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Finding a good travel agent - What traits do you look for?


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One of the mantras that Matt and others chant is "Use a good travel agent"

I would like to explore this. Please post below answering these questions. Don't just name a travel agent, list the traits about that agent that you appreciate.

What traits make up a good travel agent?

Why did you choose the agent you chose?

What are some warning signs to look for that indicate a "not good" travel agent?

Other questions to ask?

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You can tell them what you want and they can yes you to death and then not do it.  I'd recommend going based on recommendation if at all possible.

My expectations?
I'd like an acknowledgement of my phone call, or email (and if they give me their personal text -then from that) (no, I don't do all 3 at once, in a timely fashion- understanding that they are not up at midnight when I send an email, but waiting 3-4 days is "a lot" to me.
I'd like a reprice done ASAP so I don't miss out on a sale because "they get around to it when they can" and then miss out on it
I'd like THEM to look for the reprice and not it being me having to tell them there is in fact a reprice, however, I will still check my pricing anyway!
I'd like them to answer the question asked, and not give me answers that are not pertinent to the question asked. (I've had 3 different travel agents do this, is it part of their training if they don't know the answer?)

What is also nice is if they can do the airfare etc..  I've had 2 travel agents that I guess were not "full service" so I was on my own to figure out things like airfare, hotels, shuttles etc.  

I'm heavy into doing my own research (that is why I am on this blog) but having a knowledgeable, reachable travel agent is a huge comfort.

 

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From a travel agent perspective- this is what service I like to provide:

Give several options for price quotes
Offer advice on excursions, amenities, etc.
Check pricing on cruises (yes sometimes clients do find the deals before I get to them, and that's ok. I have a lot of bookings to go through so if the client gets to it faster and lets me know- great!)
Making sure we know how to communicate- do you prefer the phone rather than email? 

And I need clients to know that I cannot do everything- we work TOGETHER to make sure the trip is fantastic- you need ownership in your own trip too! Yes I'm here to help but it's your vacation, not mine!

There are a lot of things but that's the ones I can think of off of the top of my head. My best clients aren't always the ones who spend the most money, it's about the relationship and getting to know them. 

 

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What traits make up a good travel agent?

Someone who travels themselves, especially the type of travel you're looking for (in this case, obviously cruises). Not all travel agents are actually familiar with cruises.  The agent before my current agent had  never been on a cruise and couldn't answer my questions.  I actually knew more about it than she did.  Your travel agent shouldn't charge, and if they do, you should know that you are paying them a service fee and why (and you shouldn't have to - again, my previous travel agent did this).  They should be able to answer emails or texts within a reasonable amount of time and find back up TAs to assist if their work load is too heavy or they are on vacation (they are allowed to take time off, too!!!)    I personally want a TA who has a personality that I mesh with.  Do they have a sense of humor? They won't survive me without one!

Why did you choose the agent you chose?   

Honestly, I spent some time on this blog and watched what other people did and who they are using.  When I found a member here who had a personality that I liked, who traveled a lot (so had a lot of experience with her TA) and who loved her TA, I figured I'd really love that TA as well!  I wasn't wrong!  (Thank you, @WAAAYTOOO)

What are some warning signs to look for that indicate a "not good" travel agent?

Everything opposite of what I said makes a good one.  Not familiar with that type of travel, charges for their fees, poor communication, nobody to back them up if needed.

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Good communication and a sense of humor….for those times we misread things and bug them unnecessarily.  Knowledge of cruising, specifically Royal Caribbean is important to us, too. 
 

We hit the TA lottery when we filled out the form on the home page of this site.  I can’t imagine if we had tried to negotiate the cancellations and “Lift and Shifts” of the past couple years without our travel agent.   

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30 minutes ago, SpeedNoodles said:

Someone who travels themselves, especially the type of travel you're looking for (in this case, obviously cruises). Not all travel agents are actually familiar with cruises. 

But- not someone who is ONLY ever traveling, treating this like a hobby and not a real job! 

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2 hours ago, PG Cruiser said:

How do you know you have a good travel agent if you've only had one since you started using a TA?   What is the etiquette for "trying" other TA's services?

If you are happy with the service you have been given than it's a good agent. 
If you find yourself constantly checking emails to look for a reply that never comes, can't get responses to phone calls, can't get a straight answer,etc.....then it's time to move on.
I left my local person, mostly because she would not give a straight answer
Left the next one, travel agent in  a large company, because she screwed up one of my cruises and was away, but not really away, but away.....so it was left to her back up who just did what she wanted with  no communication.  Also when I could not get my sons confirmation for his flight to work, and I reached out to her and told her the rest of us were able to check in and get seats but I had a problem with hers.....she then asked me our seat #'s.  I would think since she had done our reservations she would have been able to look that up, not me having to give them to her..... NOPE, no good.
I'm on #3..... when I met her, on a cruise,  I liked her personality.  She lucked out, I handed her over 10 cruises that I booked the very next month.  By handed I mean, I sat down figured out the cabin I wanted on each ship/sail date and booked at Next Cruise (that guy liked me for knowing what I wanted)....and then I had the bookings assigned to her.  So I flew blind not knowing her work ethic. She has given me her work and private email, as well as her cell #,  She is responsive, even when I accidentally contacted her during the Crystal line cancelling all their cruises yesterday she acknowledged me and then did what I needed  later in the day (2 price adjustments and a room move to one that was connecting for my kids to be together.)  She's even offered for me to park in her driveway when I go away! FREE parking!
Etiquette for trying another?  My local gal doesn't know I've been on any cruises 
My 2nd one has not reached out again, except to ask how my cruise was (the one she screwed up) I do get the automated emails from her company and I do not expect to hear from her, I'm sure I was just another client.
So just book your next cruise using a different agent and see how it goes.  If the old one  figures it out, and asks why, explain  why you tried someone else.  I doubt you will hear from them though.
 

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You should also check into any fees that the TA has hidden in their terms and conditions.

When COVID first happened and our Oasis cruise was cancelled, we were charged a $150/per person cancellation fee since we went with the full cruise fare refund instead of future cruise credit.

In addition, we would have been charged the same cancellation fee if we “lift and shift”ed because they considered that a “cancellation”.

They also charged a $75 revision fee if ANY changes were made to the reservation.

I thought this was normal until I started perusing on this board and realized that I really needed to leave them. So I just took my lumps, paid for the cancellation fee, switched to MEI, and tell all of my friends, family, and coworkers (who are in the same town as the local TA) about my experience.

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24 minutes ago, RockerDom31 said:

You should also check into any fees that the TA has hidden in their terms and conditions.

When COVID first happened and our Oasis cruise was cancelled, we were charged a $150/per person cancellation fee since we went with the full cruise fare refund instead of future cruise credit.

In addition, we would have been charged the same cancellation fee if we “lift and shift”ed because they considered that a “cancellation”.

They also charged a $75 revision fee if ANY changes were made to the reservation.

I thought this was normal until I started perusing on this board and realized that I really needed to leave them. So I just took my lumps, paid for the cancellation fee, switched to MEI, and tell all of my friends, family, and coworkers (who are in the same town as the local TA) about my experience.


This was our experience with the TA we used in the last while before Covid ….. if you wanted to do something simple like add a passenger or change from a Grand Suite to a Crown Loft (that he’d make more commission on) he’d charge a $150 fee to make the change.  I also had booked all the cruises myself and given them to him.  By the time I realized the fee, I’d already given him almost 3 years worth of cruises. If nothing else, Covid helped me break away from him by cancelling the last bunch of cruises I had given him.

 

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