How To Find The Right Travel Specialist


How To Find The Right Travel Specialist

Sometimes boooking online with sites like Expedia and Travelocity are quicker and easier for those smaller less expensive trips, but when you're putting a lot of money into a vacation you don't want to put all of your faith into a big named site where you're just another number.  For the best investment in your vacation you'll want to seek out a professional for help.  The problem is how do you know they are a true professional or not?

There are several things you should take into consideration when searching for the right travel professional, so I've highlighted some of the important ones for you.


Do They Have A Professional Website?
Thanks to the Internet, the days of all travel agents owning storefronts are over.  Now many professional agents are choosing to work from home where the overhead costs to run a business are much lower, and the idea of working in your pajamas is much more appealing.  The only problem with this is that it makes it very hard for the consumer to judge which companies are professional and which are not.  So when searching for a travel professional online, check their website for the following:

  • Do they provide enough personal information?  Since you won't be sitting down face-to-face with your agent, you want to know as much as you can about them.  How long have they been in business?  What organizations are they a member of?  Have they been mentioned in the news?  Anything that shows they are who they say they are.

  • Is their page easy to navigate?  No one wants to open up a website and find a ton of useless information and links to nowhere.  A cluttered website can turn a client off just as much as a cluttered office.  It says a lot about an agent if they take the time to keep their site updated and relevant.  

  • Do they list several contact options?  One of the best parts about being an at-home agent means they can travel whenever they need to and take their office on the road.  The downside is they aren't always available to answer their phone.  Maybe they're driving, or flying, or not getting cell service.  Having a cell phone, an office line, and an email as contact options means that should you need them, you have multiple ways to reach them at any time.

Do They Have Good Reviews?
Maybe it will be provided on their website or you may have to do some searching.  Either way, looking up the reviews on the agency is always a good idea.  

  • Start by Googling their agency name with the word "reviews" and see what pops up. 
  • If you're having a hard time finding anything and they don't provide reviews on their website, don't give up.  Contact the agent to see if they have a portfolio.  Some agents keep a portfolio with letters and contact information for past clients who have agreed to be references for that agent.  

Are They Licensed, Bonded, Insured, Etc.?
This is a question you may have to ask them directly unless it is noted on their website and/or business cards.  

  • Seller of Travel License: Many states require a license to sell travel, aptly named the Seller Of Travel License.  If an agent is licensed to sell travel in a that state, they will provide a Seller of Travel number on their advertisements such as websites, emails, business cards, brochures, etc.
  • Bonds. Surety Bonds:  In order to obtain the Seller of Travel License, an agent must take out the appropriate surety bond for backup coverage.  If the agent you are working with has a Seller of Travel License, they either have a surety bond too, or have met the requirements not to need one.  Either way, this works in your favor.
  • Insurance: All agencies need Errors & Omissions insurance to properly protect themselves and their clients should the agent make a mistake at any time. It is very important that your agent carries this coverage, especially if they are a smaller agency, because should something happen due to a mistake on their part, you want to know your vacation investment is protected.
  • Does it say "LLC" or "INC" after their company name?  It isn't that important to look into this but an agency that incorporates their company normally does this to protect their assets when they go into business for themselves.  However, the benefit for you is that it shows they file their company with the state it is located in, which helps attest to the fact that they are a legitimate business. 
  • Does The Company Have A BBB Rating?  Not all companies become accredited with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) but many still have ratings.  Check to see if they are listed and what their rating is.  Remember, lower ratings don't always mean they aren't a good company.  Scroll down below their score and see if there are any complaints or issues on file.

Do They Have A Social Media Following?
As silly as this sounds, it's a very important thing to consider in today's world.   Many businesses take to Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Instagram, ect. to promote their business.  The pro to this is it allows you to see just how popular they are.  

  • Facebook: Regardless of how large their following is on Facebook, keep an eye out for their interactions.  Do clients leave a lot of positive messages on Facebook?  Do they interact and respond to things the agency posts?  If people are engaging with the agency frequently online then it shows that there are several other people who know and trust the agency too.  
  • Twitter:  Again, their number of followers isn't as important as who is following and interacting with them.  Clients, other industry professionals, etc.  Keep an eye on those interactions which will help you get an idea of how immersed the agent or agency is in their industry. For example, do they interact with their clients, share knowledge, or re-tweet important things?  Or just post deals all day?
  • Instagram: If an agent or agency is on Instagram this is a great way to verify that they are who they say they are.  Between being able to view photos from their own travels and photos from their client's travels, you are able to get enough of a sneak peak to prove that the agency is who they say they are.

Where Have They Been?
You wouldn't go to a realtor to buy a car.  They may both be salespeople, but one specializes in selling homes and the other in selling cars.  A common issue among agents in this industry is that everyone wants to sell it all, and rightfully so as we work on commission and need every penny we can make.  But by selling what we don't know, we're exposing ourselves to a greater chance of making mistakes.  Finding an agent who has been where you want to go and/or specializes in selling that destination reduces your risk of having issues with your trip.  

If they haven't been to the destination, then make sure they are certified to sell it.  Or even better, find an agent who has both the firsthand knowledge and the certification to go along with it.

The best way to find an agent that specialized in what you're looking for?  Turn to Google or ask around for a referral.  


Did You Test Them Out?
Let me preface this by saying that I do not mean to contact them and ask them for a vacation quote and then book elsewhere.  That is a totally different thing and is a pretty big slap in the face in this industry. Good agents work really hard to plan and book vacations for their clients and it's not easy when someone uses us for our knowledge and hard work but then books elsewhere effectively causing us to lose any payment we would have received for our hard work.  Agents only get paid by commission from the supplier (resorts, cruise lines, hotels, etc) after the client travels.  Not after they book.  After they travel.  Some agents have begun charging service fees to ensure that if a client decides not to book, they still get paid for their hard work and efforts.  But there are still plenty of agents, like myself, who go off of good faith and don't charge service fees.  It's all a matter of perspective. 

So what I mean by "testing them" is to contact them and ask any questions you have.  Maybe you're unsure they are the right agent for you and you want some reassurance.  A good agent will understand your apprehension and want to ease your doubts and worries.  An agent who gets short with you or doesn't seem to have the time is definitely not an agent you want to work with.  First impressions are very important, so contacting the agent to test them out and see you will feel comfortable with them is always a good idea.  




How To Know When You've Found A Good Specialist

  • You trust his/her opinion.  You don't find yourself second guessing anything they say or recommend.   
  • You feel comfortable with them.  You don't feel odd asking them questions or for advice. 
  • They make themselves available to you.  You have their cell phone number, their email, etc.  If they are out of the office you can still reach them.  
  • They know their product.  Their knowledge of your destination allows you to relax and feel confident you are in good hands.



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Kira Solomon

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