To be honest, I have never used a travel agent to book a flight. However, I have heard hundreds of nightmare travel stories about cancellation fees, failed promises, bumped flights, mysterious taxes – the list goes on and on. There are hundreds of little things that a travel agent will do for you that people typically forget to do for themselves. Here are just a few of the things you take for granted when you use a travel agent that you need to ensure you look into yourself.
Travel insurance: You wouldn’t forsake car insurance or home insurance to save a buck – you shouldn’t’ forget travel insurance either especially when you travel overseas. Flights get cancelled. Airlines go out of business. Luggage is lost. It doesn’t matter if you purchase the insurance through your credit card company, your existing insurance company or through the place that you are booking your flight – opt for it – it will save you when things don’t go as planned.
Read this article from Travel Wise on Searching for Travel Insurance
Proper time between flights: Don’t assume it will only take 30 – 60 minutes to transfer at any airport. Some terminals are 30 minutes apart. Some airports require you to pick up your bags and drop them off somewhere else. If you are traveling internationally, you might have to go through customs first. If you are traveling through Heathrow, it will take you twice as long as you think. Look at the airport website you are connecting through – find out how to get from one gate to the other. Take weather into account especially if you are flying the winter – deicing takes ages.
Read this article from CBC on Tips for making airline connections
The fine print on your ticket purchase and fees associated: I know it’s painful, the fine print is boring but once again, you wouldn’t buy a house without a house inspection, don’t buy a ticket without checking to see what’s required of you. Can you cancel? Can you amend? Do you need to show up early? Your travel agent knows all of these little things – you won’t unless you read the fine print.
Transportation between airport and hotel: Do you land at an airport on the opposite side of town? The major city airport isn’t always the closet to the hotel! Anyone who has done business in Los Angeles and surrounding areas know that. There are often smaller airports much closer to your final destination; likewise, there are often several ways to get there – train, bus, taxi, rental car. Your travel agent knows the best route but you can figure it out too if you contact the hotel and ask!
Airport taxes: Airport improvement fees, airport taxes, service fees, they come with many names but you can’t avoid them. Check to see if the airport you are departing from and/or the airport you are connecting through have airport fees. Make sure you have the necessary cash to pay for it.