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Pick the right travel consultant

Today, there is so much information on the Internet. All you have to do is Google a question and instantly there are options on where to locate the answer.

Today, there is so much information on the Internet. All you have to do is Google a question and instantly there are options on where to locate the answer. Travel is one of the most expensive intangible items you will ever buy, yet knowing that you have made the right choice is extremely difficult.

What are some strategies for choosing a good travel consultant?

• Ability to understand you and your needs: In order to clarify the need, a good travel consultant is inquisitive and will ask a number of relevant questions. If you are thinking about trusting your "trip of a lifetime" to a travel consultant, a good one will want to know even more about you and the other people you are travelling with to ensure everything in your vacation is in line with what you will expect, appreciate and enjoy. Do you feel comfortable talking with the travel consultant? Does she/he genuinely want to assist you or only get the sale?

• Knowledge: The travel consultant should know more than you about the travel products you're interested in. There are two types of knowledge that travel consultants should have: destination and product knowledge. Because it is unrealistic for travel consultants to know everything, there are many who can book land or sea but become specialized within the travel agency. Yet within the agency there are many specialists and sources of knowledge. Has your consultant taken courses and been certified?

• Good deals: Often there is a mistaken idea that there are great online deals travel consultants can't offer. Consultants can access anything the consumer can plus resources the typical consumer can't, such as consolidator airfares, group rates, deals directed to agencies only and consortia deals to name a few. Does your consultant access good deals and pass them on?

• Booking savvy: Consultants know tricks that can sometimes cut your cost substantially, such as multi-stop trips, when to price in foreign currency, fares that allow no-cost stopovers. In addition the consultant might be able to cut your hotel bill by booking a tour package that includes an extra, like a half-day sightseeing trip.

• Upgrades: If you buy cheap online, you not only expect cheap but also get cheap. A good consultant can sometimes get you an upgrade on a hotel room, cruise, rental car or, in rare situations, on an airplane.

• Communication: Does the travel consultant promptly return your phone calls? Does the consultant promptly give you feedback on possible options? Does the consultant cross the t's and dot the i's? When you return, do you get a phone call asking for your feedback? If a good deal, in your interest area, comes across the consultant's desk, are you contacted?

• When Trouble Arrives: When something goes south on your trip, this is when it is reassuring to have a good consultant working on a solution on your behalf. A good consultant will always give the client a method of communicating challenging situations so that you are not alone when trouble arrives.

How do you find any other good professional? By word of mouth. The best way to initially locate a travel consultant is through other satisfied clients.

Today there are many who like to go online and investigate and book. In most situations it costs no more to have an expert and ally do your final booking.

Bill MacDonald is a St. Albert-based travel consultant. He can be reached at [email protected]

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