Chicago travel agents give tips on booking vacations

Chicago travel agents give tips on booking vacations

Why should people plan a trip through a travel agency?

Vera Buckel: "A travel agency offers a service and has invaluable information."

Jeanne Rigert: "Because of our expertise and we can get good values through our suppliers. I've become very competitive with the Internet. And customer service is huge."

Sandy Johnson: "We're here to serve the customer and look out for their best interests. We see the same prices that are on the Internet, and we deal with reputable companies."

Do you plan all aspects of customers' trips?

Buckel: "Yes, we do. We're a full-service agency."

Rigert: "Yes."

Johnson: "Yes."

How do you charge?

Buckel: "Since airlines don't pay us any commission we charge $25. If someone books a tour package with us or a cruise we don't charge a service fee since the tour companies pay us a commission."

Rigert: "We get commissions from the wholesalers. Most have a commission fee we can add on, but I don't do that. I try to keep the prices less expensive."

Johnson: "If we just do an airline ticket there's a service fee. If it's a package or a cruise, we get the commission through those sources."

How far in advance should people plan trips?

Buckel: "If it's over a holiday, then you need to book very early, six to nine months out, or as soon as prices come out. If you're looking for a deal, traveling in the low season will get you the best discounts."

Rigert: "If they're going over a holiday, I'd say up to 10 to 12 months, or seven to eight months for spring break. If they're going in the offseason they can wait longer and see if they can get a good deal."

Johnson: "With availability on airlines now, we suggest people book way in advance, but they should book at least 60 to 90 days ahead of time. As the seats fill up the prices go up."

Do you recommend customers get trip insurance?

Buckel: "We do recommend it, because we've seen too many times the losses people have to take when they cancel at the last minute."

Rigert: "I do highly recommend it, but I leave the decision up to the customer. I price things without it and then let them know what the penalties are without it."

Johnson: "Yes."

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