to finally take your dream vacation, or if you’re just travelling for work, there are a number of things you can reasonably expect from any reputable online travel agency. Obviously, you don’t just want bare bones service. If at all possible, it’d be nice to have someone you can talk to, a wide range of options, and so on. A quick checklist might read something like this�
Good Customer Service
If you have any questions, you’re going to want them answered, right? An online travel agency should provide some degree of direct, one on one customer service, via email or telephone. Even if you’re just going through a simple, bargain-ticket site, you really should look for a site with a live helpline.
A Wide Range of Options on Flights
A low price is great, but you should also be looking for options. You might not want to fly economy class every time. If you’re planning a dream vacation (or if it’s business travel and you can talk your employer into footing the bill�), you might want to give business or even first class a try. Ideally, an online travel agency should be providing you with a seat on any section of the plane.
This one is kind of obvious. A travel agent’s job, after all, is to find you a great deal. If you want to find the best online travel agency around, you might want to shop around for quotes or customer reviews. ). Some sites let you set up and compare foreign currency calculators for multiple destinations of your choice so you can get a better picture of the total costs of your travel beyond the base package price.
Plenty of Hotels to Choose From
If you’re not going to be spending a lot of time in your hotel room, you don’t really need much but a bed and a television set. On the other hand, if you’re going to be stuck in your room for hours on end, you might want something a little classier. Basically, you want to work with a travel agency who gets you great deals without sacrificing a wide variety of choices. Another benefit to shopping for a hotel online: virtual tours.
A real travel agent is just going to try to find you the very best deals available. They’re not going to try to lean all of their customers towards one airline or another. There are a few so-called “travel agents” out there who are secretly receiving bonuses from certain airlines, but this isn’t a common practice, nor is it encouraged within the travel agency industry. These people represent the exact opposite of what travel agents stand for and should not be associated with the countless honest travel agencies out there.
Anyone can find you a great deal if they’re willing to book you on a flight with a half a dozen twelve-hour layovers. If you like hanging out in airports, this might not actually bother you, but let’s be honest, most people hate hanging out in airports for hours on end. Ideally, you should be able to get a good price on a flight without a lot of layovers.
Convenient Online Profile
Most online travel agents will maintain a customer profile that allow you to customize your options, track expenses and save preferences in order to streamline future trip planning (for example, you prefer the aisle seat). You can benefit by storing any corporate or membership discount numbers, frequent flyer numbers and other pertinent information to assist with faster and cheaper reservations.
User Generated Experience
An extension of just saving your past purchase data and current itineraries is forward-looking user generated content. There are two types of user generated content: reviews and information posted by other registered travelers, which can be a lot more helpful than the standard marketing-speak; and real-time content requested by the subscriber such as weather forecasts, customized news feeds based on interest keywords, and fare alert services based on the user’s parameters, including a general timeframe (so you can see which travel days cost more or less) and region (e.g., Baltimore to Europe or Denver to the South Pacific).
What you want, really, is a wide variety of options at a good price. It’s not always easy to get the perfect balance. You might have to pay a little extra if you want to avoid a lot of layovers, and you might have to sacrifice business class flying if you want a low, low price. A travel agent’s job is to find a nice compromise between these two goals.
Again, you’re not always going to find the perfect balance. Luxury doesn’t come for free, and a lower price usually comes at the cost of some minor sacrifice. But, if you find a great online travel agent, you might get a better deal than you would expect.