More people than ever are booking their travel online, but many don’t realise that by doing this, you’re still using a travel agent to some degree. But how do you know if you are using a decent, reputable and knowledgeable agent, whether online or one working in a traditional store front? What questions should you ask and what should you be looking for?
It’s very easy to get swept away by a good deal that you’ve found online, but taking five minutes to assess who you are dealing with can potentially save you thousands of dollars and any associated headaches that may come from dealing with somebody who isn’t as cruise savvy as they could be.
Ask your agent if they are CLIA accredited.
By ensuring the agency you are using is CLIA accredited, you are ensuring your consultant is receiving current and up to date training, so they will be able to answer any questions you may have. It also means they have access to sales like CLIA’s Cruise Month which, held every October, brings together many of the cruise lines for an intense period of compelling cruise offers one after another, with CLIA agencies receiving exclusive access to the deals.
Find out if your agent will reprice your cruise if the price drops.
Selected cruise lines still allow you to reprice your cruise if the price drops or a more compelling offer is released. Some agencies point blank refuse to do this, while others will charge a fee or require you to pre-purchase some type of price protection policy at the point of booking in order to do so. Having this as an option can potentially save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars should your cruise suddenly appear on the hit list of itineraries your cruise line is now discounting.
Make sure they have a 24-hour emergency point of contact.
No matter if it’s a small independent agent in your local shopping centre or one that is part of a large chain, making sure you have a reliable point of contact for that middle of the night phone call home if your flight is cancelled and the airline won’t get you to your cruise on time can make the difference between enjoying the holiday of your dreams and living out a scene from ‘When Holidays Go Wrong’.
Ask your agent which days or hours they generally work.
If you are meeting a new agent for the first time, asking them when they usually work will ensure you get someone who can make time to see you when you need them. Having someone who is in the office only during the same hours as you can make it difficult to get in touch and potentially see you struggling to get the time you need with your agent to ensure your vacation is perfect.
Have them print your tickets and documents, not just email them.
Your agent should be doing this anyway if they are worth their salt. Asking them to print your e-tickets and travel documents will ensure that everything you need is handed to you in one wallet, while also ensuring another set of eyes takes a look over them to check for any errors. Having your agent take the 10 minutes to explain what each document is and where you will need it will also be a helpful tool to ensure you aren’t stranded on the other side of the world without the right documents in your hand rather than buried in your email inbox.
Have the conversation about other trips you’re thinking about taking.
If you have plans for more than one holiday in the works at once, or at least intentions for your next few trips, let your agent know! It’s likely they will not only have some advice for you on your most immediate trip, but will also have a database of clients and their future destinations and as such will keep you in mind when special deals to that destination come up. Don’t assume they will try and coerce you into booking something on the spot, but having somebody to keep an eye on prices or offers may just make those upcoming dream trips a more affordable reality.
Ask if your agent will price match.
Always ask your travel agent to price beat or at least price match any deals you see online. Most good agents will happily match online pricing, but keep in mind that unlike making your booking online, having the expertise and experience of a travel agent on your side can be something worth paying a few extra dollars.
Make sure your agent is asking questions as well.
If it seems like your agent is asking a lot of questions, it’s not because they have no idea about your trip. He or she may merely be enquiring why you chose a particular cruise line or ship and will be wanting to make more appropriate suggestions based on your responses.
What’s your favourite travel agent story? Tell us below in the comments.