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Should you surf the internet or work with an agent to make your travel plans?

Blair Looney of the BBB answers a consumer who’s wondering whether it’s best to surf the internet or work with a travel agent to make vacation plans.
Blair Looney of the BBB answers a consumer who’s wondering whether it’s best to surf the internet or work with a travel agent to make vacation plans. EFE

Q: Spring break will be here soon and I want to take my family on vacation. We are a large group so I need to be frugal. And I want to take the dogs. My kids say we can plan the entire trip ourselves online and save a lot of money that we can then spend on fun stuff on our vacation. I’ve been doing some looking online But I think I would still feel more comfortable working with a travel agent. Are they reliable? Will they get us the best deals?

A: The value of the internet is that it provides us with incredible amounts of information on virtually any question we can ask. The drawback of the internet is that it provides us with incredible amounts of information that we have to sort through, analyze and choose from.

FBEE 2020 BLAIR LOONEY circle

If you use the internet to plan your trip you need to verify each hotel, each transportation service, each entertainment venue, etc. You also need to remember that online descriptions and photographs don’t always match reality. You will also need to think about and plan for all aspects of your trip. You will also need to devote time to finding (what are hopefully) the best bargains.

Internet users should also be sure to read the fine print for all the “little” details about cancellations, guarantees and customer service while on the trip.

Using a local certified travel agent, especially one with additional destination specialist certificates, provides you with the convenience of one-stop shopping. A good travel agent will have the knowledge to put together packages that not only fit your budget but also your goals for the vacation. In addition, they frequently have personal travel experience with your destinations and can make suggestions that will add value and pleasure to your trip.

Life is tricky and even the best-laid plans can have snags. An agent also provides something that the internet cannot: a real person who’s working for you if anything goes wrong. If you arrive in London and the rooms at the hotel aren’t what you reserved, a call to your travel agent can help resolve the problem quickly. The internet can’t do that. If your rental car in Paris turns out to be a Moped, your travel agent can help you get into the vehicle you want and get you quickly on your way to seeing the sights of a lifetime.

Always use a local agency for the best results. Check with bbb.org to make sure the agency has a good reliability report. Remember a local agent wants to make sure you have a great trip not only so you will be a repeat customer but also because you will be a good referral. In addition, I like supporting local businesses whenever I have the option.

Don’t forget to ask about group discounts. You may have enough in your large group to get some added discounts.

Action Line is written by Blair Looney, president and CEO for the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 2600 W. Shaw Lane, Fresno, CA 93711 or info@cencal.bbb.org.

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