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Best Travel Agencies

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Working with a reputable travel agent takes the stress out of travel. Use our guide to research the best travel agency for you. Travel agencies handle transfers between multiple destinations, event planning services, group travel arrangements and more. Many agencies are starting to market themselves in new ways, often by catering to niche markets.

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How to find a travel agency

Accreditation

Travel agencies aren't required to obtain licensing or certification, though recognized organizations accredit and certify members. Travelers can confirm a travel agency's accreditation by looking for the accrediting body's logo on a travel agency's website or brochure.

  • ASTA accreditation: ASTA (American Society of Travel Advisors) accreditation assures clients that the agency operates under ASTA's code of ethics and will communicate with clients about unexpected changes to travel plans.
  • IATA accreditation: IATA (International Air Transport Association) accreditation provides agencies with a Sales Agency Agreement and a TIDS number that authorizes sales of international and domestic airline tickets.
  • Unaccredited agencies: If considering an unaccredited travel agency, take into account that their lack of accreditation could mean they are inexperienced or have had service problems that caused a loss of accreditation.

Credentials

Credentials are similar to accreditation, though on an individual level. Some travel agents obtain certification through The Travel Institute, which confirms the agent's interpersonal skills and destination knowledge. These types of certifications ensure that travelers are working with an agent that has the necessary experience to anticipate travel issues and provide solutions.

  • Certified travel associate (CTA): A CTA is a professional who has a minimum of 18 months in the travel industry and has passed courses to enhance skills and service.
  • Certified travel counselor (CTC): A CTC has the skills of a CTA, advanced industry training and five years of industry experience.
  • Certified travel industry executive (CTIE): A CTIE is a travel industry professional who has management training within the travel agency.

Fees

Travel agencies charge fees for services provided to clients to account for time spent researching and booking travel arrangements. Keep in mind that a travel agent’s inside knowledge of travel-related discounts may make booking through an agency less expensive than self-booking over the internet.

  • Airline ticket procurement fee: Travel agencies charge an airline ticket procurement fee for purchasing tickets on behalf of the traveler.
  • Travel agency service fees: Other common travel agency fees include fees for booking hotels and rental cars and for time spent researching trips.
  • Itemization of costs and fees: While there is no law requiring travel agencies to provide an itemized breakdown of costs and fees, you can request this information to ensure fees are reasonable.

International travel planning

Planning a trip to another country is typically more complex than planning a domestic trip due to extra paperwork and the need to know details about the destination country. A trusted global travel agency can help manage details and paperwork on your behalf.

  • Destination-specific research or specialization: Some agents with certification from The Travel Institute are trained in region-specific bookings while others charge for time spent researching destinations.
  • Hotel and flight packages: Using a global travel agency to book international hotel and flight packages can cut costs even after agency fees are added. To check for savings, compare online price listings to prices provided by the agency.
  • Visa and passport requirements: Having visas and passports in order is vital when traveling to other countries, so confirm which documents are needed with the agency early in the trip-planning process.

Group travel planning

Planning a trip for a group can be challenging because some facilities cannot accommodate groups. Travel agencies find suitable venues and transportation for the entire group. A global travel agency can help you with international group vacations.

  • Large-group discounts: Travel agencies have access to discounts based on established relationships with hotels and airline companies to secure a great price for group bookings.
  • Transportation: A large group is not going to fit in a standard rental car. Confirm the travel agency is able to book a van or several cars to meet the group's transportation needs.
  • Itinerary details for the group: In addition to sleeping arrangements and transportation, eating out and visiting tourist attractions can be problematic for a group. Ask the travel agency to arrange the fine points of the group's trip in addition to handling the larger details.

Land and sea planning

Planning a vacation involves more than selecting a country and booking hotel and airfare. Hiring a travel agency can help make sure travelers enjoy every stop in their itinerary.

  • Add a cruise: Talk to your travel agency about adding some sea travel to any vacation. Different onboard accommodations and ports of call allow travelers to extend the reach of their trips.
  • Seamless transfers: Making the transfer from onshore accommodations to a cruise ship can eat up almost an entire day, but a travel agent takes care of the hassle by arranging travel to the port at the right time.
  • Planning excursions: Ask the travel agent to arrange desired shore excursions at the ship's ports of call that enrich other planned itinerary stops.

Types of travel agencies

Commercial travel agencies

Commercial travel agencies cater to business travelers. These agencies specialize in tracking down deals for business travelers to help companies manage travel costs.

Online travel agencies

Travel agencies that exist only in cyberspace provide clients with the convenience of online booking and discounts that are available only to professional travel agencies. Some agencies offer both online booking and walk-in service for clients.

Niche travel agencies

Niche travel agencies provide clients with specialized knowledge of a region. This enhances the travel experience for clients by ensuring paperwork is in order and providing specific, often first-hand, knowledge of the area tourists are visiting.

Membership associations

Memberships associations give travelers access to the organization's travel planning services for the cost of an annual membership rather than charging per transaction. This type of agency offers the most benefit to frequent travelers.

Who uses travel agencies?

International travelers

International travelers can cut the stress of planning trips to other countries when a global travel agency manages the details. This includes making sure each traveler has the proper paperwork and booking suitable travel accommodations.

Business travelers

Business travelers can take advantage of savings associated with discounts available only to travel agents. Some travel agencies also handle the detailed expense report paperwork required by the accounting departments of most companies.

Group travelers

Group travelers can save time when looking for accommodations that have room for the entire group by using a travel agency. Group bookings through an agent can also save you money.

Travel bargain seekers

Travel bargain seekers can discuss their travel budget with a travel agent. This is a way to determine what discounts and money-saving packages a travel agency can arrange.

Travel agencies FAQ

How much does it cost to hire a travel agent?
Most travel agencies don’t charge customers, meaning the only price you pay is the cost of your trip. Agents are typically paid commissions by the hotels or airlines. Some travel agents may charge service fees from $100 to $500, but that money is usually applied toward the cost of your trip if you complete travel arrangements through the agency.
How do I know if a travel agent is legit?
To know if a travel agency is legit:
  1. Review the agency’s website for a physical address and phone number.
  2. Check for industry certifications and associations with professional organizations like the American Society of Travel Advisors.
  3. Read reviews to learn about client experiences. Ask for a list of references.
  4. Make sure the agent accepts credit cards.
  5. Compare pricing to make sure cost isn’t too high or too low.
Does it cost to use a travel agent?
No, it’s generally free to use a travel agent. A travel agency may charge a service fee or a booking fee, but it’s common for this fee to apply toward the cost of your trip.
What are the different types of travel agencies?
The four main types of travel agencies are:
  • Commercial travel agencies, which cater mainly to business travelers
  • Online travel agencies that help people plan their trips entirely online
  • Niche travel agencies, which specialize in arranging trips to specific areas
  • Membership associations that provide travel services as a benefit to members
Why use a travel agent instead of booking online?
Using a travel agent is a more personalized experience than booking online — and sometimes cheaper. Travel agents are experts who can find the best deals on flights, cruises, hotels and activities. Agents are often available 24/7 in case of problems. And there’s usually no extra cost to use one.
Can a travel agent save you money?
Yes, a travel agent can save you money, especially if you’re traveling internationally to unfamiliar territory or if you’re organizing a trip for a big group. In addition to finding you the best deal, a travel agent saves you time planning and researching — often at no cost for services.
What services do travel agencies provide?
Travel agencies:
  • Find the best deals on flights, hotels, cruises and activities for individuals, families, businesses and groups
  • Give clients personalized attention and advice for trip planning
  • Offer trip insurance
  • Save you time and stress
  • Are available 24/7 in case of a problem and advocate on your behalf
Are you supposed to tip a travel agent?
No, you don’t need to tip a travel agent. A great way to show appreciation is to refer friends, family members and co-workers. Some people choose to write a thank-you note and/or give a small gift.

Not sure how to choose?

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    Travel agency reviews

    AUTHORIZED PARTNER
    HotelPlanner.com

    HotelPlanner uses online technology to connect customers with hotel group sales managers. Founded in 2003, HotelPlanner offers group travel services in more than twenty languages and partners with more than 50,000 hotels worldwide.

    • Guaranteed lowest group rates: For consumers booking 10 or more rooms per night, HotelPlanner matches or beats the prices offered elsewhere.
    • Free room for the planner: The group's coordinator, the person who set up the hotel block, is provided with a free room when booking more than the minimum number of required rooms for the block.
    • Local experts: A local expert is assigned to each group to provide advice about navigating the city and enjoying activities.
    • Easy bid requests: The electronic room-booking process for groups is quick and easy to navigate. Travelers fill in the form and wait for hotels to bid on their travel, cutting out hours spent on the phone and putting negotiating power in the hands of the traveler.
    • Hotels bid on clients: HotelPlanner provides clients with the option to have hotels bid for the client's business, ensuring the best rates and packages.
    Read 2027 Reviews
    Tours4Fun

    Tours4fun is a full-service travel agency, offering both brick-and-mortar and online customer service options.

    Read more about Tours4Fun
    Royal Holiday

    Royal Holiday Vacation Club offers memberships that let you travel to nearly 200 destinations in over 50 countries. It has over 100,000 members and has been in business since 1983. Royal Holiday Vacation Club is a subsidiary of Park Royal Hotels and Resorts.

    Read more about Royal Holiday
    AUTHORIZED PARTNER
    Global Work & Travel

    The Global Work & Travel Co. is an Australia-based youth travel organization that specializes in travel for people ages 18 to 30. With offices in the United Kingdom and Canada and over 1,200 travel partner organizations, you will get help with planning and logistics at every step of your journey.

    • Experiences: Global arranges working holidays, adventures, volunteer assignments, internships and paid teaching and au pair appointments.
    • Working destinations: Depending on the type of experience you want to have, you can work in Australia, Canada, the United States or the UK; you can also au pair in these countries plus New Zealand or Europe. If you’d rather intern, choose from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Italy, Spain, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand or Hong Kong.
    • Volunteer destinations: You can volunteer in Africa, Asia, Central America, Europe, South America or the South Pacific or you can teach in Thailand, Peru, South Korea, Vietnam or Myanmar.
    • Deposit guarantee: Global knows things sometimes come up in life that might make it hard for you to leave on a trip you’ve been planning. If you’ve paid your deposit, Global will hold it for you as long as it takes until you can go on your trip, and will even let you transfer the deposit to a different type of trip.
    • Resources to help you choose: Global is an expert at youth travel, and wants to work with you to be sure you get the most out of your experience. Check out the location guides on their website or call a dedicated Work & Travel Expert to get started.
    Read 1873 Reviews
    Vantage Deluxe World Travel

    Vantage Deluxe World Travel was established in 1983 when it started offering affordable deluxe travel to select groups, like teachers unions and alumni associations. Since then, the company has escorted almost half a million travelers all around the world.

    Read 379 Reviews
    Global Vacation Network

    Global Vacation Network is a membership association that provides condominium packages and advice for saving on other travel-related details, such as airfare.

    Read more about Global Vacation Network
    smarTours

    The smarTours company has been in business since 1996, offering low-cost group vacation tours to exotic worldwide locales. To date, more than 150,000 satisfied travelers have used smarTours to book their holiday.

    Read more about smarTours
    Liberty Travel

    Liberty Travel is a traditional brick-and-mortar travel agency with a presence in several major cities in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, New England, Illinois, California and Florida.

    Read more about Liberty Travel
    Fox World Travel

    Fox World Travel has 11 regional vacation travel agencies in Wisconsin and has agents who set up trips for corporate travelers all over the United States.

    • Find a way: Agents are trained to find a way to put client requests first, even if the requests are challenging.
    • Group travel: Traveling in groups is made easy with trips designed for wedding parties, schools, media events, and a range of customizable options.
    • Business travel division: The business travel division specializes in meeting the unique needs of business travel like meeting planning services, attendee management, online event booking and more.
    • Travel tools available: Travel tools that simplify traveling, such as currency converters and a flight tracker are provided online for clients to use.
    • Online booking: Vacation packages can be viewed and booked online through the company website.
    Zicasso

    Zicasso partners with multiple travel agencies that specialize in specific styles of trips or destinations and puts agencies together with travelers. Founded in 2006, by two world travelers, Zicasso serves the luxury travel market from its headquarters in Mountain View, California.

    Read more about Zicasso
    Trafalgar

    Trafalgar offers guided tours of popular vacation destinations, such as Europe, North America, South America and Asia, in larger groups of up to 52. Trafalgar also partners with the TreadRight Foundation to support underprivileged communities and work toward sustainable tourism practices.

    • Authentic experiences: The guides that are assisting travelers live and work in the communities being toured.
    • Travel options: All Trafalgar tours are guided tours, but there are numerous options to choose from. Travelers can decide on a family vacation, country explorations, special interest tours and more.
    • Keep options open: Flexibility is built into the travel itinerary for exploring destinations with several nights of free exploration on every tour. This allows travelers to revisit favorite sites or explore areas not covered by the tour group.
    • VIP treatment: Trafalgar trips provide exclusive access to sights so travelers avoid waiting in lines.
    • Friendly experience: Local guides greet clients and treat them as friends, providing comfort and a sense of welcome in a strange land.
    Audley Travel

    Audley Travel has offered custom-made trips based on client input since opening their doors in 1996. With more than 75 destinations and travel types that range from luxury to road trip, vacationers can create and enjoy their own ideal holiday away.

    • Preplanning assistance: Clients can browse the website or discuss interests with a travel planner to get destination ideas.
    • Detailed planning: A specialist helps plan each detail of the trip until the client is satisfied and approves the itinerary.
    • Pretrip preparation assistance: The assigned specialist is available for questions and reviews the client's itinerary four days before departure.
    • Midtrip support: Clients are provided with a number to call that is manned 24/7 if assistance is needed.
    • Multiple destinations: Trips to over 75 worldwide locations are offered by Audley Travel.

    Compare Reviews for Top Travel Agencies

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