5 Criteria to Select Travel Websites For Your Travel Planning

With the world now becomes a global market place, travel is increasingly turning into the number one activity that people do on a regular basis. Equipped with rapid internet penetration at travel destinations around the world, people are making travel arrangement online.

Websites such as priceline.com, travelocity.com and cheaptickets.com all of sudden attract high interest to savvy travelers who are looking to plan their travel at convenience.

Besides the above three travel websites, there are numerous sites that specialize into different market niches.

Like the old saying ‘don’t put all your eggs into the same basket,’ selecting one travel website for all your travel needs is unnecessary. You should find the best site that meets your objective. After all, competition is always good for customers.

What question should you ask yourself before jumping into the one travel website? Here are a few criteria that you should consider when selecting travel websites:

1. Objective

If you take a step aback a little bit and ask yourself your current travel situation, you should be able to find out what the real goal is at that time.

For example, if during holiday you unexpectedly receive news that one of your close relatives just passed away and you need to be there the fastest way possible, how do you make your travel arrangement?

Would you still go to priceline.com and bid for the lowest fare – or hit for ticket at lastminute.com right away? Priceline.com specializes in the lowest fare on bidding situation, so it will take a certain while to get the best deal. However, if you go to lastminute.com, you will be able to get the lowest fare at the last minute.

Under other circumstances, bidding through priceline.com can be more desirable than lastminute.com.

Forget about purchasing directly from the airline company. It costs more for them to serve your purchase – customer support, advertising, maintenance and all the sales overhead are incurred to fulfil your purchase. This translates to higher ticket price for customers.

On the other hand, travel websites acting as ticket middlemen purchased tickets at wholesale price. They are in competition with other travel websites to attract you to their websites. More competition translates to a better pocket for customers.

2. Country

Next tip is about the country you are visiting. Each country has a specialized or national travel websites that cater to foreigners.

For example, if you travel to the Great Britain or Paris, the national travel association offers unlimited entry pass to visit a multitude of attractions at one price. If don’t know about this offer and purchase tickets at a number of independent websites, you are guaranteed to spend more money, time and hassle.

On other occasions, if you travel to unfamiliar developing countries where infrastructure is not as adequate, it is better to make your arrangement via a trusted national agency who has long been in business.

3. Trustworthiness

Purchasing online is essentially the same as purchasing offline. The difference is security and convenience. Now that you are aware of the convenience, I will explain about security.

Online travel websites need to be secure and trustworthy. I am not talking about fraud only. From handling promotion, sales process to customer support, the company needs to be able to demonstrate its strength in doing business online.

I would typically look for Better Business Bureau (BBB) sign, investigate how long they have been in business, what guarantee, terms and conditions that the company holds before landing on one travel website.

Another indication is browsing through customer testimonials. Although they might be orchestrated, reading testimonials is a great way to understand the products and services of the company.

4. Savings

For budget-conscious customers, saving money on flight is definitely a win. The best advice is to plan your travel way in advance. Take advantage of pricing comparison websites or recurring promotions from each travel websites.

However, if you are on a time or budget constraint, knowing what website to baseline from will be beneficial. Again depending on your situation, I would recommend you start with priceline.com and bid for the lowest price. In parallel, you would go to special niches websites such as lastminute.com to shop around for ticket pricing.

For business flyers though, they are prepared to pay a higher fee for their ticket price. Business customers usually fly during weekdays and make last minute arrangements. The airline companies know this – that’s why last minute tickets are costly.

5. Uniqueness

The last important factor to select the best travel websites is how unique they are, compared with other websites.

Some websites are more user-friendly and informative; some others are very clunky yet professional. Finding what makes each website ticks will play well in your decision.

Availability of travel guide or blog is also crucial in my opinion. It shows that the company cares enough not only to sell the best priced tickets, but also the best total value experience.

In conclusion, selecting travel websites that suit your particular travel situation is important. Due to a heightened competition, customers will find the best value to their dream travel experience. Taking the time to understand which website is good at which niche will be beneficial in both short and long run.

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Get the Most Out of Your Travel Agent

Booking air travel, making hotel reservations and arranging vacation travel in general has changed completely with the advent of the internet and many people try to be their own travel agents. While you can arrange seemingly most of your travel yourself, you can’t do as well as your travel agent in a long run!

Travel processionals, whether your local travel agent, tour operator or destination specialist still possess contacts that you as an industry outsider do not have. As in number of other professions, travel agents, whether in a shopping center near your home or an online agency, wherever they may be located, do know something you do not, have way to book and arrange travel for you in ways unavailable or unknown to you.

Traditionally you could contact a travel agent and ask for a quote, whether a price of an air ticket, hotel or a vacation package. For the most part travel agents still provide that kind of information, although there is a limit how much information they may disclose as not all information is readily available to them.

First of all, most travel agents indeed may have at their fingertips routine cost of air ticketing, hotel rates or certain vacation packages available and will be happy to provide the price information to you instantly when asked. But once your travel request will need to be somewhat customized, whether tailored to your dates of travel or your other travel preferences, to find a relevant answer will be time consuming. Because of this time element involved, do not automatically assume an agency is keen to spend the time to furnish the information you seek when there is no commitment you will travel at all.

Look at the situations from the following perspective. In the old days if you had a problem with your car, you’d drive it to your neighborhood car mechanic and asked him to see what was wrong with it. You would drop the car off at the garage, the mechanic would have a look and tell you what the problem was. He would also give you an estimate and it was up to you to decide if you wanted him to fix it right then and there, wait or seek another opinion and another quote. His services cost you nothing.

But not anymore. These days, no garage, no car repair mechanic is willing to spend time trying to find out what’s the problem with your vehicle without charging you at least one hour labor upfront. Pay and he will look and tell you. Up to you if you will decide to take your car to another shop or have him fix it, he has covered his time spent diagnosing what’s wrong with your car.

Similarly, many travel agencies and professional travel planners and tour operators will charge you an upfront travel planning fee if you are requesting travel arrangements that first of all are time consuming, or there is no guarantee you will book anything. All you are after are essentially private tailor-made travel arrangement s and there are no simple answers or options to give you, and the only way to find out will be for the agent to dig and consult all sorts of different sources he has at this disposal and then present the travel alternatives to you for you to decide upon.

When working with a travel agent, travel planner or any other travel professional such as a knowledgeable destination specialist, keep in mind that a certain protocol will assure you will get not only the kind of travel arrangements you want in general but also you’ll gain a true partner that will always work in your best interest whether you’ll travel away from home on business or for pleasure.

1. First of all, when contacting a travel agent, whether in person or online, don’t hesitate to give them your name – don’t worry, most agents won’t spam you back. Without your name when you’re asking for a valuable travel advice most agents won’t take your request too seriously. Call if you wish but most agents prefer not to take notes, email is a way to go and for an agent to look up a fare often a time means he has to plug in a name, so might as well that name will be your real name. If you decide not to accept the booking the reservation will expire and no harm done. If you decide later to purchase the reservation the agent does not have to rekey it into the system all over again.

2. If you’re trying to be you own travel agent, even in part, say you plan to book your own hotels online, disclose it to the agent your are contacting for assistance, he/she may still be interested to help you with the rest of your travel arrangements. Don’t hide your intentions from the agent as agents don’t like to be used for information gathering purposes only.

3. If at all possible, always contact your travel agent or destination specialist as soon as you know when and where you wish to travel, not last minute before your intended departure. That is even more important when you’re planning a trip to a lesser frequented destination.

4. Don’t book your flights and hotels online and ask a travel agent to do the rest, namely the difficult parts, such as complex transportation connections, travel arrangements in remote locations or to book segments that you just feel are not safe for you to book online yourself. Give your agent to design and book your entire trip for you. The worst you can do is design your own vacation package, then copy and email the same request to dozen different agents to see who may be the lowest bidder. Yes, the internet is perfect for that kind of information gathering but look at this from a perspective of a travel agent. If he/she knows you are sending the same request to dozen agents many of them will not be too interested in dealing with you. Then again, telling them the truth they will appreciate knowing what you are doing and approach the whole thing quite differently and in the end they just might offer you a deal.

5. If you’re after booking shoe-string cost of travel, for example wishing to book the lowest type of accommodations, best be your own travel agent. Do realize that agents can’t book services that are simply too cheap to begin with, not to mention that that kind of suppliers do not pay agent s any kind of commission. The agent may still help you but keep in mind he will be doing you a favor and will be working for you at no charge. If so, appreciate it, email your thank you.

Do realize that to ask an agent million questions, get all the answers, including time consuming quotes, only for you to never replay again is definitely rude and turns agents off completely. If you are polite and respectful many will often work without any commitment on your part, providing you with information you need, working for free. But because of those that just siphon info out of agents so they could possibly book travel on their own leaves not only a sour taste in agent’s mouth but certainly induces the decision to charge au upfront planning fees when a next inquiry comes.

6. On another hand, when it comes to upper end accommodations keep in mind these hotels routinely offer discounts to agents that agents can markup and still offer you room costs below hotel rack rates. Genuine agent is not interested in selling you a higher end hotel in order to make a higher commission but to tailor in a better trip experience for you where he deems it desirable.

7. Keep in mind that there is a difference between a travel agent and a so called Destination Specialist. Most travel agents use online reservation systems to book transportation, hotel and vacation packages. They essentially book or resell ready-to-sell travel offers from a variety of suppliers that do not require more than filling in your name and dates of travel. When it comes to you needing customized arrangements, they will need to contact tour operators and destination specialists that are either part of their consortium or a network they belong to. Depending on the connections they have they will or will not be able to help you.

8. Destination Specialists pride themselves in really knowing their destinations. Many of them have indeed not only traveled extensively but know a particular destination inside-out so they can arrange travel logistics for you based on knowing, rather than looking it up in a brochure or some kind of data base. Many Destination Specialists specialize in difficult, custom designed itineraries and do not sell travel packages. Often a time though not always that kind of service reflects higher markup.

9. Last, please note that many destination specialists as well as travel agents work 110 or more hours per week because especially custom-design travel is indeed very time consuming. Being good at travel logistics does take experience and while with the internet it seems second nature to be able to arrange travel on your own, many travel professional are indeed very good at what they do! They do know more about travel than you, give them a chance, they can save you not only money but also many headaches and above all, they can assure not only that you’ll travel worry-free but that you may have a trip of your life! Keep in mind, a good agent is not after selling you a single ticket or a package tour, they want you to become a repeat client, their go-to-travel processional for rest of your life.

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