- Booking your summer vacation through a travel agent can get you exclusive discounts on flights, activities, and accommodation that you wouldn’t be able to score when booking yourself.
- Flexibility and communication are key factors in saving money when working with a travel agent.
- The amount of money depends on the traveller, but agents say these questions can potentially save you hundreds.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Right now, countless Americans are packing their suitcases with straw hats and swimsuits in preparation for long-awaited summer vacations.
Many of them will come home having spent far more than actually necessary simply because they didn’t ask the right questions.
Hiring a travel agent to help plan your annual family outing has a slew of benefits, like special rates, expert recommendations, and the luxury of not spending innumerable hours sifting through booking sites yourself. Thanks to their industry ins, you don’t have to devote an entire month’s worth of earnings to a two-week trip (which, according to Forbes, most Americans do).
“A good advisor will always keep the client’s needs in mind, including how much they want to spend,” Cheryl Bunker, vice president of global member partnerships at Virtuoso, told Business Insider.
When it comes to saving money, Bunker says communication is key. The secret to saving hundreds on vacation is being flexible, yes, but also being transparent about your priorities. Many people are happy to fly economy if it means getting upgraded to a suite.
“Travellers can save hundreds of dollars by simply following the same cost saving steps they’d normally take for themselves,” Mel Dohmen, senior brand manager at Orbitz, told Business Insider.
Here are 10 questions to ask your travel agent that could save you money on your next trip.
Does my trip qualify for a price match guarantee?
If the price of your flight goes down after you’ve booked it, you might be able to score a refund of the difference.
“A lot of online travel agencies like Travelocity will price match your flights if you book within 120 days of your departure and the price changes,” Dohmen told Business Insider. “Travel agents may be able to leverage a service or feature like this, too.”
Would a packaged tour be a cheaper option than building a custom tour?
While you might think the packaged tour offering has too many extras (read: unnecessary spending), Joanna Franco and Damon Dominique of the budget travel blog Shut Up and Go suggest asking whether customisation could turn out to be more expensive in the end.
Agents can strike deals on these tours, too, so it’s better to book them ahead of time via the experts than to sign up after you’ve already arrived.
Does the price of the tour include admission fees?
Know what’s included in the tour before you book it. Sometimes the total cost doesn’t even cover admission fees to some of the day’s activities. Is it really all-inclusive or will you be responsible for buying your own meals?
And although paying a deposit at the time of booking is often the default, sometimes paying in full up front yields a lower price.
Can I save money by flying at different times of the day or on different days?
“Let your agent know if your travel dates are flexible as they may be able to surface cheaper options,” Dohmen said. “Our research shows travellers generally save the most when they leave midweek and come home on a Sunday. You can also save if you’re willing to visit during off-peak times of year.”
Would it be cheaper to fly into a secondary airport?
Dohmen also says you could save money just by flying into a secondary airport, especially in big cities like London and Paris. Those who already plan to rent a car might find that avoiding the main airport is cheaper and less stressful overall.
“Travellers can save quite a bit if they’re willing to spend a little extra time on the ground,” she said.
Is there a neighbourhood outside of the city center that offers cheaper accommodation?
So you’ll be renting a car? In that case, Franco and Dominique of Shut Up and Go suggest getting away from the hubbub of downtown and looking for hotels in local neighbourhoods instead. Less demand for these off-the-beaten path options means more savings for you (and probably less noise, too).
Does the hotel offer any perks?
Without built-in amenities such as complimentary breakfast and parking, these little expenses can add up quickly and unexpectedly, eventually tipping the scales. Does the hotel offer free airport shuttles or allow early check-ins and late check-outs?
Where is the best place to park?
Speaking of small expenses stacking up: Additional fees for valet or on-site parking can be a real budget breaker, Dohmen said. Know where you’re going to park ahead of time or choose a hotel that offers a complimentary spot.
What’s the best way to pay?
When travelling abroad, foreign transaction fees can be astronomical if you’re not careful. Familiarise yourself with the exchange rates and ask your agent for a recommendation on methods of payment.
Are there currency exchange kiosks that offer decent rates in the area, or will you need to bring a travel card?
What support do you provide if issues arise?
Travel agents expect issues and know how to handle them properly so that you don’t have to waste your precious vacation time calling airlines to snag a new flight. Let the expert deal with your delays, cancellations, missed connections, and unanticipated changes to hotel reservations and you probably won’t end up paying an extra price.
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